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.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.
“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.
A fact sheet from the White House about the policy is below the fold.
The White House e-mails this fact sheet:
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:
- Exempts churches, other houses of worship, and similar organizations from covering contraception on the basis of their religious objections.
- 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:
- Religious organizations will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer their employees to organizations that provide contraception.
- Religious organizations will not be required to subsidize the cost of contraception.
- Contraception coverage will be offered to women by their employers’ insurance companies directly, with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception.
- 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.