The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Thursday that President Obama’s recent attempt to mollify religious objections to covering contraception as part of his signature health law has fallen short of addressing their concerns.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said it was pleased that the Department of Health and Human Services clarified the definition of church ministries that are exempt from the contraception mandate, but its plan to have insurers pick up the tab for contraception among employees at religious nonprofits “appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education and Catholic charities.”
“HHS offers what it calls an ‘accommodation’ rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches,” he said.
Under the president’s plan, insurers or third-party administrators will provide contraception coverage for the nonprofits’ employees through separate policies, without the institutions’ involvement.
Insurers would be reimbursed for the expense through rebates on the user fees that will be charged those that offer insurance through health exchanges in the states next year, and the expected reduction in pregnancies often makes the contraception coverage “cost neutral,” health officials said.
Mr. Obama unveiled his long-awaited proposal on Friday, but reaction from the Catholic community was guarded. More than a dozen corporations are expected to continue their lawsuits against the Obama administration, arguing they observe a religious accommodation as well.