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White House proposal addresses birth control coverage

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration moved Friday to further insulate religiously affiliated hospitals and universities from paying for birth control for their female employees if they object to providing the coverage on moral grounds.

The new proposal, which follows a compromise announced by President Barack Obama last month, seeks to quell lingering objections from religious groups about a provision in the new health care law requiring employers to offer women contraceptive coverage without co-payments or other cost-sharing.

Under fire from leading Catholic hospitals and other institutions, the administration has proposed shifting the cost of providing birth control coverage onto insurance companies, while prohibiting those insurers from passing the additional cost onto employers.

But it was unclear what this would mean for large, religiously affiliated employers that self-insure rather than hire an insurance company to assume the risk of providing health benefits to their employees.

In a notice released Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services suggested these self-insured employers could pass the cost of the contraceptive coverage to whoever administers their health benefits.

Large employers typically contract with an insurance company to handle billing and other administrative tasks associated with providing health benefits.

These administrators would then use funds from other sources, such as rebates they might receive from drugmakers, to offset the cost of the contraceptive benefit, according to administration officials.

No TV for health care arguments

The Supreme Court says there is "extraordinary public interest" in the forthcoming challenges to President Barack Obama's health care law, but not enough for it to lift its ban on TV coverage. Instead, the justices announced Friday they will release an audio recording about 2 p.m. on each of the three days of oral arguments over the constitutionality of the law, beginning March 26. The court will also issue a daily transcript of the proceedings at the same time.

White House proposal addresses birth control coverage 03/16/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 17, 2012 12:29am]

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