Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a statement Friday announcing some new guidelines on the health care law from the Obama administration. These guidelines attempt to resolve the contentious contraceptive mandate in the health care law that has raised strong objection from such entities as religious hospitals and universities. CNN reports that as part of the new initiative, groups that are insured, such as student health plans at religious colleges, would be required to let their insurer know that certain participants would like contraception coverage. The provider would then pay for the contraception separately.
"The insurer would then notify enrollees that it is providing them with no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies," an HHS statement said on the new policy.
"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, Sebelius said. "We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women's organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals."
The move reportedly allows the religious organization to avoid paying for contraception. Last May, a group of Catholic organizations challenged the rules of the mandate as it then stood, but the administration always maintained the mandate did not violate religious liberties. The new proposal clarifies the definition of a religious employer.
CNN reports that the move is welcomed by women’s groups, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
"Today's draft regulation affirms yet again the Obama administration's commitment to fulfilling the full promise of its historic contraception policy," Llyse Hogue, president of NARAL is reported as saying. "Thanks to this commitment, most American women will get birth control coverage without extra expense."
"This policy makes it clear that your boss does not get to decide whether you can have birth control," said Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The religious groups it is reportedly designed to accommodate, however, are maintaining a wait-and-see approach. Catholics United, a group that has been supportive of the administration, said it was a victory for the Obama administration and the Catholic Church, Fox News reports. However, Ave Marie University in Florida said its law suit would stand until they heard where the country’s Catholic bishops stood. According to Fox News, the school's president, Jim Towey, called the latest proposal a “provocation” and a “bizarre, new bureaucracy to obscure who exactly is paying for the abortion-inducing drugs and other services covered by the mandate.”
The new guidelines, also, do not change the situation for family-based business such as Hobby Lobby, which is currently challenging a ruling that denied its request for a waiver on religious grounds. Pro-lifer Susan B. Anthony List also expressed skepticism.
"There must be no religious 'test' by the government as to who, and what type of entities, are entitled to a conscience," she said, according to a Fox News report.
CNN reports these proposed updates will remain open for public comment until April 8, 2013, at which time the administration will decide whether or not to make them final.
What do you think, a step in the right direction, but not far enough? Or, it was fine as it was, the law has been passed and should be accepted?