The HHS Mandate
On January 20, 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reaffirmed a rule forcing virtually all private health care plans to cover sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. These are listed among "preventive services for women" that all health plans will have to cover without co-pays or other cost-sharing -- regardless of whether the insurer, the employer or other plan sponsor, or even the woman herself objects to such coverage.
The exemption provided for "religious employers" was so narrow that it failed to cover the vast majority of faith-based organizations—including Catholic hospitals, universities, and charities—that help millions every year. Ironically, not even Jesus and his disciples would have qualified for the exemption, because it excludes those who mainly serve people of another faith.
On February 10, 2012, the Obama Administration made this rule final “without change”; delayed enforcement for a year against religious nonprofits that were still not exempted (our charities, hospitals, and colleges); and promised to develop more regulations to “accommodate” them by the end of that additional year. But that promised “accommodation” still forces them to pay for “services” that violate their religious convictions.
- The original rule that violated our religious liberty so severely has not been changed, but finalized.
- HHS has promised some kind of “accommodation,” but only after the election.
- The promised “accommodation”—even at its best—would still force our institutions to violate their beliefs.
- There is no exemption for objecting insurers, secular employers, for-profit religious employers, or individuals.
Now that the Administration has refused to recognize the Constitutional conscience rights of organizations and individuals who oppose the mandate, the bishops are now urging Catholics and others of good will to fight this unprecedented attack on conscience rights and religious liberty.
We urgently need legislation to correct the mandate’s threats to religious liberty and conscience rights. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act has been introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179/S. 1467) to ensure that those who participate in the market for health insurance “retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.”
Twelve Things Everyone Should Know About the HHS Mandate
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