Obama administration: Student plans must cover contraception

Paul Conner Executive Editor
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The Obama administration moved forward Friday afternoon in implementing the controversial contraception rule, saying that student health insurance plans must cover preventive services.

After a month of intense debate, the administration finally put the rule in writing Friday and asked the public to comment on the proposed rule for the next 90 days.

The rule would require health insurance plans to provide women with access to birth control with no cost-sharing. It would allow religious organizations to opt out, instead requiring the health insurers to provide contraception funding directly. Similar rules would apply to colleges and universities, with religious institutions being exempt.

“The president’s policy respects religious liberty and makes free preventive services available to women,” said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. “Today’s announcement is the next step toward fulfilling that commitment.”

Coverage of student prevention services burst onto the political scene when Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke testified before Congress that the cost of contraception is overly burdensome.

Critics have worried about potential violations of church-state separation and that the definition of “religious” would be determined by the federal government. Insurers would be forced to cover the “morning-after” pill, which many religious conservatives believe to be an abortifacient. The rule, which has dominated public discourse for the last month, would fill out a portion of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

People wishing to comment on the rule should visit regulations.gov and follow the instructions under the “More Search Options” tab.

Conservative Catholics pushed back against the contraception rule this week, but the White House indicated that its decision is final, and that Obama has no intention of talking or negotiating with the Catholic bishops challenging the regulation. The administration faces multiple lawsuits, which could reach the Supreme Court.

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