Contraception Rule Revised by Obama Administration
After a year of lawsuits and public outcry, the Obama administration proposed today that women employed by nonprofit religious institutions must get free access to birth control as promised under the health law, but their employers will not have to pay for it.
Instead, institutions that insure themselves such as hospitals and universities can use a third party to find a separate health policy that would pay for and provide the coverage. Costs will be covered by the fees insurers pay to participate in the new online health marketplaces set to open in October under the health law.
"Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a press release. "We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women's organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals."
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement that the organization welcomes "the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later."
The mandate to cover contraceptive care has inspired at least 44 lawsuits against the government, according to The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a legal organization fighting the mandate.
Here's the way the proposed rule would work:
If the religious organization offers a group plan, its insurer would provide separate contraception coverage at no cost to participants. It should be cost-neutral to the insurer, since it would result in fewer births, according to the administration.
Religious organizations that self-insure, as well as student health plans, would let their third party administrator know that they object to providing contraceptive coverage on moral grounds. The administrator would then work with a health insurer to provide separate individual contraception coverage at no cost to the enrollees. The cost would be "offset by adjustments in federally-facilitated exchange user fees that insurers pay."
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, issued a statement praising the proposal.
"Today's draft regulation affirms yet again the Obama administration's commitment to fulfilling the full promise of its historic contraception policy," said Hogue. "Thanks to this commitment, most American women will get birth-control coverage without extra expense."