02.01.13 8:30 PM ET
The Not So Different Contraceptive Mandate
The Obama administration is enacting changes to the ACA in order to clarify which religious institutions will be exempt from paying for women's contraception. The new policy broadens the exemption of a religious institution that is a "house of worship," by adding groups that do charitable work for the public. This announcement, however, is not too different than the administration has been hinting for some time:
For religious institutions that are not considered "houses of worship" (e.g., schools, hospitals, etc.) "the eligible organization would provide the self-certification to the health insurance issuer, which in turn would automatically provide separate, individual market contraceptive coverage."
The reaction from the Catholic community has been divided. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan released a neutral statement, simply saying that he would look into the proposal. Groups such as the Catholic League applauded the change. The Becket Fund, who is representing many organizations that are suing the Obama administration, released a statement saying the new changes "[do] nothing to protect the religious liberty of millions of Americans.”
There is one perplexing aspect to this decision. The HHS statement notes that neither the employer nor the employee will be responsible for paying for contraception coverage. Instead, the cost will be shifted to the insurance companies. While the statement claims that the change will be "cost neutral" because of improved care, I do wonder who will be paying for all this.