FRIDAY, June 28 (HealthDay News) -- The Obama administration on
Friday issued what it called final rules that let religious
organizations opt out of providing contraception coverage in their
health insurance plans, as mandated by the 2010 Affordable Care
The White House said employers at non-profit religious
organizations such as houses of worship, hospitals and universities
won't have to offer free access to birth control, but their
insurance companies will be made directly responsible for doing
Women who request birth control will be able to get it free of
co-pays or premiums, as required by the Affordable Care Act. But
non-profit religious organizations can refuse to cover birth
control, leaving the woman's insurance company with the
responsibility of coverage.
"The health care law helps ensure that millions of women have coverage for critical preventive services without cost sharing," Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, deputy director of policy and regulation at the Center for Consumer Information, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said during an afternoon news conference.
These services include contraception "because there are
tremendous health benefits for women that come from using
contraception," she said.
Friday's revised rules are similar to earlier proposed rules, in
which houses of worship such as churches can exclude contraceptive
coverage from their health plans for their employees and their
"Today's announcement reinforces our commitment to respect the concerns of houses of worship and other non-profit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage, while helping to ensure that women get the care they need, regardless of where they work," Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.
The revised rule, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2014, follows
more than a year of protests and legal action from Roman Catholics,
conservative Protestants and many employers who maintain that the
contraception provision in the Affordable Care Act -- the Obama
administration's sweeping 2010 health reform law -- violates their
religious beliefs on birth control.
It's not clear if Friday's announcement will satisfy opponents
of the contraception provision.
On Thursday, a federal appeals court in Denver ruled that Hobby
Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain, can proceed
with its challenge to the birth-control mandate and won't be
subject to fines.
The changes offered Friday appear to be the Obama
administration's attempt to satisfy both sides on the issue --
religious leaders who object to providing contraception to
employees, and those who wish to see that all women retain free
access to birth control.
The White House first found itself embroiled in a political
fight with Catholic Church officials after a Jan. 20, 2012,
announcement that all religious-affiliated employers, with the
exception of churches and other houses of worship, would have to
cover free birth control as part of routine preventive care for
women. These institutions were given until August 2013 to comply
with the rule.
For more on birth control, visit the
Alan Guttmacher Institute.
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