The new rule that mandates health insurance plans to cover contraceptive medication will apply to health plans offered by religious organizations, Obama administrations clarified late last week. The announcement clarified an earlier statement that an "accommodation" would be offered to religious groups who object to funding birth control medication on the basis of their faiths.
The New York Times reports that Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said that the government would guarantee women access to birth control "while accommodating religious liberty interests:"
The new proposal escalates the election-year fight over the administration's birth control policy.
President Obama had previously announced what he described as an "accommodation" for religiously affiliated organizations that buy commercial insurance but object, for religious reasons, to covering contraceptives and sterilization procedures. In these cases, the White House said, the insurer "will be required to provide contraception coverage to women free of charge."
On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services went a step further and said it would propose a similar requirement for group health plans sponsored by religious organizations that insure themselves.
Sebelius said that in lieu of the religious institutions paying for the contraceptives, pharmaceutical companies could offer substantial rebates to allow the faith-based groups to provide the medication without funding it themselves.
Image: Birth control pills, via Shutterstock.