WASHINGTON, February 1 (RIA Novosti) – US President Barack Obama’s administration on Friday proposed a compromise on a contentious provision in his signature health care reform law requiring insurance plans to cover birth control services for women at no charge—a mandate that sparked outrage among religious organizations.
The proposed concession, announced by US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, would exempt religious organizations from paying for contraceptive coverage under their female employees’ health insurance plans and facilitate separate birth control services for these women through other insurance policies.
“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,” Sebelius said in a statement Friday. “We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women’s organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals.”
Obama has lauded his sweeping health care reform bill, the Affordable Care Act, as a major step toward guaranteeing insurance for Americans while containing rapidly escalating health care costs.
Critics, however, call the legislation a dangerous overreach by the federal government, and religious organizations have said the contraception mandate in particular forces them to finance a practice that runs counter to their faith.
Officials in the Catholic Church, which forbids contraception, have been among the most vocal critics of the birth control mandate.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, issued a statement Friday saying he and his fellow church officials “welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely.”
“We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later,” Dolan said.