Obama administration details contraceptives rule fix

Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:49pm EDT

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(Reuters) - The Obama administration began laying out its blueprint on Friday for accommodating the moral concerns of religious institutions that oppose its policy of requiring free coverage for women's contraceptives through employer-sponsored health plans.

The move came a month after the White House tried to calm a furor among Roman Catholic bishops and other social conservatives by announcing it would not require church-run hospitals, universities and charities to foot the bill for birth control coverage but instead shift the burden to insurers.

The administration released preliminary regulatory language for an eventual rule that addressed a number of issues, including a yet-to-be-solved problem of religious institutions that provide their own health insurance.

The action's bearing on birth control and religious freedom places it at the center of incendiary issues that have moved to the forefront of the election campaign for control of the White House and Congress.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has spearheaded opposition to Obama contraceptives policies, said it would examine the administration's new proposed language to see if it met its demands.

But conference spokeswoman Sister Mary Ann Walsh chided the administration for releasing the document late on a Friday as Catholic leaders prepared to observe St. Patrick's Day on Saturday.

The proposal provoked anger from some religious groups.

"This does nothing," said Michael O'Dea, executive director of the Christus Medicus Foundation, which promotes Christian healthcare. "It's bogus."

The Department of Health and Human Services' notice of rulemaking gave special emphasis to protections for self-insured religious institutions that have been a prime concern for Roman Catholic authorities.

"Our principle is that the religious employer who's self-insured will not be paying for this coverage, full stop," an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity told reporters in a conference call.

The notice calls for third-party administrators including insurers to handle contraceptive coverage for self-insured groups.

Costs would be covered through a range of options unrelated to the employer, including drug rebates, reinsurance credits and multistate insurance plans.

The public will have 90 days to comment on the notice.


A policy adopted last month requires that most employers provide free coverage for women's birth control under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature healthcare overhaul.

Churches and other places of worship are exempt. But the rule now on the books applies to religiously affiliated hospitals, universities, charities and other institutions.

Friday's action won praise from women's health advocates and other Obama allies who saw it as reasonable effort to resolve differences with the Catholic clergy.

"The proposal released today make clears that the Obama administration is fulfilling its promise that women will have access to birth control coverage, with no costly co-pays and no additional hurdles, no matter where they work," Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in a statement.

"In my estimation, this definitely moves things forward toward something the American bishops might be more willing to consider," said Stephen Schneck, a political scientist at The Catholic University of America, who advised Obama on how to reach out to the church.

Friday's announcement followed weeks of behind-the-scenes meetings between administration officials and stakeholders including Catholic bishops and insurance industry representatives.

There was no word on when proposed regulations might become final. The administration's current policy does not come into force for religious employers or educators until August 1, 2013.

(Additional reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Comments (5)
speaker12 wrote:
Phoney. Obama is phoney. His hand picked yes men are phonies. Get rid of this disease.

Mar 16, 2012 10:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
USCitizen2468 wrote:
President Obama is an educated person but he has a rather naive and uninformed conscience concerning traditional Judeo-Christian ethical values which many citizens in America still manage to uphold in spite of the elite liberal media propaganda machine at work that has become anti-Christian.

The rehotric today brings back memories of the rhetoric expressed against the Jews in Germany in the 1930s when Goebbels directed what could be reported in the media as politically correct to please Adolf Hitler.

In America the gay lobby and pro-choice lobby have the upper hand and have become darlings not only of the government under Obama’s leadership but are treated very well by the media and the Democratic party.

As a result (and unfortunate for traditional conservative Christian Americans) the actions of our president and his policies are promoting abortions (40% of them among his own Black people) as well as homosexual behavior in the military and in civilian life. This is having a detrimental effect on our nation’s youth and spliting the nation in two waring camps.

The president shows no respect for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, namely, the right of citizens to practice their religious beliefs. He mandates doing the very opposite.

Many believe with good reason that Obama is acting on behalf of the Antichrist. He is ushering in an age of extreme immoral behavior including over one million abortion per year and the practices of homosexual behavior in the U.S. military.

Biological science is now contracted by politicians who state God got it all wrong. God should have created Adam and Steve and not Adam and Eve. Also, the posterior should not have been created as exit point but it should have been made into an entry point for sex and not for it’s authentic biological purpose.

Not only does this president lack knoweldge of the U.S. Constitution but he lacks knowledge of biology and the 6,000 years of traditional Judeo-Christian moral teachings. He is mixed up in his head and thinks same sex behavior is a matter of civil rights and he forgets that morality should play a role in determining civil rights decisions and not the other way around. God help America get out of the mess we are now in!

A doctor wrote me the following letter:

Dear Bill,
Many thanks for sending this thread. Eventually, you will discover that trying to explain the evil of abortion to liberal agnostics is akin to explaining to a dog that distemper is bad for the dog. They do not understand nor believe. Preborn humans, to the pro-choice crowd, are just tissue. The feminist view of freedom of choice is to choose whether or not to kill your preborn baby. It is absurd that some suggested that women burnt at the stake hundreds of years ago by “Christians” has any relationship to the hundreds of thousands of babies who are aborted and dumped into a bucket! According to some, murdering babies is not a moral, but a civil issue. I doubt that you will ever convince pro-choicers that abortion is legalized murder. IMHO America is in a moral, cultural and economic decline. As was the situation for ancient Rome, the barbarians are going to take us down. Your Friend, Dr. C

Mar 17, 2012 4:13am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Jeysie wrote:
Yeah, I admit I’m disappointed that Obama caved at all, instead of standing firm that women have a right to affordable contraception and a right to choose 100% for themselves whether or not to use it. Still, this is a great step towards even more true personal freedom and equality for women.

Mar 17, 2012 10:53am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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