The Administration Issues Changes to HHS Mandate for Religious Institutions and Affiliates UPDATED

The press release from the Department of Health and Human Services is out. Revisions to the Mandate at this time apply to non-profit religious institutions and their affiliates.

Briefly, the changes make a provision for employees of these institutions to be offered separate coverage for “preventive services” from health insurance companies utilized by their employers, or via another insurance provider if the organization is self-insured.

Here is the press release from HHS,

February 1, 2013
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

Administration issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on recommended preventive services policy

The Obama administration today issued proposed rules for public comment regarding contraceptive coverage with no cost sharing under the health care law. The proposed rules provide women with coverage for preventive care that includes contraceptive services with no co-pays, while also respecting the concerns of some religious organizations.

Today’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking reflects public feedback received through the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in March 2012.  In addition, these proposed rules are open for public comment through April 8, 2013.

“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,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women’s organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals.”

The proposed rules lay out how non-profit religious organizations, such as non-profit religious hospitals or institutions of higher education, that object to contraception on religious grounds can receive an accommodation that provides their enrollees separate contraceptive coverage, and with no co-pays, but at no cost to the religious organization.

With respect to insured plans, including student health plans, these religious organizations would provide notice to their insurer.  The insurer would then notify enrollees that it is providing them with no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies.

With respect to self-insured plans, as well as student health plans, these religious organizations would provide notice to their third party administrator.  In turn, the third party administrator would work with an insurer to arrange no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies.

Insurers and third party administrators would work to ensure a seamless enrollment process. The proposed rules lay out how the costs of both the insurer and the third party administrator would be covered, without any charge to either the religious organization or the enrollees.

Additionally, the proposed rules simplify and clarify the definition of “religious employer” for purposes of the exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement.  These employers, primarily houses of worship, can exclude contraception coverage from their health plans for their employees.

The proposed rules are available here:

A fact sheet on today’s proposed rules is available here:

For more information on women’s preventive services and the Affordable Care Act, visit:

Here is a pdf file with all 80 pages of the proposal document. Below is a brief excerpt from pages 10 & 11 of the document,

These proposed rules mark the next step in the process. The proposed rules would make two principal changes to the preventive services coverage rules to provide women contraceptive coverage without cost sharing, while taking into account religious objections to contraceptive services of eligible organizations, including eligible organizations that are religious institutions of higher education, that establish or maintain or arrange health coverage. First, the proposed rules would amend the criteria for the religious employer exemption to ensure that an otherwise exempt employer plan is not disqualified because the employer’s purposes extend beyond the inculcation of religious values or because the employer serves or hires people of different religious faiths. Second, the proposed rules would establish accommodations for health coverage established or maintained by eligible organizations, or arranged by eligible organizations that are religious institutions of higher education, with religious objections to contraceptive coverage. The proposed rules also propose related amendments to other rules, consistent with the proposed accommodations. The Departments intend to finalize all such proposed amendments before the end of the temporary enforcement safe harbor.

The USCCB’s response? A wise one.

Bishops Welcome Opportunity To Study New HHS Regulations

February 1, 2013
WASHINGTON—In response to today’s release of revised regulations for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, provided the following statement on behalf of the USCCB.

“Today, the Administration issued proposed regulations regarding the HHS mandate. We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later.”

Stay tuned, and there you have it in a nutshell. Religious non-profits are the only organizations that these proposed rules will apply to. HHS is again opening these changes to public comments, so let them hear from you. The document above notes that they received over 200,000 comments the first time around.

Don’t be shy. Meanwhile, the Anchoress is following press coverage of this news.


Interesting Stuff I Found While Reading the New HHS Mandate Rules.

WaPo: The White House’s contraceptives compromise.

Bill Donohue: New Rules Welcomed.

Catholic Vote: What about businesses?

The Catholic Register/EWTN: Initial conclusions are not promising.

  • Richard L. Schaefer

    Catholics Joe Biden and William Daley (then chief of White House staff) opposed the HHS regulations put forth by the Catholic Sebelius according to a recent book. According to the book, the non-Catholic Valerie Jarrett got her way. The book reported her motive as being to attract both Catholics and Republican women away from the Republican Party in the 2012 elections. It was ABC employee George Stephanopoulous who introduced and smuggled the contraceptive issue into the campaign–the same employee who once engaged in daily phone calls with the White House staff. It was NBC employee Andrea Mitchell who was chastized by Howard Kurtz of CNN for violating journalistic rules by becoming an activist on the issue of the philanthropic group that she helped force to return to funding Planned Parenthood. Mitchell’s promotion of the idea of a war on women was then extended into the dispute over the HHS regulation.

  • Bill S

    I guess I don’t understand how the contraceptive coverage will be provided for free. Someone has to pay for it.

    Which is more harmful? The Catholic Church’s ban on birth control or the HHS mandate? The former is looked upon by Catholics as a cornerstone of morality, while the latter is looked upon as evil. In the coming years, I would venture to say that the ban on birth control will do more harm than the HHS mandate.

    Let’s look at the HHS mandate first. Let’s look at the worst objection against it. I would have to say that that would be the morning after pill. Seriously, is using the morning after pill anywhere near what one would really call an abortion? Only by the strictest technicality one could possibly try to use. It’s really a stretch to call that an abortion.

    As for other contraceptives, this all comes down to the issue of papal infallibility. The popes started out condemning contraception and once they started there was no turning back. So now every pope is required to condemn it. Otherwise, the whole concept of papal infallibility goes out the window. So everyone has to make up reasons why birth control is such an evil.

    At worst, the HHS mandate, which is intended to help people, will cause some employers to have to “violate their conscience”. Oh wow! A violated conscience compared to depriving people of the pleasure of sex without the worry of pregnancy.

    As a disillusioned Catholic turned atheist, I find this so typical of the Catholic Church. Deprive people the enjoyment of sex if it doesn’t lead to procreation.

    I’m glad that the Obama administration was able to come up with a solution. Hopefully the American bishops will agree with it.

    • Joe Cool

      Interesting that you place enjoyment of sex as a greater good than the ability to do what one thinks is right. I can understand why you left the Church.

  • Arkanabar

    Bill, the banner for opposition to the mandate on my blog is subtitled, “Because if I can be forced to to do what I find unconscionable, so can you.” You’re already being forced to reward banksters, thug unions, and Israel, not to mention single motherhood, Archer-Daniels-Midland, Exxon, and Microsoft, will ye or nill ye. Look at what Sebelius and Obama are doing to us, and ask yourself, “What would they do if they wanted to go after me? What would Bush have done to me and my friends if he was as cocky?”
    And study some history and comparative religions, please. The Dalai Lama, orthodox Jews, Eastern Orthodox Christians of all types, and (prior to the 1930 Lambeth Conference) every last strain of Protestant Christianity in the world also condemned contraception.

    • Alan

      For the record, Orthodox Judaism does not condemn contraception per se though it is permitted only under certain conditions and the preference would be for methods such as the pill over condoms and the Dali Lama certainly doesn’t and even advocates for it in certain areas were overpopulation is a concern in the developing world.

      • Frank Weathers

        This from last February in First Things: Liberal Jews Speak Against HHS Mandate.
        Don’t get me started on the Dalai Lama. ;)

        • Alan

          Uh, okay – so in response to noting that the original respondent was ascribing views to Orthodox Judaism and the Dali Lama they don’t hold you provide a blog about liberal Jews that doesn’t address their view on contraception (which they fully allow) and provide a reason you apparently dislike the Dali Lama. So, is there a point to your non-sequitur?

          • Frank Weathers

            Is there a point for why Catholics should care what Judaism or the Dalai Lama hold as opinions on birth control, seeings how they aren’t Catholic, and their beliefs aren’t, as you say, being violated? Not exactly germane to the situation faced by Catholics.

          • Alan

            I don’t know, ask Arkanabar who brought it up and incorrectly at that. It may not be germane to the situation faced by Catholics but it is germane to the conversation at hand were there view were mentioned.

  • Bill S

    I guess I understand the logic behind Obamacare and I therefore support the HHS mandate. The proposed amendments seem to address the basic complaints by religious organizations and affiliations.

    Obama is not out to take people’s freedoms away. He is just trying to provide universal healthcare coverage which is a good thing for the country. Contraceptive coverage is part of that plan.

    It’s too bad that employers can’t impose their religious beliefs on their employees. If that is the worst cost of doing business in this country, then they shouldn’t have a problem with it.

  • Bill S

    Laws are constantly being amended. Yet, the Catholic Church has no ability to amend its policies. So, even if contraception were made 100% fool proof, safe and effective, Catholics would still have to make excuses why it shouldn’t be practiced. Why should employees of Catholics be expected to abide by this policy? And what kind of major institution locks itself into policies that can never be amended?

    • Frank Weathers

      The Church does “amend” whenever she veers from truth. Every course correction ever taken by the Church has been tacking towards Truth, and away from error. That guy I quoted whose thought you thrashed as being “nonsense?” He wrote An Essay on Development of Christian Doctrine.

  • Bill S

    Well, I guess I should never say never. But it sure appears to me that once the Pope takes a stand on an issue, that stand is never revised. Some people see this as a good thing and accept as gospel truth anything that the Pope says, and in turn the Bishops and clergy.

    For those who still want to use their own powers of reason and logic, I don’t think any of them would really see contraception as intrinsically evil. I will put my trust in a Harvard graduate who has a wife and two children rather than a celibate man who presumably has no personal experience with human sexuality or managing a family.

    • Frank Weathers

      You know? I think I know that Harvard grad. Always changes his mind, and then deludes himself that reason and logic is his guide. Which explains why the blog title is not “Why I Follow the Smart Guy from Harvard.” ;)

      I’ll stay on the path with the shepherds, whose job is “not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good.” Which reminds me of a post I wrote that you haven’t commented on yet,

      Ignoring the Teachings of the Church is like Flying by the Seat of Your Pants Directly Toward the Ground.

  • Bill S

    I not only ignore the teachings of the church I do the opposite. On every controversial issue, I find myself on the other side. I don’t do it on purpose. It is the whole philosophy of the church that doesn’t fit into society. It is as though the church wants to be different.