The Catholic Health Association has now decided that it doesn’t believe that church affiliated employers should have to offer coverage for birth control in their employer sponsored health insurance plans. In other words, they have decided that they want hospitals to have the same exemption to this requirement that churches have been given.
On August 1, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services added women’s health care to the category of preventive services. This meant that all health plans, including employer sponsored health insurance, had to cover the cost of birth control without charging the policyholder a copayment, co-insurance, or a deductible.
This sparked a controversy. Several Catholic groups, (including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), insisted that requiring religious employers to cover the cost of birth control in their employer sponsored health plans was forcing the business to go against it’s religious beliefs. President Obama created what has been called a “compromise”. He allowed churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship to be exempt from the requirement that they provide birth control coverage in their employer sponsored health plans.
Since then, Catholic hospitals, universities, and other groups have been pushing to have all religious businesses allowed to have the same exemption. Recently, there was a small protest in Chicago where about 500 people gathered to protest the birth control coverage requirement.
Originally, the Catholic Health Association was an ally in President Obama’s health care reform. This association actually defied opposition from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops by being supportive of health care reform. This week, however, the Catholic Health Association has changed it’s mind. It now says that it doesn’t believe that church-affiliated employers should have to offer provide birth control coverage as a free service.
It is worth noting that the Catholic Health Association represents about 600 hospitals that are located all across the country. It also represents hundreds of nursing homes and other health-related organizations. It has been said that one out of every six patients is cared for in a Catholic hospital.
The Catholic Health Association sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services where it voiced its concerns over the birth control coverage requirement. It believes the that federal government should broaden the exemption to include not only churches, but also all religious employers. Or, it would also find it acceptable for the federal government to pay directly for the birth control coverage that it is requiring all health plans to include.
Image by Avia Venefica on Flickr