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U.S. Catholic bishops continue fight against contraceptive mandate

U.S. Catholic bishops continue fight against contraceptive mandate

WASHINGTON—U.S. Catholic bishops say they will continue to oppose a key part of a health care reform law rule requiring health insurance coverage of prescription contraceptives.

Under those regulations, full coverage—with no copayments or other cost-sharing requirements—will have to be offered by group health care plans for plan years starting on or after Aug. 1, 2012.

In the case of nonprofit affiliates of religious organizations, such as universities and health care systems, the regulation requires that affiliates' health insurers offer the coverage at no cost. That part of the regulation would apply for plan years starting on or after Aug. 1, 2013.

The administration also is developing a rule that would apply to religious organizations' affiliates that self-insure their health care plans.

The administrative committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said it will continue to “pursue legislation to restore the same level of religious freedom we have enjoyed until just recently.”

In addition, the bishops will continue to explore their “options for relief from the courts, under the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws that protect religious freedom,” the committee said in a statement issued Wednesday.

The bishops' pledge to oppose the prescription contraceptive drug mandate comes in the wake of the Senate's rejection of a proposal, as part of a broader highway bill—S. 1813, introduced by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.—that 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. The Senate rejected the amendment on a 51-48 vote.

The coverage edict does 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.

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