The Obama administration today switched gears on the controversial rule that would have required religious institutions to provide coverage for birth control to employees, switching the onus to health insurers.
The new policy removes the role of religious institutions in providing coverage for birth control for female employees. Under the new proposal, the transaction would occur directly between women and insurers.
In the first response by an insurer to the change in policy, Aetna said that it would “certainly comply with the policy announced today.”
But, it said, “we need to study the mechanics of this unprecedented decision before we can understand how it will be implemented and how it will impact our customers.”
In his efforts to tamp down the controversy over the issue, President Obama said that, “The result will be that religious organizations won’t have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly.
“Let me repeat: These employers will not have to pay for, or provide, contraceptive services,” Obama said. “But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services, just like other women, and they’ll no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could go towards paying the rent or buying groceries.”
Cynthia Pearson, co-founder of Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need, said that under the new policy, women who work for religiously-affiliated employers like Catholic hospitals can receive contraceptive coverage at no additional cost directly from their insurance companies, rather than from their employers.
Pearson interpreted the president’s decision as saying that despite “intense pressure from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, President Obama said that the White House would not back down from its guarantee that insurance companies must cover contraception without co-pays.”
Pearson added, “Women asked the President to stand with us, and he did.”
She said the new policy “protects women’s access to critical preventive health services without adding new charges.”