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White House Theater: Obama on Contraception Benefits and Religious Institutions

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Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently set off a political firestorm by determining that many employers affiliated with religious groups, such as schools and hospitals, would have to include coverage for contraception in their preventive services benefits package.

President Obama today responded to the controversy  by announcing that religious employers will not have to provide contraception benefits but Sebelius with Obamathat insurers will have to offer the benefits to all women.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) requires individual major medical policies and employer group health plans to cover the preventive services package without imposing deductibles, co-payments or other cost-sharing requirements on the patients.

PPACA exempts religious employers from having to cover birth control.

Sebelius announced in January that HHS would apply a relatively narrow definition of the term “religious employer” after a 1-year transition period. 

Many religious groups, and some Democratic members of Congress who voted for PPACA, reacted with outrage.

The White House has posted a video of Obama’s announcement on its website. Obama talked about the change in policy with Sebelius at his side.