White House Outlines Birth Control "Accommodations" for Religious Groups: Insurer, Not Employer, Pays for Contraception
White House senior staff held a conference call with reporters to clarify the"accommodation" on the contraceptive coverage rule that President Obama is going to announce today.
The new compromise offered by the White House is that the insurer for the religious entities in question, rather than the employer, would be responsible for providing contraceptive coverage free of charge for employees. Insurers would also be responsible for informing employees of those benefits. Senior administration officials say that this policy is intended to accommodate religious liberty while still providing affordable access to preventive health services to all women. They stress that, for insurers, providing the preventive care for women is less expensive than either pregnancy or sterilization. They say that the program would be entirely cost neutral, that it should not increase premiums because this preventive care actually saves money compared with unintended pregnancies.
Insurers offering policies to these institutions will have to offer a health plan that includes contraceptive coverage in the contract, provide that coverage to individuals without cost-sharing, and cannot charge an extra premium for coverage. The rule will apply to schools and hospitals and non-profit religious organizations. Churches will still be exempt from the rule.
Planned Parenthood has issued a statement in support of the tweak in the rule.
“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.
“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.
There's no official response from the Conference of Catholic Bishops yet, but as Barbara Morrill pointed out earlier the've already said that the only "compromise" they would be willing to accept is no compromise at all—a complete reversal of the rule. It seems unlikely they'll give up this fight.