Saturday, February 11, 2012

Health insurers question Obama birth control plan

Fri Feb 10, 2012
By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) - U.S. health insurers said on Friday they feared President Barack Obama had set a new precedent by making them responsible for providing free birth control to employees of religious groups as he sought to defuse an election-year landmine.

Obama on Friday announced the policy shift in an effort to accommodate religious organizations, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, whose leaders are outraged by a new rule that would have required them to offer free contraceptive coverage to employees.

Instead, the Obama administration ordered insurers to provide workers at religious-affiliated institutions with free family planning if they request it, without involving their employer at all. Insurance industry officials said the abrupt shift raised questions over how that requirement would be implemented.

"We are concerned about the precedent this proposed rule would set," said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's trade group. "As we learn more about how this rule would be operationalized, we will provide comments through the regulatory process." the rest

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