KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Bishops, Congressional Republicans Vow To Fight New Contraception Plan

Meanwhile, insurers react cautiously to Friday's announcement.

The Wall Street Journal: Contraceptive Plan Still Draws Heat
At Masses across the country Sunday, Roman Catholic priests blasted the Obama administration's compromise on contraceptive insurance coverage, a sign the White House's backtrack late last week did little to defuse the controversy. The new policy requires religious employers such as universities and charities to cover contraception in employee health plans but shifts the responsibility for paying for it away from the employer and on to its health-insurance provider. Previously, the administration had required all employers apart from churches to cover contraception in their employee-insurance plans (Adamy, 2/13).

Politico: Why Dems Keep Stepping On Health Care Landmines
Somehow, the Democrats just can’t seem to keep reproductive politics from hijacking the health care debate. They almost lost the health reform bill a couple of times over abortion, as anti-abortion Democrats came close to derailing the bill during the 2009 House debate and then again during the final passage in 2010. ... It’s a predictable fight, and Democrats have always had to find ways to navigate the divide as they push to expand health coverage. But lately, some Democrats say, the Obama administration and party leaders haven’t been listening to the other side as well as they used to (Nather, 2/10).

The Associated Press: Analysis: Obama's Course Correction Shifts Dynamic
The once formidable coalition against the president had splintered. Factions that had stood with the GOP cautiously backed Obama's midcourse correction. It was a necessary policy change that reversed the political dynamic (Cassata, 2/11).

Kaiser Health News: FAQ: The Obama Administration's Compromise On Contraception Benefits
Some 28 states have mandated coverage of birth control, and 20 of those have some sort of exemption for religious employers. According to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, the state exemptions range from very narrow definitions, such as only for churches, to broader exemptions, including religious elementary and secondary schools. The most expansive state exemptions allow religiously-affiliated colleges and hospitals not to provide birth control coverage (Carey, 2/10).

Los Angeles Times: Key Republican Promises Fight Over Birth Control Coverage
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed Sunday to fight the administration's requirement that insurers provide contraceptive coverage for faith-based employers. McConnell said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that he would press legislation to exempt all employers from providing insurance coverage for contraceptives if they have religious or moral objections (Savage, 2/12).

The Sacramento Bee: Feinstein Regrets Obama's Birth Control Compromise
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein expressed disappointment Saturday in the compromise the Obama administration announced this week on its birth control coverage mandate but said the decision "can be lived with." … Feinstein's comment contrasted with remarks made by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who defended the administration's move (Van Oot, 2/12).

San Francisco Chronicle: Nancy Pelosi Backs Obama's Birth Control Policy 
Pelosi, a practicing Catholic and mother of five, strongly praised Obama for "showing leadership in a very unifying way," and "for his ongoing commitment to women's health” (Marinucci and Garofoli, 2/11).

Reuters: White House Sticking To Contraception Plan
President Barack Obama will not make any more changes to the rule ... "We put out the plan that reflects where the president intended to go. This is our plan," White House chief of staff Jacob Lew said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday (Frank and Kuo, 2/12).

The Washington Post: U.S. Bishops Blast Obama's Contraception Compromise
"The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services," the conference said in a statement released late Friday.  ... An administration official not authorized to speak on the record expressed little surprise at the bishops’ statement, which if anything represents a hardening of their position. “We never anticipated that this announcement would win the endorsement of an organization that opposed health reform from the very beginning,” the official said (Brown, 2/11).

Modern Healthcare: Shift On Birth-Control Coverage Gets Mixed Reaction
News that the Obama administration would accommodate faith-based employers who object to paying for health insurance that covers contraceptive services was welcomed by the head of the Catholic Health Association, while the insurance industry trade group greeted the announcement with caution (Zigmond, 2/10).

CBS News: Insurers Respond Cautiously To Contraceptive Plan
America's Health Insurance Plans focused its statement on concerns about the precedent President Obama's announcement may create: "Health plans have long offered contraceptive coverage to employers as part of comprehensive, preventive benefits that aim to improve patient health and reduce health care cost growth. We are concerned about the precedent this proposed rule would set" (Levin-Epstein, 2/10).

NewsHour (Video): Sebelius Explains White House’s Contraception Compromise
RAY SUAREZ: You say money from the religious institutions doesn't pay for this, but isn't money fungible? ...
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Well, again, Ray, in this case, actuaries have looked at this benefit. The federal employees health plan, when contraception was added to federal employees' benefit, which is the largest employee group in the country, costed this as no cost, free, no cost, because adding contraception and having some employees take advantage of that coverage lowers the overall cost of the health plan (2/10).

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