Obama Administration Offers Compromise on Birth Control Mandate for Religious Organizations

The controversial mandate of the Affordable Healthcare Act that all employers offer contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans may now have an out for religious employers, who have been staunchly opposed to the mandate. On Friday, the Obama administration offered a change in the mandate which would allow religious employers to exclude contraceptive from the healthcare of their employees without affecting the ability of the employees to access free birth control coverage.

According to the administration, in such cases where a religious employer excludes contraceptive from the healthcare plans, insurance companies would instead bear the cost of providing contraception.

This change had been in the works for quite awhile, but Friday's announcement broadened the scope of exemption from those running churches to include other faith-based organizations like hospitals and universities.

Under the compromise offered, free contraception would be provided to employees of faith-based organizations under a plan separate from the healthcare policy maintained by the employer. It would, in effect, save religious groups from "contracting, arranging, paying or referring for such coverage."

Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary, said that the compromise would provide "women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventative care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns."

The proposed rules are open for public comment for 60 days through April 8.