Obama government looks to satisfy religious groups on Obamacare

WASHINGTON Tue Jul 22, 2014 10:43pm EDT

A man sits at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, California March 27, 2014.   REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

A man sits at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, California March 27, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration is developing a method for religious organizations opposed to contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act to opt out of providing the coverage in their health plans without filling out a form.

That is the gist of a brief filed on Tuesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals by the Justice Department.

Under President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, known as Obamacare, employers must provide health insurance policies that cover preventive services for women, including contraception and sterilization.

But the Supreme Court ruled early this month that Wheaton College, a Christian institution in Illinois, can opt out of providing the coverage on religious grounds by filling out a form claiming a religious exemption.

However, Wheaton College argues that filling out the form violates its religious briefs by granting its employees the right to use birth control.

As a result, the Obama administration intends to augment its regulations to provide an alternative way for such religious organizations to provide notification while ensuring that enrollees in plans of such organizations receive separate coverage of contraceptive services.

The new rule is expected within a month.

"This is part of ensuring that all women have access to contraception coverage," said a senior Obama administration official.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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