The Health and Human Services Department announced new policy proposals for women's health care coverage requirements on Friday.
The proposed policies on women's preventive care policy make it mandatory for most employers to cover contraceptives without charging a co-pay or deductible for their employees, rejecting opt-outs based on employers' religious views on contraception women's preventive health.
Women working for self-insured non-profit religious institutions are permitted to contraceptive services through separate coverage of a third party at no cost for plan participants. Insurers who create plans for self-insured faith-based organizations receive an offset from the federal government that will lessen fees to sell new plans.
This way, religious institutions and affiliations are not held directly responsible for engaging in what may breach their faith's beliefs.
"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," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a press conference. "We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women's organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals," she added.
This news comes to light in the face of much controversy.
The original mandate required all women have access to free preventive care services, including contraceptives. The rule included an exemption for churches and houses of worship, but not for other religious institutions such as hospitals, universities and charities.
Organizations that self-insure, such as Catholic schools and dioceses, argued that the accommodation did not apply to them because there were no third party insurers available to aid with the cost of coverage. Many cases were dismissed with grace periods and hold offs in complying with the law while the federal government worked on a more feasible solution.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has described the original mandate as "fundamentally anti-religious, anti-conscience and anti-life" echoing the sentiment shared by the opposition.
Revisions made last February expanded this to include all faith-based organizations, not just houses of worship but also hospitals and universities, from covering this section of women's health.
Still, there are currently several lawsuits concerning the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act (often colloquially known as Obamacare).
"Once again, President Obama's so-called 'compromise' is unacceptable – religious and moral freedom is not up for negotiation," said Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser.
On the other side of the argument, NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue said, "thanks to this commitment, most American women will get birth-control coverage without extra expense. Increased access to birth control is a huge win for women and is necessary to prevent unintended pregnancy — a goal on which both pro-choice and anti-choice people ought to agree."
The updated, proposed rules are open for public comment until April 8.