Catholic bishops say Obama offer on contraceptive coverage falls short

WASHINGTON Thu Feb 7, 2013 2:55pm EST

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WASHINGTON Feb 7 (Reuters) - U.S. Roman Catholic leaders on Thursday said the Obama administration did not go far enough toward their issues in the offer of compromise offered last week over health care coverage of contraceptives for employees of faith-based institutions.

"The Feb. 1 notice of proposed rulemaking ... shows some movement by the administration but falls short of addressing U.S. bishops' concerns," the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement.

"We have been assured by the administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage. We remain eager for the administration to fulfill that pledge," said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the conference.

The proposals announced by the administration on Feb. 1 would guarantee that employees at religious nonprofits, including certain faith-affiliated universities and hospitals, would get access to birth control coverage without out-of-pocket costs through separate plans, with insurers picking up the tab.

The new rules followed months of protests and legal action by groups representing Roman Catholics, Protestant Evangelicals and some private employers.

"It appears that the government would require all employees in our 'accommodated' ministries to have the illicit coverage -they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children - under a separate policy," Dolan said. (Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Jackie Frank)

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