CHA notes 'substantial progress' on HHS revisions

In a statement released today the Catholic Health Association reports that it will continue to study the recent revision of HHS guidelines on the exemption from its contraception mandate for health insurance by religious employers, but notes "substantial progress" in Obama administraiton position. "We welcomed the clarity of the statements of HHS' intent to protect eligible organizations from having to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds," the statement said. "HHS also proposes that these organizations will incur no liability for the failure of others such as insurance companies to provide such services. We are grateful for the simplicity of the self-certification process."

According to the CHA statement: "These changes are substantial progress."

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The CHA calls its concerns "as a ministry are narrower than the broader concerns of the Bishops' Conference," adding, "we believe that our commitment to dialogue to an acceptable solution is matched by all parties and we are committed to completing resolution of this issue."

Full statement follows below:

Catholic Health Association Seeks Members' Input On HHS Proposed Rule for Contraceptive Services

WASHINGTON, DC (February 13, 2013) —The following statement is being released by Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA):

On February 1, 2013, HHS issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the mandate for contraceptive services. CHA had filed comments on this issue, asking for changes. One of the most important areas of concern for CHA was the definition of a "religious employer." Under that definition, serving and employing people who do not share our faith is a disqualification from being considered a religious employer. We are pleased that HHS has been sensitive to this concern and proposes to remove the three objectionable conditions required to be considered a "religious employer." Those conditions specifically require that the religious employer have the inculcation of religious values as its purpose, primarily employ persons who share its religious tenets and primarily serve persons who share its religious tenants. This is a great relief to our members and many others.

CHA is studying the accommodation proposed for "eligible organizations" which would apply to our ministries. We welcomed the clarity of the statements of HHS' intent to protect eligible organizations from having to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds. HHS also proposes that these organizations will incur no liability for the failure of others such as insurance companies to provide such services. We are grateful for the simplicity of the self-certification process.

These changes are substantial progress.

The structures that HHS intends to use to provide contraceptive services to employees of non-profit religious organizations have yet to be finalized, especially for those who are self-insured. We have been asked by HHS to evaluate three possible options for using a third party administrator (TPA) and make recommendations. CHA has asked our members to review these options in relation to their self-insurance structures and give us input. CHA will provide that to HHS during the comment period.

Throughout this sometimes challenging period, CHA has remained in constant dialogue with the leadership of the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops, individual Bishops who had concerns and suggestions and the Administration. We believe that our commitment to dialogue to an acceptable solution is matched by all parties and we are committed to completing resolution of this issue.

CHA is also aware that the issues that we have as a ministry are narrower than the broader concerns of the Bishops' Conference. Our mutual efforts to resolve the issues affecting our ministries are our contribution to the overall process.

CHA looks forward to working with our members, the leadership of the Bishops' Conference and the Administration to complete this process.

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