WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday finalized a health-law requirement that most employers provide insurance that covers contraceptives at no cost to workers.
Although religious organizations had lobbied aggressively for more exemptions from that provision, the Department of Health and Human Services did not bend on its approach, which aims to provide contraceptives to nearly all women regardless of their workplace.
"The health-care law guarantees millions of women access to recommended preventive services at no cost," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Today's announcement reinforces our commitment to respect the concerns of houses of worship and other non-profit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage."
The final regulation does allow houses of worship an exemption if they object to such coverage. Faith-based nonprofit groups, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, must comply with the mandate by the end of the year; the earlier proposed rule set a deadline of Aug. 1. If the groups object to contraceptive coverage, their health insurance plan is required to pay for the benefit separately from the main insurance package.
The provision is already in effect for private business owners. Final approval of the rule will allow for some lawsuits against the contraceptive mandate to move forward quickly. Some judges had put the cases on hold pending a final regulation.
More than 60 lawsuits have been filed against the contraceptive mandate, by both faith-based nonprofit groups and private business owners who contend that the provision violates their religious liberties.