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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Friday night news dump: Administration to move forward with and expand contraception mandate

March 16, 2012

The administration this afternoon released its “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on preventive services policy.” Translation: President Barack Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are moving forward with their controversial contraception mandate, which requires even religiously affiliated employers to provide their employees with insurance that covers contraception — even if those employers object to contraception on religious grounds.

But don’t worry: Secretary Sebelius says your religious liberty is assured, so it is assured.

“The President’s policy respects religious liberty and makes free preventive services available to women,” she said. ”Today’s announcement is the next step toward fulfilling that commitment.”

Never mind that, by drawing a distinction between actual churches and church-operated businesses like hospitals and schools, the administration effectively appropriated for itself the power to determine what constitutes ministry. Also, last I checked, there was no such thing as “free preventive services.”

Sandra Fluke should be happy, though. The administration made a final decision about whether it will require colleges to provide  students with insurance that covers contraception, as well. Take one wild guess as to what their decision was. Yep, that’s right:

Administration officials also released a final rule governing student health plans.  Under the final rule, students will gain the same consumer protections other people with individual market insurance have, like a prohibition on lifetime limits and coverage of preventive services without cost sharing.  In the same way that religious colleges and universities will not have to pay, arrange or refer for contraceptive coverage for their employees, they will not have to do so for their students who will get such coverage directly and separately from their insurer.

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