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-Obama Proposes an Expanded ‘Religious Exemption’ for Birth-Control Mandate?

by Dr. D ~ March 17th, 2012

South façade of the White House, the executive...

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A new proposal by the Obama administration for an expanded religious exemption was reportedly contained within Friday’s 32-page document dump on the birth-control mandate.

The first reports on the administration document emphasized that the HHS contraceptive mandate was now going to be expanded to include coverage for all students including those in religious colleges and institutions. That proposal would have exacerbated the already heated controversy among Catholics and self-insured religious organizations.

However, the document also apparently offers an expanded opportunity for religious exemptions that could go a long ways towards healing the rift between President Obama and American religious leaders over the HHS birth-control mandate. According to the Religious News Service:

At its heart, the newest offering from the White House would allow religious groups — dioceses, denominations and others — to decide which affiliated institutions are "religious" and therefore exempt from the new requirement that employers offer free contraception coverage as part of employee insurance plans.

Also contained is a new proposal that a ‘third party’ administer and supply the mandated contraceptives and services for those religious organizations that are self-insured. From the RNS article:

The other main innovation in the new proposal is to have a “third-party administrator of the group health plan or some other independent entity” assume responsibility for the contraception coverage for self-insured organizations, with various proposals for ensuring that self-insured groups with religious objections would not directly or indirectly pay for the birth control policy.

Response: obviously there has been no time for the affected religious parties to really examine the new proposals and see if the administration is accurately representing the new proposals.

One of the purposes of the administration’s late ‘Friday dump’ of this new 32-page material is to control the narrative and have the issue well defined by the administration over the weekend in main stream media reports before the opposition even has a chance to analyze the new proposals and respond with comments of their own. Look for lots of responses and articles on Monday.

Whether or not the new ‘exemption’ will actual do what it says and protect religious freedom remains to be seen and documented pro and con. Obviously, President Obama has no intentions of backing away from his mandate and the controversy it raised.

One thing for sure, the new proposal for a third party to handle the mandate for ‘self-insured’ religious organizations really on the surface does not seem to change a thing. The original question still remains -who is going to pay for the additional ‘free’ non co-pay contraceptives, abortives, and services. Will some third-party insurance company voluntarily agree to pickup the tab with no expectation of being reimbursed? Hardly seems likely.            *Top

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