The Obama Administration today floated proposed rules to attempt to alleviate religious concerns about the Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act.
The administration tried to put a positive spin on the accommodation. The 80-page proposal attempts to simplify and expand the existing definition of a “religious employer” by creating accommodations for non-profit organizations who self-certify as religious organizations that have an objection to providing contraceptive coverage.
According to the proposal, employees of, or students at exempted organizations could still receive contraceptive services, such as sterilization, contraception, and drugs that cause abortion, through a separate, individual insurance provider. As described by Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, deputy director of policy and regulation with the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, costs would be paid by the issuer.
“No federal funds or employer dollars will be used to fund contraceptive coverage,” said Brooks-LaSure. “The services are paid for through a reduction in user fees from the federally-funded exchange.”
“Under the proposed rule, no non-profit organization will be force to pay for, or provide contraceptive services,” said Brooks-LaSure. “Universities, hospitals, and charities won’t have to arrange, contract, provide, or refer for contraceptives.”
Religious liberty, legal, and advocacy groups, however, were universally disappointed with the proposal.
“Religious institutions who are not primarily in the business of spreading the faith – likely hospitals, schools, etc. – can have the exemption after a complicated ‘self-certification’ procedure, but their employees and students will get free contraception without their employers’ input – under separate policies issued directly from the insurance company,” said Helen Alvare in a statement made through the organization Women Speak for Themselves.
“We are extremely dissatisfied with this inadequate proposal,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of Catholic dioceses, universities, and family-owned businesses to protect their religious liberty.
“The proposal has nothing to do with the millions of family businesses or business owners who are having their rights violated,” said Duncan. “It does nothing to change the scope of, or broaden, the religious employer exemption, and it offers no concrete guidelines for how self-funded entities are to avoid the requirements of the mandate that violate their consciences. Even those who qualify for the accommodation will have concerns about remaining conduits for drugs and devices that raise the same kind of conscience-problems that have been there all along.”
“The document proposes three different proposals,” said Duncan. “The document provides no concrete guidance for self-insured entities, and the administration has made it clear that for-profit organizations, such as Hobby Lobby, have no religious claims to make with respect to the mandate.”
“In this proposed rule, it appears that Catholic schools and colleges may not be required to provide the mandatory insurance directly, but insurance companies will nevertheless provide the immoral coverage to employees and students,” said The Cardinal Newman Society in a press statement released today. “This is an accounting gimmick that serves the Obama administration’s radical goal of forcing such coverage on all Americans, except those who are employed by houses of worship. The Administration continues to violate Americans’ freedom with an absurdly narrow view of constitutionally protected religious activity.
“Religious freedom will not be protected until every organization, business and individual is exempted from purchasing or otherwise financially supporting insurance for sterilization, contraception or abortion.”
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