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USCCB finds continued major problems in HHS mandate’s ‘final rule’

July 04, 2013

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has conducted an initial analysis of the Obama administration’s 110-page final rule for the implementation of the HHS mandate.

“We will have more to say,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, USCCB president. “At this point, however, our study has not discovered any new change that eliminates the need to continue defending our rights in Congress and the courts.”

Cardinal Dolan said in a statement that the USCCB continued to find “problems with the ‘religious employer’ exemption” and “problems with the lack of any exemption or ‘accommodation’ for individuals and for-profit businesses”:

There have been no changes in those areas since the proposed rule of February. At that time, we made clear that all but one of the problems we originally identified with the definition of "religious employer" remained in place, and that the proposed rule actually made matters more troubling by preventing dioceses and other exempt employers from extending their coverage to the employees of service ministries that are not exempt. We also made clear in February that the proposed rule, like earlier versions, made no provision at all for individuals and for-profit businesses. Because the final rule remains the same in these areas, so do our concerns.

Regarding “the ‘accommodation’ for religious charities, schools, and hospitals, the overall structure remains the same as under the proposed rule,” Cardinal Dolan added. “There are, however, some relatively small changes to the ‘accommodation’ that will take more time to evaluate. But even now, it is clear that the final rule does at least three things differently from the proposed rule”:

For insured plans, the proposed rule would have established separate insurance policies for coverage of sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients; but the final rule does not.Now, there is only one policy, and it is the one sponsored by the Catholic employer. The objectionable items will still be paid for by virtue of the fact that an employee belongs to the Catholic employer's plan, but these amounts are described as "payments" rather than "coverage."

Also regarding insured plans, the final rule proposes to segregate funds in a way not specified in the proposed rule. This seems intended to strengthen the claim that objectionable items will not ultimately be paid by the employer's premium dollars. But it is unclear whether the proposal succeeds in identifying a source of funds that is genuinely separate from the objecting employer, and if so, whether it is workable to draw from that separate source.

Regarding self-insured plans, the proposed rule described three alternative roles for the third-party administrator in securing coverage of sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. The final rule selects the alternative that treats the employer's very act of objecting to coverage of sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients as the legal authorization for a third-party administrator to secure the objectionable coverage. In our comments to HHS on the proposed rule, we identified this alternative as the most objectionable of the three.

The USCCB statement was released in the afternoon of July 3, as the nation prepared for a long holiday weekend.


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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Jul. 04, 2013 6:04 PM ET USA

    When is Cardinal Dolan and the USCCB going to realize that this administration is not going to change anything of significance to resolve this ongoing disagreement with the Church. Mr. Obama and his administration are radical secularists that want the Church completely out of the public sphere. The Church needs to get over the intellectual hurdle that through dialogue reason will eventually prevail. No it will not! If the Church can get past this then they must open the floodgates and go on the offense, beginning with sermons at every Mass informing and teaching Catholics of the flaws and dangers of HHS and why the Church (and all Catholics) must continue to fight it.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 04, 2013 10:53 AM ET USA

    It truly is amazing that these bishops actually think they could find any goodness whatsoever wrapped up in an obvious abomination like obamacare.