HHS revision to lift contraception mandate on Catholic/rel. institutions?

HHS press office is not confirming, but CNN is reporting and other sources are indicating that a major revision of the HHS contraception mandate will be released this morning. According to sources, the revisions will allow religious affiliated institutions, defined under prior standard of IRS code, to opt out of the contraception mandate which has caused so much consternation between Obama administration and the U.S. bishops.

The revisions will also allow an opt out for self-insured religious entities. Employees of such institutions who want contraception services will be guided to third party or government sources. The revisions should do much to satisfy the U.S. bishops who have waged a campaign for "religious liberty," primarily based on their objection to the Affordable Care Acts expansion of access to contraception through employer-provided health insurance plans. The revisions will apparently not address the objections of private employers who may personally object to including contraception in their employee plans.


The original HHS exemption, considered too narrow by many church officials and representatives of Catholic hospitals, schools and social service entities allowed exceptions to the contraception mandate for churches and many church bodies but religiously affiliated institutions could only qualify for exemption if they had the inculcation of religious values as its purposes, employed "persons who share its religious tenets, primarily served persons "who share its religious tenets"; and were a non-profit organization under IRS regulations. Those limitations will apparently be lifted today. The mandate provoked an armada of lawsuits from Catholic institutions and employers nationwide.

UPDATED: Revisions follow below...

Administration issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on recommended 
preventive services policy

The Obama administration today issued proposed rules for public comment regarding contraceptive coverage with no cost sharing under the health care law. The proposed rules provide women with coverage for preventive care that includes contraceptive services with no co-pays, while also respecting the concerns of some religious organizations. 

Today’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking reflects public feedback received through the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in March 2012.  In addition, these proposed rules are open for public comment through April 8, 2013. 

“Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women’s organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals.”

The proposed rules lay out how non-profit religious organizations, such as non-profit religious hospitals or institutions of higher education, that object to contraception on religious grounds can receive an accommodation that provides their enrollees separate contraceptive coverage, and with no co-pays, but at no cost to the religious organization.

With respect to insured plans, including student health plans, these religious organizations would provide notice to their insurer.  The insurer would then notify enrollees that it is providing them with no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies. 

With respect to self-insured plans, as well as student health plans, these religious organizations would provide notice to their third party administrator.  In turn, the third party administrator would work with an insurer to arrange no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies. 

Insurers and third party administrators would work to ensure a seamless enrollment process.

The proposed rules lay out how the costs of both the insurer and the third party administrator would be covered, without any charge to either the religious organization or the enrollees.

Additionally, the proposed rules simplify and clarify the definition of “religious employer” for purposes of the exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement.  These employers, primarily houses of worship, can exclude contraception coverage from their health plans for their employees. 

The proposed rules are available here: http://www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx

A fact sheet on today’s proposed rules is available here: http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/factsheets/womens-preven-02012013.html

For more information on women’s preventive services and the Affordable Care Act, visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/womensprevention08012011a.html


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Mister Heche
5 years ago
Many people are puzzled by the Catholic Church's teaching against contraception. But, in a lot of ways the teaching makes sense. For those who wish to learn more about the Church's teaching on contraception, an excellent commentary and further resource links can be found here: http://allhands-ondeck.blogspot.com/2012/02/why-catholic-church-opposes.html
James Murrray
5 years ago
My informal poll of clergy is that the vast majority have no trouble recommending artificial birth control. The Church should cover this as a health benefit recognizing the reality that its own clergy do not follow the official position. I have asked my Bishop to do an opinion poll of the clergy to identify what percentage have recommended artificial birth control. Guess what? No response, of course. He already knows the answer and since it doesn't jive with the official position wants, like all bishops, to ignore the reality.
Jim McCrea
5 years ago
With a choice between increased use of contraceptives or an increased incidence of abortion, this should be a no-brainer .... even for bishops.
Mister Heche
5 years ago
Clergy do not have the authority to change Church teaching. Their views are irrelevant.
Dan Hannula
5 years ago
I suppose, in your opinion, the views of the laity (are we part of the church too?) are also irrelevant?


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Five years later, looking back on a momentous day in the life of the church
James Martin, SJFebruary 18, 2018
If you know nothing else about Lent, you probably know that people give things up.
James Martin, SJFebruary 18, 2018
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are urging Catholics to call Congress and demand they act on behalf of “Dreamers.”
J.D. Long-GarcíaFebruary 18, 2018
Pope Francis has appointed 16 members (eight men and eight women) to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Gerard O’ConnellFebruary 17, 2018