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Catholic hospitals: Progress in birth control rule

A trade group for Roman Catholic hospitals says the latest federal rules on birth control coverage are an improvement.

But the Catholic Health Association said Wednesday it won't make a final judgment until after canvassing its members.

Religious leaders have been seeking a broader exemption from the HHS requirement that employers provide insurance that covers contraception at no out-of-pocket cost to enrollees. HHS included the requirement under a preventive service provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Churches are exempt. The agency's latest compromise also creates a buffer between religious charities and birth control coverage.“We welcomed the clarity of the statements of HHS' intent to protect eligible organizations from having to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds,” CHA President and CEO Sister Carol Keehan said in the association's statement. “HHS also proposes that these organizations will incur no liability for the failure of others such as insurance companies to provide such services. We are grateful for the simplicity of the self-certification process.”

U.S. bishops last week said the new rules don't answer all their objections, but they will work on finding a solution.

The Catholic Health Association says its concerns are narrower in scope. Bishops also want an exemption for for-profit business owners.
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