Today, the Obama administration added another chapter to the Affordable Care Act saga. Under the newly proposed changes to the Act, non-profit organizations with religious affiliations will not have to pay for their employees’ contraception; instead, a health insurer will cover the cost of birth control, with no cost to the employee. The administration is responding to a series of lawsuits filed on behalf of religiously affiliated non-profits, who argued that since churches and synagogues aren’t legally required to cover contraceptive costs, they shouldn’t have to either. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declared that, “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.”
The fight for contraceptive coverage has been an uphill battle. On a state level, only 28 states require insurers to cover the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives. However, 20 of those 28 states exempt certain employers and insurers from this mandate. And some states (looking at you, Texas) seem determined to help businesses essentially break the law when it comes to the Affordable Care Act. Yesterday, Salon reported that Texas Republicans have introduced a bill that would subsidize for-profit businesses that refuse to provide their employees with birth control coverage. Since businesses that disobey the birth control mandate could face a penalty of up to $100 per employee per day, House Bill 649 suggests that the Texan government offer these businesses a tax break equivalent to the fine that they will be paying. Basically, these Republicans are urging businesses to break federal law in an attempt to deny women contraceptive coverage.
While we can all applaud the Obama administration’s efforts to ensure that all women are covered, either by their employers or by a health insurer, it’s clear that the war is far from over. In a response to today’s news, Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, balked, “Once again, President Obama’s so-called ‘compromise’ is unacceptable—religious and moral freedom is not up for negotiation.” She continued, “The only acceptable outcome is the complete repeal of the HHS mandate and the restoration of a thriving marketplace where Americans can choose health care coverage consistent with their beliefs.” Ugh.
Photos via WhiteHouse.gov and Wikipedia