Birth Control Rule Will Apply To Self-Insured Groups, Sebelius Says; Political Fallout Continues
Both sides mount what they say will be prolonged campaigns to shape public perceptions on the issue, both on Capitol Hill and in races around the country.
Modern Healthcare: Birth-Control Rule Will Apply To Self-Insured Organizations, Sebelius Says
The revised rule on insurance coverage of birth control that HHS will formulate, finalize and implement by August 2013 will apply to self-insured entities, as well as policies issued by insurance companies, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters. The details of the revised birth-control rule—announced after a furor from Catholic employers who object to funding something to which they are morally opposed—remain undefined, except that it will require insurance companies to pay for the drugs instead of religious employers (Daly, 2/15).
The New York Times: Self-Insured Complicate Health Deal
The Obama administration thought it had found a way to ease mounting objections to a requirement in the new health care act that all employers — including religiously affiliated hospitals and universities — offer coverage for birth control to women free of charge. It would make the insurers cover the costs, rather than the organizations themselves. But the administration announced the compromise plan before it had figured out how to address one conspicuous point: Like most large employers, many religiously affiliated organizations choose to insure themselves rather than hire an outside company to assume the risk (Thomas, 2/15).
Bloomberg: Priests For Life Group Sues U.S. Over Birth-Control Insurance Requirement
A Christian organization called Priests for Life sued the Obama administration, saying its mandate that insurance providers cover birth control violates the organization’s religious and free-speech rights. Priests for Life, in a lawsuit filed today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, also objected to the requirement that employers provide coverage for sterilization and related education, and to the penalties for not complying(Weidlich, 2/15).
CQ HealthBeat: HHS To Publish New Rule On Employer-Paid Insurance, Contraceptives
The Health and Human Services Department will issue an additional final rule governing insurance coverage of contraceptive services, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday. Sebelius, speaking at a Senate Finance Committee hearing, said the department would publish the new rule by August 2013 as part of the Obama administration decision to modify the existing final rule on the coverage (Ethridge, 2/15).
Politico: Sebelius: Contraception Rule 'Major Step Forward'
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called the contraceptive coverage requirement "a major step forward" on Wednesday, making it clear that she's back to full-scale advocacy mode after the Obama administration’s compromise on the rule last week. In comments to reporters following a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Sebelius said the requirement was the latest in a series of steps to ensure that women get equal treatment in the medical system. ... The reason 28 states passed their own contraceptive coverage requirements, she added, was that plans were covering Viagra but not contraception (Feder, 2/15).
Politico: Republicans Let Kathleen Seblius Off Easy On Contraception Rule
Republican senators had a golden opportunity to score points Wednesday by blasting the new contraception coverage rule when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before the Senate Finance Committee. They barely took a shot (Feder, 2/15).
The Hill: GOP Largely Ignores Birth-Control Furor In Hearing With Sebelius
Republicans have vowed to keep pressing their attack against the White House’s birth-control mandate, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they approached a hearing with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday. It was the first time Sebelius has testified before Congress since announcing the contraception mandate. Yet despite a flood of statements and speeches denouncing the policy as an attack on religious freedom, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee barely mentioned it Wednesday (Baker, 2/15).
The New York Times: Both Sides Eager To Take Birth Control Coverage Issue To Voters
The furor over President Obama’s birth control mandate has swiftly entered a new plane, with supporters and opponents alike calling the subject a potent weapon for the November elections and mounting what they say will be prolonged campaigns to shape public perceptions of the issue: Is it about religious liberty or women’s health? (Eckholm, 2/15).
Politico Pro: House GOP Focuses On Conscience Message
House Republicans want to make one thing very, very clear: their beef with the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate has nothing to do with birth control and everything to do with religious liberty. Two big events in the House this week are trying to drive that point home (Nocera, 2/16).
St. Louis Beacon: Blunt, Under Fire For 'Rights Of Conscience' Amendment, Claims 'Misinformation'
According to a fact sheet circulated by opponents, Blunt's amendment could impact the access of many employees to "a variety of essential health services." That is because employers could refuse coverage based on the "moral convictions" clause. ... Disturbed by such claims, Blunt issued what his office called a "fact check" document ... [which] labels as "unequivocally false" any suggestion that his amendment would allow anyone to deny health care for just about any reason (Koenig, 2/15).
CQ HealthBeat: Catholics Leaders Speak Out in Favor of Obama Contraception Compromise
A group of Catholic and university leaders said Wednesday that they support President Obama's regulation on contraceptive coverage for Catholic institutions, and criticized Republicans who have said that the president is waging a "war on religion." the announcement illustrated the continuing split — even among Catholics — over the highly controversial contraception rule, which will be implemented as part of the health care law (Norman, 2/15).
The Hill: Social Conservatives Press Obama On Administration’s Birth Control Mandate
A group of social conservative lawmakers on Wednesday intensified its push to overturn President Obama's new birth-control mandate. The lawmakers, representing both parties and both chambers, said the president's recent "accommodation" would still force some employers — particularly faith-based nonprofits — to cover contraception in defiance of their moral convictions (Lillis, 2/15).
The Associated Press: Contraception Battle Looms In Mass. Senate Race
The debate over the line between religious freedom and federal health care mandates has made its way into Massachusetts' closely watched U.S. Senate race, with Republican Sen. Scott Brown accusing his chief Democratic rival of wanting to "dictate to religious people about what they should believe." Consumer advocate and Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren has responded by criticizing Brown for signing on to a Republican-backed bill that would allow employers and health care plans to deny coverage for any service they say violates their moral or religious beliefs (LeBlanc, 2/16).