Final rule on birth control gives religious employers extra year
Religious employers, including Roman Catholic hospitals, will have an additional year to comply with a new federal requirement that they offer free birth control to employees through their health insurance plans. “This additional year will allow these organizations more time and flexibility to adapt to this new rule,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a written statement. HHS published the final regulations Jan. 20 and they take effect Aug. 1. The regulations include a birthcontrol coverage exemption for a “small group” of religious employers that said the requirement would conflict with their religious beliefs. The free-coverage requirement was a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Some religious groups, including Catholic hospitals, have said the mandate would conflict with their moral teachings and force them to drop their drug coverage for all employees. Federal officials downplayed the likelihood of that happening since “wholesale dropping of coverage” has yet to occur. “The Catholic Health Association is disappointed that the definition of a religious employer was not broadened in today’s announcement by HHS regarding the final rule on preventive health services for women,” Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the CHA, said in a written statement. “This was a missed opportunity to be clear on appropriate conscience protection.” Ultimately, all employers must comply with the new regulations by Aug. 1, 2013.
Keehan: Ruling was a “missed opportunity to be clear.”