Obama Lets Religious Groups Off the Hook for Birth Control

Photo: Corbis

The Obama administration offered a compromise to religious institutions that object to paying for their employees’ birth control — as mandated by the Affordable Health Care Act — because it violates their faith. The proposed rules will expand the religious exemption from churches and dedicated inculcators to include nonprofit religious institutions that have secular functions, such as universities. The workaround is pretty simple: Religious institutions tell insurers that they oppose contraception on religious grounds and the insurers offer employees a separate, contraception-only policy without co-pays. Religious groups won’t have to “contract, arrange, pay or refer for any contraceptive coverage” and can continue pretending 99 percent of women don’t use it at some point.

In what sounds like the federal equivalent of throwing down your credit card at dinner because you can't stand watching everyone bicker over who owes what, Businessweek reports that the government will reimburse insurers for the additional cost of coverage by reducing the fees they will pay into future health insurance exchanges established under Obamacare. But a statement released by the Department of Health and Human Services today predicted that issuers wouldn’t even mind paying for the contraception because they, like the many women who use it, know it is way cheaper than covering their unwanted pregnancies.

Still, the updated rules do nothing for the private, for-profit corporations that have filed lawsuits seeking exclusion from the contraception mandate because their CEOs don't believe in emergency contraception. So we could still be on for a fall Supreme Court date after all.