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Senate defeats amendment to overturn prescription contraceptive rule

Senate defeats amendment to overturn prescription contraceptive rule

WASHINGTON—The Senate on Thursday defeated an amendment that effectively would have overturned a key part of a health care reform law rule requiring health insurance coverage of prescription contraceptives.

Proposed by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the amendment to a broader highway bill—S. 1813—would have allowed employers and insurers to deny coverage of items or services if the coverage would be contrary “to the religious beliefs or moral convictions” of the sponsor or issuer.

Sen. Blunt's amendment—rejected on a 51-48 vote—came in the wake of regulations issued last month by the Department of Health and Human Services involving coverage of prescription contraceptives by nonprofit affiliates, such as health care systems, of religious organizations.

Under those regulations, full coverage—with no copayments or other cost-sharing requirements—would have to be offered by the employers' health insurers, which could not charge a premium for the coverage. The regulations would take effect for plan years starting on or after Aug. 1, 2013.

The prescription drug contraceptive mandate would apply to other employers for plan years starting on or after Aug. 1, 2012. The coverage edict would not apply to religious organizations, such as churches, that primarily employ those who share in their beliefs, and to employers with grandfathered health care plans.

A fact sheet issued by Sen. Blunt's office said the amendment would afford an employer with a religious or moral objection to “the same rights that they had before ObamaCare to negotiate a plan with a health insurance company that meets their needs.” ObamaCare is a term some critics use in referring to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., defended the HHS regulation.

“It preserves the integrity of a woman's freedom and right to access all health care services, and it protects the religious liberties that so many Americans—myself included—value,” he said in remarks made on the Senate floor.

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