KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Some Nonprofits Opposing Contraceptive Coverage Appear Unswayed By New Rule

Catholic bishops and other conservative groups suggest the accommodations do not satisfy their concerns.

The Associated Press: New Obama Birth Control Fixes For Religious Groups
Seeking to quell a politically charged controversy, the Obama administration announced new measures Friday to allow religious nonprofits and some companies to opt out of paying for birth control for female employees while still ensuring those employees have access to contraception. Even so, the accommodations may not fully satisfy religious groups who oppose any system that makes them complicit in providing coverage they believe is immoral (Lederman, 8/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Administration Offers Contraception Compromise For Religious Employers
The Obama administration outlined a new compromise Friday aimed at shielding religious business owners and Christian universities and charities from the health law's contraception-coverage requirements, but a chilly initial response from Roman Catholic bishops suggested the move wouldn't assuage their concerns. ... Catholic bishops, who have led a campaign against the contraception-coverage provision that has included numerous legal challenges since its announcement in August 2011, indicated the new rules make only minor changes and are insufficient (Radnofsky, 8/22).

The Hill: Feds Unveil New Birth Control Mandate
Opponents of the provision blasted the proposal as an accounting gimmick that fails to respect the court’s finding. "It is simply another clerical layer to an already existing accounting gimmick that does nothing to protect religious freedom because the employer still remains the legal gateway by which these drugs and services will be provided to their employees," said Arina Grossu, director for the Center for Human Dignity at the conservative Family Research Council (Goad, 8/22).

Bloomberg: Obama Provides Birth-Control Coverage Plan For Nonprofits
Women who work for religious nonprofits will have access to birth control at no cost under a procedure the Obama administration said would also relieve their employers of any moral objections to the coverage. The nonprofits will now only have to notify the U.S. government of their objections in writing, the administration said in a regulation published yesterday. Coverage will be arranged separately by the government through health-benefit managers (Wayne, 8/23).

The Washington Post: Administration Offers New Tweak To Birth Control Rule
The administration also intends to offer a similar work-around to for-profit businesses after the Supreme Court's bitterly debated 5-4 decision in June that owners of closely held firms could refuse contraception coverage if it conflicts with their religious beliefs (Millman, 8/22).

Politico: New Contraceptive Coverage Plan To Be Offered For Religious Nonprofits
The new plan, which addresses a high-profile component of the health care law, essentially adds HHS to the notification process for any group that objects to the coverage requirement. The legal challenges brought by scores of organizations across the country have put contraceptive coverage at risk for some women but not threatened the health care law itself (Norman, 8/22).

The New York Times: Administration Proposes New Health Rules Addressing Religious Objections
The United States Supreme Court said this summer that the government could not force a private, closely held company to pay for insurance coverage for contraceptive services at no cost to their employees if the owners of the company expressed religious objections. In a separate decision, the court also said that previous religious accommodations for some nonprofit organizations did not go far enough. For President Obama’s administration, the court rulings presented a dilemma: how to stand by their insistence that all women should have easy access to contraceptive services at no cost, while also recognizing the religious objections of organizations and companies as determined by the court (Shear, 8/22).

CNBC: Government Delivers Obamacare Contraception Rules Compromise
Stung by recent losses at the U.S. Supreme Court, the Obama administration moved Friday to quell continued religious and legal objections by some employers to the Affordable Care Act's mandate that their health plans offer birth control, while at the same time maintaining their workers' access to contraception at no additional cost. Significantly, the administration is now proposing, for the first time, to allow certain for-profit companies that are not publicly traded the ability to avoid the mandate if they object to it on religious grounds. The public can comment on that proposal, and what form it will take (Mangan, 8/22).

Reuters:  U.S. Moves To Ensure Birth Control Access At Religious Companies
The Obama administration will ensure access to birth control coverage for employees of closely held companies that object on religious grounds to contraception, one of the health benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act. The move follows a Supreme Court ruling in June that allowed certain for-profit companies to refuse to cover contraceptives due to the religious beliefs of their owners. It provides for insurers to offer contraception to employees through separate coverage. President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law requires companies to provide free birth control coverage as a preventive service included in their health plans (8/22).

McClatchy: Administration Moves Toward New Rule On Contraception Coverage
The Obama administration on Friday moved to enact new rules that help ensure contraception coverage for employees of certain companies that have religious objections to birth control. The new rule would seek to isolate the employers from the coverage they found morally objectionable. They’d be able to notify the government of their objections, which in turn would notify the insurance companies and order them to provide the coverage at no cost. Without the change, the religious-minded employers have to contact the insurance companies directly (Pugh, 8/22).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.