On January 20, 2012 the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a statement about one of the elements of recent healthcare reforms. This decision entails what is expected from most employers for employees who wish to procure contraceptive services. This would mean that employer plans would be required to offer contraceptive coverage at no charge; this means no co-pay, deductible and would also cover plans that do not offer contraception.
The problem is this – there is very little room for a conscience clause. From the statement (which in its entirety can be read here):
After evaluating comments, we have decided to add an additional element to the final rule. Nonprofit employers who, based on religious beliefs, do not currently provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan, will be provided an additional year, until August 1, 2013, to comply with the new law.
The greatest impact will be felt by Catholic colleges and universities and by Catholic healthcare providers. While the claim that “churches” will be exempt, church run organizations will not be exempt. See this excerpt from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website:
Claim: “Churches are exempt from the new rules: Churches and other houses of worship will be exempt from the requirement to offer insurance that covers contraception.”
Response: This is not entirely true.To be eligible, even churches and houses of worship must show the government that they hire and serve primarily people of their own faith and have the inculcation of religious values as their purpose.Some churches may have service to the broader community as a major focus, for example, by providing direct service to the poor regardless of faith.Such churches would be denied an exemption precisely because their service to the common good is so great.More importantly,the vast array of other religious organizations – schools, hospitals, universities, charitable institutions – will clearly not be exempt.
There is a lot more information at that link and also at the USCCB conscience page.
Please become engaged with this issue. You can find the text of a letter from our own Bishop Hubbard here at the blog yesterday.