KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Administration Issues Proposed Rule On Contraception Coverage Mandate And Nonprofit Religious Organizations

The Department of Health and Human Services today announced a proposed rule that, according to an agency press release, lays out "how nonprofit religious organizations, such as nonprofit religious hospitals or institutions of higher education, that object to contraception on religious grounds can receive an accommodation that provides their enrollees separate contraceptive coverage, and with no co-pays, but at no cost to the religious organization."

Here's the HHS fact sheet and proposed rule.

Kaiser Health News: Religious Nonprofits Won't Pay For Contraceptive Coverage Under New Rule
After a year of lawsuits and public outcry, the Obama administration proposed Friday a way for women who work at nonprofit religious institutions to get free birth control without requiring their employers 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 (Gold, 2/1).

The New York Times: White House Proposes Compromise on Contraception Coverage
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said the proposal would guarantee free coverage of birth control "while respecting religious concerns." ... The White House has struggled for more than two years to balance its commitment to women's rights and health care for all with the need to protect religious liberty. The contraception plan provoked a furor during last year's presidential campaign, and the administration was forced to say that it would provide an accomodation for groups with religious objections. The subject of contraception coverage became part of a broader campaign dialogue over women's issues (Pear, 2/1).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Administration Proposes Contraception Compromise
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and a leading critic of the contraceptive mandate, was noncommittal Friday. "We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later," he said. But a religious-rights group that represents employers said the new proposal does not go far enough (Levey, 2/1).

The Wall Street Journal: Opt-Out Of Contraception Rule Proposed
The White House has been trying for more than a year to find a compromise to a standoff with religious groups over requirements in the health law that most employers fully cover birth control in their workers' insurance plans (Radnofsky, 2/1).

Politico: Obama Administration Changes Contraception Rules
Women will get a small separate insurance policy that covers contraception that is not paid for by the religious employer and does not cost the woman anything. Costs will be covered by fees insurers pay to participate in the new federal health exchanges being set up under Obamacare. The new policy also expands the definition of “religious employer,” potentially allowing more institutions to get out of the requirement. The new policy eliminates the requirement that they have religious values in their purpose, employ people of the same religion and primarily serve people with the same religious values (Slack and Haberkorn, 2/1).

The Hill's Healthwatch: HHS Rejects Calls For Broad Opt-Out To Contraception Mandate
The Obama administration said Friday that it will not provide broad exceptions to the contraception mandate in its signature healthcare law. The Health and Human Services Department rejected calls to let any employer opt out of the mandate based on religious objections to contraception. Instead, the department released regulations that hew largely to the policy it had previously announced (Baker, 2/1).

The Associated Press: Obama Administration Offers Faith Groups New Birth Control Rule
Obama had promised to change the birth control requirement so insurance companies — and not faith-affiliated employers — would pay for the coverage, but religious leaders said more changes were needed to make the plan work. Since then, more than 40 lawsuits have been filed by religious nonprofits and secular for-profit businesses claiming the mandate violates their religious beliefs. As expected, this latest regulation does not provide any accommodation for individual business owners who have religious objections to the rule (Zoll and Alonso-Zaldivar, 2/1).

USA Today: HHS Issues Proposed Contraception Coverage Rule
Under the proposed rule, religious organizations would inform their insurer of their exemption, and then the insurer would inform the organization's employees that the insurer would provide them with no-cost contraceptive coverage through a separate insurance policy not connected to the religious employer (Kennedy, 12/1).

The Washington Times: Obama Admin. Easing Contraception Mandate In Health Law
It is unclear if the new rules will placate the dozens of religious nonprofits and corporate owners that have filed lawsuits to protest the mandate contained in Mr. Obama's sweeping new health care law, which passed in 2010 and was largely upheld by the Supreme Court last June. The plaintiffs say the use of preventive contraception or "morning-after" pills is at odds with their religious beliefs (Howell, 2/1).

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: The White House's Contraceptives Compromise
Reactions also reflected the huge diversity within Catholicism of this issue. University of Notre Dame, a key barometer of American Catholicism, said in a statement officials wouldn’t comment until they’d studied the proposal more closely. Notre Dame stirred the ire of traditional Catholics when it honored President Obama in 2009 by giving him an honorary degree and hosting him as commencement speaker. Three years later, the school joined dozens of other mostly Catholic non profits in suing the administration over the mandate. More liberal Catholic figures – who are statistically more in line with the contraception practices of most American Catholics – applauded the White House Friday (Kliff, 2/1).

Kaiser Health News will continue to update information about this development through the afternoon.  

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