Obama administration extends one deadline on birth control coverage
January 20th, 2012
05:19 PM ET

Obama administration extends one deadline on birth control coverage

The Obama Administration is standing by a decision to require all insurance plans to cover the use of contraceptives, but said Friday it would give some employers an additional year to comply.

The rule, which goes into effect August 1, 2012, requires all insurance plans to cover the cost of birth control. Many non-profits with religious affiliations, such as Catholic universities and hospitals, say that will force them to violate their basic tenets.

The Department of Health and Services announced Friday those employers would have until August 1, 2013, to meet the new requirement.

While women’s health advocates praised the decision, many conservatives and organized Catholics responded with fury. 

“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said a statement from Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “The government should not force Americans to act as if pregnancy is a disease to be prevented at all costs.”

The USCCB also sent a statement from Franciscan Sister Jane Marie Klein, who chairs a system with 13 Catholic Hospitals.

“I have hundreds of employees who will be upset and confused by this edict. I cannot understand it at all.”

In sharp contrast, Planned Parenthood called it “great news” in a post on the organization’s Facebook page.

“President Barack Obama did the right thing by protecting birth control coverage for millions, despite incredible pressure from anti-women’s health groups and legislators.”

Birth control is the most common type of medication taken by young and middle-aged women. Women’s health advocates said the new rules would affect millions of women. Currently, 32 states require insurance plans to cover contraceptives, but 16 of them provide a “conscience exception” for religious employers, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the decision was made “after careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty. I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”

Sebelius said, “We will continue to work closely with religious groups during this transitional period to discuss their concerns.”

That was shrugged off by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), who criticized the rule at a congressional hearing in November. Pitts told CNN via email that Friday’s announcement is a cynical ploy to delay a controversial move until after the presidential elections.

“What does a one-year delay accomplish? Does HHS expect religious employers to discard their moral and religious beliefs?”

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), an OB-GYN, said there could be high, unforeseen costs to the new rule.

“We just don’t know what’s going to be required,” Burgess told CNN. “If contraceptive coverage means you have to cover 135 micrograms of generic, that’s one thing. If you have to cover any FDA-approved contraceptive, up to $100 a pack, that obviously makes a difference.”

He continued, “You have to believe this is going to drive up the cost of insurance, and on the employer side, some people are going to wonder if they should provide insurance any longer, or just pay the fines [imposed by the Affordable Care Act on larger employers who don’t offer insurance].”

Dori Salcido, a spokeswoman for HHS, said details aren't specified but that "We expect plans will utilize reasonable medical management techniques to help control cost," for example by steering patients towards generic birth-control pills.

The new rule is tied to the Affordable Care Act - “Obamacare” - which requires HHS to develop basic requirements for all insurance plans. Contraceptive coverage is one of several services that must be covered without co-pays or deductibles. Other such services are annual checkups, mammograms, testing for HIV and breastfeeding support.

The rule will not apply to women who work directly for a house of worship, such as a church, mosque or parochial school. According to HHS, such employers will have to provide notice to employees, about where contraceptive services are available.

HHS also said the rule won’t affect existing conscience laws, which allow doctors and hospitals to avoid providing services – such as birth control – that violate their religious beliefs.

soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. opinionatedc

    What I would like mandated in the United States is a bill that would require ALL United States born citizens, fahers to perform a DNA test at birth of the child so that millions of American babies are not left fatherless or without child support, or left rearing for years a child that is not his at least if he lknows it would be his choice.
    A bill like this would decrease shows like Maury Povic and Jerry Springer in which is popular because children are not a proirity in the United State but th sex act is. This would cut millions in foodstamps, welfare,and medical funds that are spent via tax payers while the perpentraor goes off and live in luxury. It should be treated the same way the HIV and STD clinics treat people who are diagnosied with these diseases. All sexual partners are tested. This way the responsibiltiy of a person actions, children are placed where it belongs the accountablilty of the parents. The person should immedialety be made to pay child support.Currently the states have to spend millions of taxpayer money running down the fathers and forcing them to pay for their actions. Let us correct this on behalf of so many father less children who do not know who dad is......

    January 21, 2012 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Frank

    I think it's amazing how the Obama administration, and Kathleen Sibelius in particular continue to slap religious communities in the face, as if there will be no response. The push backed deadline is a way to avoid the situation right before a big election. If Obama wins, he will be able to force this contraceptive mandate down the throats of every religiously affiliated organization that does not meet the crude, narrow exemption.

    The only way to solve this problem is to get an answer from the republican candidates. Where do they stand?

    January 21, 2012 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Christine

      Frank, can you please point to me where in the bible it says that women with polycystic ovarian syndrome and similar diseases should be denied treatment when other painful conditions are treated?
      You seem to think birth control is only for loose women who want to "have fun" without getting pregnant, right? But you may not realize or care that a large proportion of women NEED those pills to just live a healthy life. Those pills do treat and reduce pain in a number of conditions. But you want to push down the throat of these women that they should be denied treatment. Again, on what basis?

      January 23, 2012 at 15:12 | Report abuse |
    • TucsonAZ123

      From a Catholic perspective, it is never forbidden or frowned upon for a woman to use birth control when there is a clear medical need such as the example you provided.

      January 30, 2012 at 17:47 | Report abuse |
  3. Blake

    What I am afraid of, and see no reason the Obama Administration will not eventually push for if they win reelection, is that the next step is abortion coverage. All the same reasons they are currently using for contraceptives can also be taken to the next step.

    January 21, 2012 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Raven

      Blake, think of it this way: This birth control coverage will make it so abortions don't have to occur! Free birth control = far less unwanted babies.

      January 23, 2012 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
    • Real View

      I'm with you Blake, these meds can be used in a "morning after" capacity. What is even more scarey to me as that, despite the FDA approval, there is no long term data on the safety of some of these meds. Messing with hormone levels can be dangerous in some cases. I don't think we should be so quick to approve and rush things through. This looks a bit too much like using a position of power to push a policy in the hopes to win political favor. Interesting that the delay for religous organizations is a year later, after the election is over that is!

      January 29, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse |

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    January 22, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Saoirse

    This is great! Many women will be able to get contraceptives that may not have been able to afford them if they weren't covered. The religious people are overreacting. They are not forcing them to violate their basic tenets by taking birth control. They are just mandating that it be covered by insurance plans. It's a personal choice as it has always been.

    January 22, 2012 at 17:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Real View

      Some of the covered pills may be used in a "morning after" capacity, and, depending on what your definition is on when life begins, this could be used to initiation the end of that life, hence abortion.

      January 29, 2012 at 14:12 | Report abuse |
    • Beth

      Personal choice? Why yes, it is a personal choice. Which is why Catholics and other Christians should not be forced to violate their consciences in providing abortive medication. Do I have problem with this mandate otherwise? No. Obama is trampling upon first amendment rights. Separation of church and state- Church does not belong in the state AND the state does not belong in the church.

      January 29, 2012 at 21:18 | Report abuse |
  6. vicki johnson

    Regardless of the religious affiliation (or lack thereof) of women working for religion based employers, the basic right to choose what they do with their own bodies is still their own. Such heavy-handed oversight by the Catholic church is one of the reasons many people have left the church.

    January 23, 2012 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Real View

      My problem with this argument is that I don't understand why people will continue to work for an organization if they object so strongly to the values that it holds? Why should an organization have to change its foundational principals to suite the ideas of the employees? Perhaps those employees should look elsewhere.

      January 29, 2012 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
    • Beth

      Like RealView said, ALL organizations have personal beliefs and views that make it a part of what it is. Those not agreeing with their organizations refusal to cover birth control and abortive medication should find jobs elsewhere

      January 29, 2012 at 21:20 | Report abuse |
  7. BadgerBadger

    I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and I have to take birth control pills. I don't want to, I do not need to use them for contraception. No other drugs on the market would help my condition, two others were tried first, but they did nothing. I think many people have overlooked the fact that a lot of women have to take them for purposes other than contraception. I have talked with my doctor numerous times to see if there are any new drugs which I could take, but so far no luck. If I do not take birth control pills, I will fail to have a period, and the lining in my uterus would build up and eventually turn into cancer. These pills are so expensive, $100 bucks for a month's worth! It's ridiculous. My doctor told me, "I know it's really expensive, but you are basically paying to not have cancer." If over the span of three to six months I could not afford to pay for it, I would be in trouble. I think it's wonderful that they are going to be covered, but why did they have to push it back another year? Nobody can force a woman to use birth control, it's their own choice whether or not they want to. But what if you have a serious medical problem that requires taking it? The people who are against women having the choice to take birth control need to seriously consider this.

    January 23, 2012 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Real View

      What you said is true, not all people take them for contraception. While I object to the unfiorm requirement for coverage based on my own personal beliefs, I do think special provisions should be in place for people such as yourself who have medical issues. That would be fair. Some women have significant gynecological issues that require such treatment. I would hope in these cases that they would lower co-pays for people with special needs like this. Why isn't Health and Human Services talking about doing that for anybody with a chronic medical condition? I think we need to have more dialogue about these issues and be more specific about what needs to be done.

      January 29, 2012 at 14:24 | Report abuse |
  8. Christine

    Agreed. I also take BC pills for reasons that have nothing to do with BC. And we are definitely not alone.
    But some people would rather you and I live a shorter life and have lots of babies than live a longer, healthier, less painful life with few or no children. Some people think the only reason women should exist if to serve as incubators. So, unfortunately, they will not consider anything of what you explained so well. They will just hold their ground until we push them over.

    January 23, 2012 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ava Peters

      I really understand that there are medical conditions that can only benefit from the ingredients in the pill. But what no one understands is WHY those who oppose the pill and most other forms of contraception do not believe we as taxpayers should pay for them. The pill DOES NOT stop conception. The egg and the sperm can still unite and form a unique person. What the pill does is make the uterus too hostile for the new creation to implant in the uterus and the baby dies. If you can find a copy because they were published years ago, read Dr. Espinosa's book, Why are they lieing to women? Every form of birth control has major medical side effects. Check it out!

      January 23, 2012 at 20:42 | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Ava Peters, your information is completely false regarding how 'the pill' works. Do some reading by actual doctors, not people with an agenda that prefer women barefoot and pregnant.

      If God's plan wants me to have a child and I use birth control of some kind, have I gone against Him? Does this mean if I get sick and am cured by a physician I have also gone against His plan? Should I be punished? There are some religious sects that actually believe this. The world is not black and white. Shades of gray blah blah blah...

      January 24, 2012 at 17:47 | Report abuse |
  9. ILikeRush

    Ask a libatard about the killing of all the unwanted dogs and cats in this country by the SPCA and other groups. They will tell you how terrible it is.

    Ask about abortion and they will tell you it is a good thing.

    January 23, 2012 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. QuestioningStudent

    Does this cover abortions also? if so it needs to be specified and not avoided. People need to be informed on what exactly this means. Its one thing to cover pills that prevent pregnancy but a whole different thing to be forced to perform abortions in a catholic hospital. This isn't the first article i have read on this and the other ones did in fact mention Abortion.

    January 23, 2012 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Karen

    I LOVE OBAMA!!!!! OBAMA FOR 2012

    January 23, 2012 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Real View

    @Questioning Student: some of the approved pills can act in a "morning after" capacity, meaning that a hospital affiliated with a religous group may have to provide medications that could be used with the purpose of abortion. This violates freedom of religion. It is a back door attempt to force hospitals to do things that might violate the principals on which they were founded. If a person does not like the type of insurance coverage provided by their employer, then the logical thing to do would be to find another employer, irregardless of whether it involves contraception or retirement options. I don't think employers should be forced to supply things that may go against their belief systems.

    January 29, 2012 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Gregory Hamer

    I would like to know why CNN is trying to ignore this attack on organized religion. Or they so committed to Obama that nothing he does can be wrong. I have a problem with some of the teachings of my religion, but to force religious organizations to have to support abortion is an attack on rreligion. How can CNN ignore it.

    January 31, 2012 at 18:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Emily

    @Badgerbadger and Christine and anyone else who is on birth control as treatment for a medical condition – there is another way!! Please check out the work of Dr. Hilgers in Omaha. Instead of glossing over the problems of endometriosis, PCOS, irregular periods, infertility etc, he actually finds the problem and treats it. His work is unparalled across the nation – I know from first-hand experience. Check his lab and clinic out here http://www.unleashingthepower.info/ and http://www.naprotechnology.com/ and http://www.popepaulvi.com/ I PROMISE you can get better treatment than you are now – you will not be disappointed!

    January 31, 2012 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
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