Catholic hospitals do not offer contraceptives or sterilizations to their patients as a matter of conscience, but American bishops say that regulations under debate in the healthcare reform law scheduled to go into effect Thursday could force religious healthcare providers to offer the services to their own employees.
Bishops stress birth-control stance to HHS
HHS officials are finalizing the regulations on the specific services that group health insurance plans will be required to offer to consumers as “preventive services” under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The reform law requires private health plans to cover evidence-based preventive services and to eliminate any cost-sharing requirements for them.
The July 14 interim final rule defining the services included coverage of chronic disease screenings, prenatal care and routine doctor visits for infants and children, but left open the question of what services will be required under preventive health services for women.
In a six-page letter hand-delivered to HHS, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the federal rule-makers to reject calls to define family planning services such as contraceptive pills and sterilization as “preventive services” because family-planning efforts do not aim to cure disease. “To prevent pregnancy is not to prevent a disease,” the bishops wrote. Read the bishops' letter (PDF).
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