Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday she didn’t consult with Catholic bishops before revising a contraception mandate they’ve been fighting.
At a Senate Finance Committee hearing on President Obama’s proposed budget, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, asked Mrs. Sebelius, who is Catholic, whether she had talked with any bishops before releasing a new rule last week requiring religious employers to pay for insurance that provides free contraception for their workers.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other leading Catholic groups have attacked the mandate as a denial of religious freedom.
“I did not speak to the Catholic bishops,” Mrs. Sebelius said, adding, “I really don’t know,” when Mr. Hatch asked whether Mr. Obama conferred with the bishops about the compromise.
The administration came under fire last month when it announced that Catholic hospitals, charities and schools would not be exempted from a new rule under the new health-care law requiring them to offer health plans that cover contraception without a copayment.
While the administration offered last week to require that insurance companies cover contraception costs themselves, the Catholic bishops dismissed that as an accounting gimmick and complained they had not been consulted about the final rule.
Mr. Hatch also asked Mrs. Sebelius whether the administration or Democratic campaign officials had spoken with Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union or NARAL Pro-Choice America about the compromise.
“I know numerous conversations were had with religious leaders, with employers, with insurers, with stakeholders,” Mrs. Sebelius said. “I really have no idea when you ask if anybody in the administration talks to anyone.”
Mrs. Sebelius did not elaborate on which “religious leaders” she knew the administration had consulted with.