I’m on a White House conference call right now, at which “senior administration officials” are providing more background on the administration’s “accommodation” regarding rules on religiously affiliated organizations – churches were already exempt – provide contraception coverage through their health care plans to their employees. The key points from the call (still in progress as of 10:58 am):
*This is a “commonsense solution” that “adheres to two core principles”: 1) ensure that all women, no matter where they work, have access to affordable, preventitive health care services including contraception; and 2) ensure that religious liberty is respected, that religiously affiliated institutions do NOT have to offer contraception directly or pay for it.
*Under this “accommodation,” in cases of institutions with religious objections, the health insurance company will be required to offer contraception directly to the employees, but the institutions themselves will not have to offer contraception or pay for it.
*The plan already had been to work on this with stakeholders, including religiously affiliated organizations, for a year. The Obama administration had been listening to, and continues to listen to, the concerns of religious institutions.
*In his career, Barack Obama worked closely with local churches and faith-based organizations, and understands very well how valuable these organizations are.
*Religious institutions don’t have to refer their employees either, which had been a concern. This “respects religious freedom” and is what had always been intended by the administration.
*Bottom line, “this is a tough issue,” because concerns of religious institutions “are deep.” This president has respected “conscience laws” and enforced them, and will continue to do so.
P.S. As NPR reports: “employers have pretty much been required to provide contraceptive coverage as part of their health plans since December 2000. That’s when the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that failure to provide such coverage violates the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act.” That’s right, this was the case under the Bush administration and Republican Congress. Hmmmm.
P.P.S. Also worth pointing out is polls like this one, which indicates that “56% of voters generally support the birth control benefit, while 37% are opposed.” Also, “There is a major disconnect between the leadership of the Catholic Church and rank and file Catholic voters on this issue.” Finally: “Republican agitating on this issue could cause themselves trouble at the polls this year. 40% of voters say Mitt Romney’s stance makes them less likely to vote for him, while only 23% consider it a positive.” So, please Republicans, keep talking about this! 🙂
UPDATE: See the White House fact sheet on the “flip.”
FACT SHEET: Women’s Preventive Services and Religious Institutions
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans will cover women’s preventive services, including contraception, without charging a co-pay or deductible beginning in August, 2012. This new law will save money for millions of Americans and ensure Americans nationwide get the high-quality care they need to stay healthy.
Today, President Obama will announce that his Administration will implement a policy that accommodates religious liberty while protecting the health of women. Today, nearly 99 percent of all women have used contraception at some point in their lives, but more than half of all women between the ages of 18-34 struggle to afford it.
Under the new policy to be announced today, women will have free preventive care that includes contraceptive services no matter where she works. The policy also ensures that if a woman works for religious employers with objections to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, the religious employer will not be required to provide contraception coverage, but her insurance company will be required to offer contraceptive care free of charge.
The new policy ensures women can get contraception without paying a co-pay and addresses important concerns raised by religious groups by ensuring that objecting religious employers will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer women to organizations that provide contraception. Background on this policy is included below:
· Section 2713 of the Affordable Care Act, the Administration adopted new guidelines that will require most private health plans to cover preventive services for women without charging a co-pay starting on August 1, 2012. These preventive services include well women visits, domestic violence screening, and contraception, and all were recommended to the Secretary of Health and Human Services by the independent Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science.
· Today, the Obama Administration will publish final rules in the Federal Register that:
o Exempts churches, other houses of worship, and similar organizations from covering contraception on the basis of their religious objections.
o Establishes a one year transition period for religious organizations while this policy is being implemented.
· The President will also announce that his Administration will propose and finalize a new regulation during this transition year to address the religious objections of the non-exempted religious organizations. The new regulation will require insurance companies to cover contraception if the non-exempted religious organization chooses not to. Under the policy:
o Religious organizations will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer their employees to organizations that provide contraception.
o Religious organizations will not be required to subsidize the cost of contraception.
o Contraception coverage will be offered to women by their employers’ insurance companies directly, with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception.
o Insurance companies will be required to provide contraception coverage to these women free of charge.
Covering contraception saves money for insurance companies by keeping women healthy and preventing spending on other health services. For example, there was no increase in premiums when contraception was added to the Federal Employees Health Benefit System and required of non-religious employers in Hawaii. One study found that covering contraception lowered premiums by 10 percent or more.