Catholic Health Association Accepts HHS Mandate Compromise; Goes Against Bishops

A network of Catholic hospitals announced on Tuesday that it will accept the Department of Health and Human Services' new rules concerning the controversial contraceptives mandate, a position that goes against U.S. Catholic bishops.

"HHS has now established an accommodation that will allow our ministries to continue offering health insurance plans for their employees as they have always done," the Catholic Health Association said in a statement on Tuesday.

"We are pleased that our members now have an accommodation that will not require them to contract, provide, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage."

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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been at the forefront of the fight against the Obamacare mandate, which sought to force religious employers to offer insurance that provides coverage for birth control and contraceptives to employees, which is against Catholic teachings.

The Obama administration announced new rules in June, seeking to exempt churches and religious nonprofits opposed to abortion and contraceptives from having to provide such insurance coverage. However, a number of Christian groups have rejected the changes, pointing out that the breaks do not extend to religious organizations that operate under a for-profit basis, including hospitals and universities.

"The final rule still leaves many religious employers unprotected," said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. "The government should not compel any of its citizens to violate their consciences."

One of the HHS compromises that CHA accepted creates a buffer for religious-based employers as it requires insurers or the health plan's outside administrator to pay for contraceptives and creates a mechanism for reimbursing them.

Still in protest, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said about the new HHS rules last week, "We are concerned as pastors with the freedom of the Church as a whole – not just for the full range of its institutional forms, but also for the faithful in their daily lives – to carry out the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ."

"We will continue to examine the extent to which these changes tend to 'force [these religious ministries of service] to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions,' in turn 'undermin[ing] the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world.' We will have more to say when this aspect of our analysis is completed," Dolan, who is also the USCCB president, concluded.

The National Catholic Reporter pointed out the big differences between the CHA and USCCB statements, noting that the former's statement is directed more at stakeholders, at people who will directly have to cope with the HHS mandate. The article suggested that CHA is looking to advise members on how they can respond to the new rules. The USCCB statement, meanwhile, takes a theoretical approach, seeking to litigate the mandate.

"We have said from the start that our intention was to dialogue this issue to resolution," Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of CHA explained.

USCCB did not respond to phone messages and emails from The Christian Post seeking comments on CHA's statement by press time.

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