Donovan Slack and Jennifer Haberkorn report for the Politico that “After a year of controversy, the Obama administration has changed contraceptive health coverage requirements for religious institutions that pay for their own insurance and objected to the policy on moral grounds.”
This morning, Feb. 1, 2013, the Obama regime’s Health and Human Services Department (HHS) announced the change of policy, “Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act“: Women will still be able to get the same health benefits, but certain religious employers will now be exempt from paying for it.
Christian institutions, specifically those of the Catholic Church, vehemently objected to the HHS mandate. In May 2012, 43 branches of the Catholic Church sued the federal government in Superior Court for the HHS mandate contravening the Constitution’s First Amendment on Church-State relations, by requiring religious organizations to provide, pay for, and/or facilitate insurance coverage for not just contraception services, but also abortifacients (abortion-inducing drugs), which violate the teachings of the Catholic Church.
However, HHS’s change of policy does not address the concerns of private businesses, such as Hobby Lobby, whose owners also object to contraception on religious grounds. Several dozen lawsuits have been filed, and the religious freedom issue is likely to reach the Supreme Court.
Here’s the summary of the proposed policy change, “Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act.” (I’ve saved the pdf document to FOTM’s Media Library. Click here!)
SUMMARY: This document proposes amendments to rules regarding coverage for certain preventive services under section 2713 of the Public Health Service Act, as added by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended, and incorporated into the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and the Internal Revenue Code.
Section 2713 of the Public Health Service Act requires coverage without cost sharing of certain preventive health services, including certain contraceptive services, in non-exempt, non-grandfathered group health plans and health insurance coverage.
The proposed rules would amend the authorization to exempt group health plans established or maintained by certain religious employers (and group health insurance coverage provided in connection with such plans) with respect to the requirement to cover contraceptive services. The proposed rules would also establish accommodations for group health plans established or maintained by eligible organizations (and group health insurance coverage offered in connection with such plans), including student health insurance coverage arranged by eligible organizations that are religious institutions of higher education. This document also proposes related amendments to regulations concerning excepted benefits and Affordable Insurance Exchanges.
~Eowyn & Steve
FOTM reader Patricia emailed us a communication from Dr. Helen Alvaré, Associate Professor of Law at George Mason University, of the pro-life Chiaroscuro Institute. Dr. Alvaré has studied the policy change document “Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act” to conclude that our victory is only partial and our elation must be qualified. Here’s Dr. Alvaré’s e-mail:
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ‘COMPROMISE’ DOES NOT PROTECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOR ALL
Once again, the Obama Administration has delivered an unacceptable “compromise” regarding the HHS Mandate and religious freedom.
Today the White House expanded the exemption to church-affiliated non-profit organizations, but refused to extend it to individuals and for profit business owners—such as the Greens with Hobby Lobby.
I have reviewed it and have several takeaways:
1. The first “expansion” of the exemption is as small as the government could make it. Religious organizations which exist to spread the faith (i.e. Churches)– when they also do things like serve the poor or educate kids in a religious school–may have the exemption for those ministries as well as the Church itself.
2. Religious institutions who are not primarily in the business of spreading the faith– likely hospitals, schools, etc.– can have the exemption after a complicated “self-certification” procedure, but their employees and students will get free contraception without their employers’ input–under separate policies issued directly from the insurance company.
3. My third observation is not about the law, but about the administration. Their desperation to get contraception, early abortifacients and sterilization into the hands of every woman and girl would be comical if they weren’t in such deadly earnest. These new regulations are very long and very convoluted and very intent on exempting the fewest folks possible. I doubt most other provisions of the health care law have received this kind of attention.
4. Individuals and businesses which are not religious institutions are completely unprotected… THIS IS DISTURBING. In America, the right of religious freedom extends to all.
I can’t do better than echo Alan Sears, President of the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group who has said, “Religious leaders and their organizations cannot be bought off with personal immunity, in exchange for abandoning their fellow believers and their own flocks to federal subjugation of their freedoms. It behooves none of us to preserve our own ‘freedom,’ when no one in our audience will be allowed to accept and live by our Gospel witness.”
I more than suspect that this is an attempt to divide us and thereby to conquer…..why? We are winning both in the courts (by 10 to 4 so far) and in the court of public opinion.
The government has no business putting religious freedom on the negotiating table, or picking and choosing who is allowed to exercise faith.
I encourage you to speak out against this “compromise” with your family and friends, and on your Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Send letters please….copying them to the President, the Vice President (America’s top political Catholic, remember?) and Secretary Sebelius. Their addresses are below.
Thanks for sticking with us in this fight,
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Vice President Joe Biden
Old Executive Office Building
Washington, DC 20501
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201