February 4, 2013 — Opinion pieces from the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post, as well as a New York Times editorial, responded to the Obama administration's announcement of a proposed rule clarifying how no-cost contraceptive coverage will be provided for the employees of certain religiously affiliated not-for-profits. Summaries appear below.
~ Jon Healey, Los Angeles Times: Critics who "argue that religious employers would somehow pay for the contraceptives prescribed," even under the accommodations that have been offered, also "have to acknowledge that they'd benefit from the savings associated with using birth control," opinion writer Healey states. According to Healey, "it's an accounting fiction that employers pay anything for their workers' healthcare coverage. Employees effectively pay the employer's share of the cost by sacrificing some wages they would otherwise receive." He suggests that instead of the current proposal, the policy should be changed to allow "religious-affiliated employers [to] pass the entire cost of their healthcare benefits explicitly onto their workers" and raise employees' salaries to offset the expense of buying their own health plans. However, he acknowledges that it is unlikely that Congress would revisit the health reform law to make such a change (Healey, Los Angeles Times, 2/1).
~ New York Times: The editorial calls the proposed rules "a sensible way to provide women who work for religiously affiliated institutions with free coverage of contraceptives while exempting the organizations they work for from financial or administrative obligations to provide the coverage." The editorial states, "It will take some close accounting to figure out how best to handle the payment process for the coverage in the short run," adding, "In the long run, contraceptive coverage should save money by improving women's health and reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, abortions and medical complications from pregnancy" (New York Times, 2/1).
~ E.J. Dionne, Washington Post: Columnist Dionne writes that the proposal should put an end to "American's Big Religious War" over the contraceptive coverage rules. He calls the proposal an "elegant fix" that is the "product of a genuine and heartfelt struggle over the meaning of religious liberty in a pluralistic society." Dionne adds that the proposal gives "two reasons for hope, ... particularly for Catholic progressives." One reason is that "the administration recognized the problem it had created and resolved it," while the other is that "many bishops have come to realize" that the clash with Obama "not only troubled many of the faithful ... but also threatened to cast a church with strong commitments to immigrants, social justice and nonviolence as a partisan, even right-wing organization," Dionne states (Dionne, Washington Post, 2/1).