Wednesday, February 06, 2013

U.S.: Obama compromises on contraception rule

Barack ObamaThe Obama administration has taken a step back on its original proposals for birth control cover in health insurance plans. 

After a year of head to head disputes with the Catholic hierarchy, the American government has decided to concede religious non profit organisations the possibility of offering policies that do not cover contraceptive care expenses. 

A third-party insurance company would have to cover the cost of this type of coverage.

Religious groups have been contesting the White House’s plans for months and even attempted to sue the government on 40 occasions, claiming that were rules promoting medical coverage of birth control treatments to be passed, these would force them to go against their faith-based beliefs. 
Today the U.S. Department of Health presented a new proposal that is a compromise between the safeguarding of women’s health and the protection of the religious sensitivities of those who oppose contraceptive cover. "All new insurance plans will be required to cover additional services and tests for women, with no out-of-pocket costs," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.

It remains to be seen whether Catholic organizations will accept this new approach. This will depend on the technical details of operational costs, which seem pretty ambiguous at the moment, according to the New York Times. Although the proposal states there is no obligation to pay for contraception, it envisages payment for this coverage coming from “separate individual health insurance policies” with no out-of-pocket costs for women. According to the proposal, insurance policies should cover the increase in initial costs as costs would be lowered in the long run as a result of “improvements in women’s healthcare and fewer childbirths.”

The response religious groups will give could be influenced by the varied opinions on the issue: the more radical evangelical leaders and Catholic bishops are notoriously against the use of artificial contraception methods. Hence why they fought so fervently for a total exemption from healthcare coverage. Other denominations that have an important presence in the U.S. generally accept people resorting to birth control methods but are against health insurance covering the morning-after pill as in their eyes, this is equivalent to an abortion.

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