Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that while he appreciates the Health and Human Services Department's effort to allow women get free birth control without religious-affiliated organizations paying for it, the recently announced mandate doesn't treat the organizations the same as exempt religious facilities, The Washington Times reported Thursday.
"HHS offers what it calls an 'accommodation' rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches," he said.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most employers are required to provide health insurance that includes free contraceptive coverage for women. Houses of worship were exempt but religiously affiliated employers, such as universities or hospitals, weren't.
Last week, the Obama administration announced a proposal that would have insurers or third-party administrators provide the contraception coverage through separate policies that would remove involvement by religious groups.
Insurance providers would be reimbursed for the coverage through rebates on user fees tied to participation in state-based healthcare exchanges that take effect next year.
Progressive Catholic groups and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America lauded the plan, the Times said.
"Are we really at a point where everything the Obama administration touches makes the bishops take their marbles and go home?" asked James Salt, executive director of Catholics United.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said it is "becoming clear that some people just will not rest until they have found a way to deny women access to birth control coverage."
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