August 6, 2012 — Congress should take action to overturn the federal contraceptive coverage rules "before it completes its business this year," according to a letter to lawmakers from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/5).
The rules implement a provision of the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148); they require health plans issued or renewed after Aug. 1 to cover various women's preventive services without copayments or deductibles. HHS has given religiously affiliated entities, such as colleges and hospitals, a one-year delay period to come into compliance with the contraceptive coverage rules, and religious institutions, such as churches and synagogues, are exempt altogether (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/3).
Several lawsuits have been filed against the rules, but DiNardo noted that the litigation "may take years" to resolve. He added, "The fundamental importance of the religious freedom issue at stake demands a timely congressional response."
Various measures in the House and Senate have attempted to undermine the rules, including a failed proposal by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that would have allowed employers to refuse to comply with any health reform requirement to which they objected ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/5). In the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has signaled that Republicans do not plan to pursue additional legislative challenges to the rules (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/27).