The Obama Administration Allows Religious Groups To Opt Out Of Contraception Coverage

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In a reversal of policy, the Obama administration plans to allow religious institutions the ability to opt out of providing employees insurance coverage for contraceptives. CNN first reported, citing two sources in the administration, that the Obama administration will now allow religious institutions to opt out of coverage on moral grounds. White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed the changes on Friday but said they did not mean that the administration’s initial rules were an overreach.

The new policy will still require most employers to cover contraception in their employees’ healthcare plans. But the new rules would exempt institutions that fit a definition of a “religious institution.” 

Here are HHS’ four criteria for meeting that definition:

  1. opposes providing coverage for some or all of any contraceptive services required to be covered under Section 2713 of the PHS Act, on account of religious objections;
  2. is organised and operates as a nonprofit entity;
  3. holds itself out as a religious organisation; and
  4. self-certifies that it meets these criteria and specifies the contraceptive services for which it objects to providing coverage.

Employees at religious institutions could still receive contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies, without cost sharing or additional premiums.

The change comes about a year after the administration incurred a firestorm over the policy that mandated religious groups to cover contraceptives in their insurance plans as part of the Affordable Care Act. The Catholic Church took particular public exception to the rule, saying it violated their religious beliefs. In May, 43 Catholic organisations challenged the rules in federal court.

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