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Obama administration defends prescription contraceptive mandate

Obama administration defends prescription contraceptive mandate

WASHINGTON—As the first effective date of a federal rule mandating employers to provide coverage for prescription contraceptives has kicked in, Obama administration officials are defending the requirement.

Under those rules, most employers will have to provide the coverage for plan years starting on or after Aug. 1, 2012.

In the case of nonprofit affiliates of religious organizations, the requirement takes effect for plan years on or after Aug. 1, 2013. Under the administration rule, the affiliates' insurers—not the affiliates—have to provide the coverage. The administration is examining how the requirement would apply to affiliates that self-insure prescription drug coverage.

Religious organizations that primarily employ people with the same beliefs are exempt from the mandate.

More than 40 Catholic or Catholic-related organizations have challenged the rule saying complying with the requirement would violate their religious beliefs.

Responding at a briefing Tuesday about the litigation, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the way the coverage mandate rule is written “makes sure that religious liberty is respected.”

President Barack Obama “sought and found the right position in terms of respecting religious liberty and making sure these services are provided,” Mr. Carney said.

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