The Obama administration will allow religious groups to opt out the contraception mandate included in its health care overhaul law, but it will not provide broad exceptions to any company with moral objections to birth control, the U.S. Department of Human Health and Services announced Friday.
After being hit with almost 50 lawsuits by employers with objections to the mandate, which will allow women to receive co-pay-free birth control coverage under their employer-sponsored health care plans, the administration rejected calls -- primarily from Republicans -- to let any company opt out of the mandate due to religious objections to contraception.
Instead, only religion-affiliated employers, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, would be exempt from paying for that coverage directly. Employees seeking contraception will still be able to obtain it without cost-sharing directly through their insurance company.
Religion-affiliated institutions that choose to insure themselves would instruct their “third party administrator” to provide coverage through separate individual health insurance policies, so they do not have to pay for services they have moral objections to.
“Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. “We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women’s organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals.”