On Friday, the Obama administration released proposed revisions to the controversial HHS mandate. The revisions offer no help for religious businesses, individuals or non-profit religious groups that don’t want to be forced to obey it.
A leading pro-life source on Capitol Hill provided an analysis to LifeNews about how the proposals play out.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the notice of proposed rulemaking regarding the requirement that all insurance plans cover “all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”
The proposed rule is being issued in response to the many faith-based institutions and religious business owners that continue to object to this mandate on grounds that it forces them to violate their deeply held religious or moral objections to some or all such coverage – especially coverage that includes the morning-after pill (Plan B) or week-after pill (ella) that causes abortions.
“The proposed rule is open for comment until April 5, 2013. However, it is extremely similar to proposals rejected by pro-life leaders in the past,” the source told LifeNews.
The proposed rule would:
- · Have NO impact on businesses run by people of faith, such as Tyndale House (a publisher of the Bible), Hobby Lobby and Hercules Industries. (If you would like fact sheets and background on each of the businesses that have filed suits against the mandate, please feel free to contact me or Allison Hines).
- · Provide NO options for individuals seeking plans that accommodate their values on the exchanges.
- · Continue to only apply the full exemption to churches and their auxiliary institutions. It appears that this narrow exemption will NOT apply to nonprofits like the University of Notre Dame, Wheaton College and Catholic Charities. Note: the exemption is modified so that it no longer specifies that churches must have inculcation of religious values as their purpose and primarily employ and serve people of their same faith. Even though those specifics are no longer listed, the exemption continues to apply only to a small category of entities (Churches, Integrated Auxiliaries, and Conventions or Associations of Churches).
- · Non-profit religious organizations will have to involuntarily comply with the mandate through a series of new requirements on insurance companies and third party administrators(in the case of self-insured plans). HHS refers to this as an accommodation, and will only make it available to a nonprofit entity that “holds itself out as a religious organization.” The arrangement will work as follows:
- o Fully Insured Plans–In the case of a non-profit religious organization that indicates it opposes providing all or part of the mandated coverage, their insurance company will provide the coverage to the covered employees anyway through a “seamless process” under the justification that the coverage is actually free because it will reduce labor and delivery costs in the long run.
- o Self-Insured Plans–In the case of a self-insured plan, the third party administrator will contract with another insurance company to provide the coverage, and the insurance company will be compensated by paying less in “Federally-facilitated Exchange user fees.”
Another leading source explained to LifeNews further about the mandate revisions.
The source said, “Due to a misleading press release from HHS and other factors, some media and others have thought that HHS has now substantially expanded its “religious employer” exemption from the mandate. They note that the old four-prong test for qualifying as a “religious employer” has now been reduced to just one prongs.”
“The Departments believe that this proposal would not expand the universe of employer plans that would qualify for the exemption beyond that which was intended in the 2012 final rules. As previously noted, when the Departments first defined religious employer, the primary goal was to exempt the group health plans of houses of worship. Section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) and (iii) of the Code refers to churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, as well as to the exclusively religious activities of any religious order. By restricting the exemption primarily to group health plans established or maintained by churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship, and religious orders, the fourth prong of the current definition of religious employer would alone suffice to meet the goal.”
The pro-life source added, “So HHS dropped the other three prongs of the four-prong definition because it doesn’t need them. This one prong alone does roughly the same job.”
The changes are drawing strong condemnation from pro-life groups like Americans United for Life.
“With another phony compromise, the Obama Administration continues to insult the intelligence of the American people and trample our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights,” said AUL’s President Charmaine Yoest. “Our Freedom of Conscience, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment has been violated by Obamacare and these new regulations do not resolve the offense.”
“The phony compromise from Health and Human Services only serves to illustrate the problem with Obamacare,” said Dr. Yoest. “The Obama Administration is trying to gerrymander the regulations but continues to leave most Americans without their Constitutional freedoms. The regulation is clear that the Obama Administration’s intent is to limit religious liberty to houses of worship. Meanwhile Christian universities, for-profit businesses – like the Bible publisher Tyndale and Hobby Lobby – or individuals are still forced to subsidize Big Abortion. The Obama Administration’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) violates the First Amendment Conscience rights of Americans, and that must be stopped.”