Obama Administration Backtracks on Requirement to Make Certain Religious Institutions Pay for Contraception

For the second time in a year, the Obama administration has backtracked on its requirement to make religious institutions pay for contraception.

A new policy announced Friday further expanded the exemption to Obamacare: Women will still be able to get the same health benefits, but certain religious employers won't have to pay for them. Instead, institutions that insure themselves can use a third-party to find a separate health insurance plan to pay for and provide the contraceptives.

Facing outrage from institutions that objected to the contraception requirement on moral grounds, the administration had already exempted some religious institutions -- churches were always exempt -- from requiring contraception coverage last year. Then, Obama exempted some religiously affiliated institutions, such as evangelical Christian schools or Catholic hospitals, from covering contraception in their plans, forcing insurers to offer free contraception to those employed by them.

Friday's shift broadened the definition of which groups would be exempt and addressed where the money to pay for the guaranteed coverage would come from so that religious groups wouldn't be paying even indirectly.

The Health and Human Services Department announced the new proposed rule on its website.

The new policy is designed to quell outcry from religious-affiliated institutions, that the Obama administration was making them violate their religious beliefs.

The policy does not address the concerns of private businesses whose owners also object to contraception on religious grounds. Several dozen lawsuits have been filed, and the religious freedom issue is likely to reach the Supreme Court.

"Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. "We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women's organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals."

Sebelius briefed pro-choice groups on the new rule Thursday, sources tell POLITICO.

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SOURCE: Politico
Jennifer Haberkorn
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