KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Announces Shift In Contraception Rule

CNN: Obama Announces Contraception Compromise
President Barack Obama announced a compromise Friday in the dispute over whether to require full contraception insurance coverage for female employees at religiously affiliated institutions. Under the new plan, religiously affiliated universities and hospitals will not be forced to offer contraception coverage to their employees. Insurers will be required, however, to offer complete coverage free of charge to any women who work at such institutions. Female employees at churches themselves will have no guarantee of any contraception coverage -- a continuation of current law (Silverleib, 2/10).

ABC News: Obama Blinks On Contraception Rule
"Religious organizations won't have to pay for these services and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly," the president announced from the White House briefing room. "Let me repeat: These employers will not have to pay for or provide contraceptive services, but women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services just like other women" (Bruce, 2/10).

Politico: Obama Offers Birth-Control Compromise
Catholic leaders had revolted on the issue, igniting an election year fight that pitted them against the many women concerned about reproductive choice who provide another core constituency for the president.Obama said he knew that the decision was being turned into a wedge issue, "But it shouldn’t be" (Budoff Brown and Epstein, 2/10).

The New York Times: After Outcry, Obama Shifts In Birth Control Fight
Casting himself as both "a citizen and a Christian" trying to balance individual liberty versus public health, Mr. Obama announced what administration officials called an "accommodation" that they said sought to demonstrate respect for religious beliefs. It will be similar to the path taken in several other states — particularly Hawaii — that have similar rules, but would require that insurance companies, and not religious institutions, offer contraceptive coverage at no cost (Cooper, 2/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Contraceptives Compromise Set Forth
Mr. Obama announced the policy change at the White House, a sign of how high-profile the issue has become. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was at his side but didn't make remarks. Her department will issue new regulations later Friday, people familiar with the decision said. Before the president made his statement, he telephoned Archbishop Timothy Dolan, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Sister Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association; and Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood, to discuss the shift, an administration aide said (Radnofsky, Meckler and Lee, 2/10).

The Washington Post: White House Compromise Still Guarantees Contraceptive Coverage For Women
A senior White House official said that the impact of the change on insurers would be cost neutral--and even potentially cost-saving--because on balance it would reduce the need to provide medical coverage related to unwanted pregnancies and other conditions that can be avoided with birth control (Nakamura, Wallsten and Aizenman, 2/10).

The Hill: Obama Retreats On Birth Control
Obama, who said he ordered officials to work out a compromise last week, said he was seeking a balance between the principle that all women should have access to affordable birth control, and the principle of religious liberty. "Whether you'e a teacher... or a nurse or a janitor. No woman's health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes. Every woman should be in control of the decisions that affect her own health. Period," Obama said (Strauss and Parnes, 2/10).

Politico Pro: Catholic Health Group Endorses Contraception Deal
The Catholic Health Association, which broke with the U.S. Conference of the the Catholic Bishops to support the health reform law, has endorsed the compromise contraception coverage policy announced Friday. "The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions," the group's president, Sister Carol Keehan, said in the statement (Feder, 2/10). 

Here is the document: The White House Fact Sheet On The Contraception Compromise

KHN also has video excerpts of the president's remarks and a full transcript.

KHN's summaries of news coverage earlier today:

Obama Readies Compromise On Birth Control Mandate

New Contraceptive Rule Has Precedents In Federal, State Law  





Birth Control Mandate Is A Rallying Cry In Presidential Campaigns

Senate Democrats Split From White House On Contraception Rule

Catholics Choosing Sides In Contraception Battle As Bishops Lead Fight Against Administration 

Here is some of the key stories from major news organizations:

The New York Times: Bishops Were Prepared For Battle Over Birth Control Coverage
When after much internal debate the Obama administration finally announced its decision to require religiously affiliated hospitals and universities to cover birth control in their insurance plans, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops were fully prepared for battle. ... the birth control mandate, issued on Jan. 20, was their Pearl Harbor. ... The conflict puts not just the White House, but also the bishops to the test. Will their flock follow their lead? (Goodstein, 2/9).

Politico: Obama Birth Control Battle: Bishop Checkmates The President
It was no secret inside the West Wing that Bill Daley, a Catholic with deep connections to the church hierarchy, vehemently opposed the administration’s proposal to require church-run hospitals and universities to give their employees free contraception. ... In early November ... Daley set up a four-man Oval Office meeting for himself, Obama, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Vice President Joe Biden, who both shared the view that the policy would sink the president with Catholic voters (Thrush and Budoff Brown, 2/10).

NPR: Rules Requiring Contraceptive Coverage Have Been In Force For Years
Here's the rub: The only truly novel part of the plan is the "no cost" bit. The rule would mean, for the first time, that women won't have to pay a deductible or co-payment to get prescription contraceptives. In fact, employers have pretty much been required to provide contraceptive coverage as part of their health plans since December 2000 (Rovner, 2/10).

NPR: Catholics Split Over Obama Contraceptive Order
The conflict between the Catholic Bishops and the White House over contraceptive coverage has American  Catholics narrowly support the White House position in polls. There are potential political consequences: In presidential elections, Catholics are swing voters. They supported Al Gore in 2000, President George W. Bush in '04 and President Obama in '08 (Gonyea, 2/10).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: They're Back: Social Issues Overtake US Politics
Social issues don't typically dominate the discussion in shaky economies. But they do raise emotions important to factors like voter turnout. And they can be key tools for political candidates clamoring for attention, campaign cash or just a change of subject in an election year (Kellman, 2/10).


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