Bloomberg News

Republicans to Continue Effort to Block Obama Contraceptive Rule

February 14, 2012

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Republicans will try to halt Democratic President Barack Obama’s plan to have insurance companies for religious-affiliated charities and hospitals pay for contraception coverage, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said.

Opponents would win a vote in the House to block the measure announced Feb. 10 by Obama, Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said today on ABC’s “This Week.”

“A lot of these Catholic institutions are self-insured, and all insurers under this rule must provide these mandated benefits,” said Ryan. “So it really is a distinction without a difference. This should be rescinded.”

The administration sought to quiet an uproar from some religious groups and lawmakers by adding the insurers’ requirement to an earlier plan that mandated contraception coverage by employers. Republicans today continued to assail the proposal, which has been denounced by U.S. Roman Catholic bishops.

The White House defended its plan, which would compel insurers to offer contraception coverage to employees of religious-affiliated institutions at no charge.

The plan outlined by Obama has garnered support from Catholic charities and the Catholic Health Association of the United States, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew said on the ABC program.

“We didn’t expect that there would be universal support, but we do think this is the right way to go and it’s a plan that we’re going to pursue,” said Lew.

Issue ‘Resolved’

The compromise guarantees every woman has a right to preventive care, including contraception, he said.

The issue is “resolved,” Lew said in another interview today on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The requirement goes against deeply held convictions, presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, said on “Meet the Press.”

“This is not what the government should be doing,” said Santorum. “You’ve got a lot of liberals and Democrats who are just aghast.”

An earlier proposal would have required employers who offer health insurance to also provide contraceptives coverage. While houses of worship and nonprofit religious groups that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith were exempt, religious hospitals and universities that employ and serve people of other faiths were not.

The solution preserves access to contraception while at the same time responding to objections from religious officials, Obama said Feb. 10 at the White House.

“Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women,” Obama said.

The requirement was part of the health-care law passed in 2010 and the initial rule was announced Jan. 20. The rule takes effect in 2013, after the November elections.

--With assistance from Margaret Talev in Washington. Editor: Bob Drummond, Ann Hughey.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Armour in Washington at sarmour@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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