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Just the Facts: Churches and the Contraceptive Coverage Mandate


Thursday 2 February 2012
by: Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report

The Obama administration’s recent decision to require all employers, with the exception of churches and places of worship, to cover contraceptives in health care plans continues to cause a firestorm of controversy. House Speaker John Boehner told reporters on Thursday that the rule is unconstitutional. Catholic bishops continue to call the rule an “attack” on “religious liberty” and are calling on the administration to broaden the exemption and Congress to pass a law that could overturn it. The administration, however, is standing firm on its decision.

Misinformation on how the rules works has leaked into the media. For instance, pro-life and religious groups continue to claim the rule would force employers to pay for drugs that cause abortion, which the administration says is not the case. Senior White House officials held a conference call with reporters on Thursday to clear up any misunderstandings. Here’s a rundown of the most important facts according to those who actually wrote the rule:

  • Under the Affordable Care Act, employers and private insurance providers will be required to provide reproductive preventative services, including birth control and other contraceptives, to women who choose to use them. The services are free of charge at the point of service and provided without co-pays, deductibles and cost-shares.
  • Nonprofit organizations that “primarily” exist to spread their religious values and primarily serve and employ people who share those values are exempt from the rule. This means that churches and houses of worship are exempt, but religiously affiliated schools and hospitals that serve and employ people of different faiths are not exempt.
  • Officials said that some parochial schools could qualify for the exemption if they exist to teach religion and primarily serve and employ fellow believers.
  • The rule applies only with private health insurance and does not require individual practitioners to provide contraceptive.
  • Most women use contraceptives in their lifetime, including 98 percent of Catholic women. (Meanwhile, 100 percent of Catholic bishops are men.) The average woman uses contraceptives for 30 years of her life at a cost of $30 to $50 per month.
  • The policy does not cover drugs that cause abortion, such as RU-486.
  • Twenty-eight states already require contraceptive coverage. North Carolina, New York and California have identical religious exemption standards and other states have no exemptions at all.
  • There is no list of specific institutions that are exempt but institutions must meet the above requirements. There is no application for the exemption, and an institution must use the requirements to evaluate itself and then notify its insurance provider that it is exempt.
  • Administration officials said they are working with states on enforcing the rule.
  • After taking public comments, the administration decided to give some religious nonprofits, including those that employ people of other faiths, one year to comply with the rule.

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