BREAKING: White House Offers Compromise on Mandatory Contraception Coverage (Updated)


Updated at 11:20 a.m:

Women who work at religious institutions such as schools and hospitals would still be able to receive family planning services free of charge, without the religious employer paying for the coverage, under a policy change announced Friday by senior Obama administration officials.

Under Section 2713 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (P.L. 111-148), most private health plans must cover preventive services for women without charging a co-pay starting on August 1, 2012. Regulations announced last year (Interim final rule, 76 FR 46621, August 3, 2011) provided an exemption for certain religious employers regarding contraception. Religious employers, for the purpose of the exemption, were defined as nonprofits that

  • (1) have the purpose of cultivating religious values,
  • (2) employ mainly people of similar religious beliefs, and
  • (3) serve people with similar religious beliefs.

 At the time, it was unclear if the religious exemption applied to entities run by religious organizations that employed or served people from a variety of faiths, or had no religious affiliation at all. On January 20, 2012, however, HHS announced that nonprofit employers who, based on religious beliefs, do not currently provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan, would be provided an additional year, until August 1, 2013, to comply with the new law.

 Over the past few weeks, this clarification was the subject of much discussion and opposition, especially from the Roman Catholic Church.

The Obama administration announced on February 10 that it would publish final rules in the Federal Register that would exempts churches, other houses of worship, and similar organizations from covering contraception on the basis of their religious objections. The rule also would provide a one-year transition period for religious organizations while this policy is being implemented.

 Further, the administration announced that sometime in the upcoming year it will propose and finalize a new regulation 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.