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Obamacare contraceptive opt-out proposal expandedcomment (0)

February 7, 2013

The Obama administration proposed a rule change Feb. 1 it says will appease the concerns religious organizations have about the contraceptive mandate. 

Some groups had hoped the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would announce that all religious organizations are exempt from the mandate, which requires employers to carry health insurance plans covering contraceptives and drugs that can cause chemical abortions. Churches, for example, are exempt from the mandate. Instead, HHS issued a rule it says allows for employees to obtain contraceptives without the religious employer taking part in the process. Opponents say employers still will be involved. 

The proposal also does nothing to help businesses such as Bible publisher Tyndale House or Christian-owned Hobby Lobby or any other for-profit whose owners have religious objections to contraceptives and/or abortion-causing drugs. 

“Having reviewed this proposed rule, we ... have to say we’re extremely disappointed,” Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a conference call with reporters. Becket Fund has helped lead the legal charge against the mandate. More than 40 lawsuits have been filed against the mandate. Duncan called the proposal “radically inadequate.”

However, Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty reacted with a favorable first impression.

“The proposed rules signal an ongoing effort by the administration to provide for the preventive health care needs of women employees while seeking to honor the conscience objections of religious employers and their affiliates,” Walker said. 

According to an HHS website, under the proposal, the religious employer “would not have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for any contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds.” Employees “would receive contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies, without cost sharing or additional premiums.” 

The administration said it is still working out how to handle self-insured group health plans like those offered by the Southern Baptist Convention’s GuideStone Financial Resources, so that workers receive contraceptive coverage at no cost but eligible organizations do not have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for such coverage.


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