Bloomberg News

Religious Exemption for Birth Control Coverage Detailed by U.S.

March 17, 2012

U.S. regulators proposed rules laying out how workers at self-insured religious-affiliated institutions can receive health coverage for contraception if their employer has a religious objection to paying for it.

The regulations released yesterday include a suggestion that companies handling administrative tasks for the religious institution’s insurance policy offer, and pay for, birth control coverage separately.

The 2010 health-care law requires health plans to provide preventive medical services at no cost to patients. U.S. health officials announced in August that those services would include contraception such as birth control pills, implants and sterilization procedures. While churches are exempt from these rules, their affiliated schools and hospitals weren’t.

After complaints and lawsuits against the requirement, President Barack Obama said last month the institutions wouldn’t have to pay for the services. Instead, insurance companies would offer contraceptive care to insured employees of those religious institutions without charge.

Still unresolved was the issue of religious-affiliated institutions that self-insure. The regulations issued yesterday detail ways these organizations can meet the requirements of the health law.

“The president’s policy respects religious liberty and makes free preventive services available to women,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. The “announcement is the next step toward fulfilling that commitment.”

The public has 90 days to comment on the proposal before the rules become final, the department said in its statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ryan Flinn in San Francisco at rflinn@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net


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