Home Social Issues White House Announces “Accommodation” on Contraception Rules; No Compromise on “Core Principles”

White House Announces “Accommodation” on Contraception Rules; No Compromise on “Core Principles”

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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.

  • Here’s their statement, which begins:

    In the face of a misleading and outrageous assault on women’s health, the Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring all women will have access to birth control coverage, with no costly co-pays, no additional hurdles, and no matter where they work.

  • See here:

    “The president of the Catholic Health Association, a trade group representing Catholic hospitals, says the organization is pleased with the revised rule. Sister Carol Keehan says it ‘responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed.'”

  • Since I had a baby last year, I belong to an online community of women who share very little in common with each other except that we all had babies around the same time.  One of the women, who has a baby less than one year old, is currently expecting a second baby.  (Might be her third.)  Why?  Because to see her physician and get her birth control pills cost her $50, and payday wasn’t that week, but the week after.  They are happy about the baby, but not as happy as they might have been.  They are on some government aid (mostly food stamps) because the mother has struggled to find work, given that she has been pregnant for the past two years (she works a few hours a week caring for another woman’s child.)  The husband works, and they are both married.

    In other words, these are two people who have done everything “right” by any conservative measure except being able to have $50 one time.  They are embarrassed to be accepting government support (Charles Murray would be proud of their shame) and they are doing everything they can to keep things from spiraling out of control.

    But for want of a nail, a horse was lost.  For want of a horse, a war was lost…..

  • aznew

    this is exactly the right move.

  • pontoon

    a pretty good week.  Seems the contraception issue has been resolved, that jobless claims are down again this week and that the banks are going to be held accountable for what they did to cause the economic meltdown…and as investigations continue…they can be held accountable again! Pretty good week, indeed!

     

  • I am pleased that the White House has taken further steps to ensure that all women have access to affordable contraception and to ensure that religious organizations will not be asked to violate their beliefs in the process.  There are some who have wrongly used this debate to pit women’s rights against freedom of religion. The steps taken by the White House show that there is a way to respect both. From the day the new regulations were announced, I’ve encouraged the White House to find a better solution that embraces and protects both access to contraception and religious freedom, and I am proud to support the new steps announced today.

    Throughout my career, I’ve been a strong supporter of a woman’s right to make her own health and reproductive decisions. The significant increase in access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act is an important step forward. I believe that access to contraception and health care is critical to reducing unintended pregnancies and abortions. Unlike my opponents in this race who support dangerous ‘personhood’ legislation that restricts women’s rights and could limit access to some forms of contraception, I strongly believe that making contraception more accessible is an important part of health care, reduces overall health care costs, and provides women and men with greater control over whether and when they have children.

    There are too many Americans who believe compromise in Washington is no longer achievable. Today’s agreement shows that if we focus on the issues, rather than the politics, we can find common ground and make choices that promote and protect important rights and freedoms instead of pitting those rights and freedoms against each other. That’s the kind of leadership I hope to bring to the U.S. Senate as we fight to rebuild our economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class.

  • NotJohnSMosby

    I’m starting to feel a little ’90s here, a little triangulation tactics.  Show how out of touch the current position was, float an aggressive fix, then come up with the “compromise” right in the middle that pretty much everyone can live with.  The Right loses an issue to harp on, Dems get what we want, the catholic hierarchy gets to save face and claim a victory.  

    This is how you get stuff done.  No one will remember this six months from now, and Romney can’t really bring it up again, and if the Teabaggers bring it up, people will view it as silly and stupid since a happy ending was reached quickly.

  • See here, and note that he had been VERY unhappy a few days ago.