Senior administration officials announced early this morning that President Obama will announce a new “accommodation” for religious liberties in the rule requiring all employers to offer contraception coverage without additional cost sharing. Under the new policy, “all women will still have access to free preventive care, including contraception,” no matter where they work. However, if a nonprofit religiously affiliated organization like a Catholic college or hospital objects to offering birth control, the insurance company will be required to provide the coverage free of charge and the employer will not pay for it. Sister Carol Keehan, President of the US Catholic Health Association and Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards support the compromise, the administration officials said.
Significantly, unlike the Hawaii model, religiously affiliated organizations will not have to refer employees to contraception coverage. Instead, the same insurer that provides insurance to the employer, will be offering contraception coverage to the employee directly. Insurance companies will be able to deliver birth control at no additional charge because the cost of contraception is far less than the costs associated with an unwanted pregnancy, the administration official explained. Therefore, “there is no extra premium” associated with the service.
The new rule means that contraception without cost sharing will be available starting Aug. 1, 2012.
Several groups have come out in support the the modification:
— CATHOLIC HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION: “The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed,” Sister Carol Keehan said.
— CATHOLICS UNITED: “Today the Obama Administration announced that the President would be issuing a new regulation fully respecting the religious liberty of Catholic organizations while maintaining access to contraceptive services for all employees.”
— PLANNED PARENTHOOD: “We believe the compliance mechanism does not compromise a woman’s ability to access these critical birth control benefits. However we will be vigilant in holding the administration and the institutions accountable for a rigorous, fair and consistent implementation of the policy, which does not compromise the essential principles of access to care.”