Report: Obama Administration To Offer “Accomodation” On Contraceptive Rule

ABC News’s Jake Tapper is reporting this morning that the Obama Administration will be offering a compromise of some form regarding its controversial new rule requiring employers to provide coverage for contraceptives to their employees:

With the White House under fire for its new rule requiring employers including religious organizations to offer health insurance that fully covers birth control coverage, ABC News has learned that later today the White House — possibly President Obama himself — will likely announce an attempt to accommodate these religious groups.

The move, based on state models, will almost certainly not satisfy bishops and other religious leaders since it will preserve the goal of women employees having their birth control fully covered by health insurance.

Sources say it will be respectful of religious beliefs but will not back off from that goal, which many religious leaders oppose since birth control is in violation of their religious beliefs.

There’s no word on what form this compromise will take, but it will apparently not go as far as the so-called “Hawaii Rule” that allows religious institutions to opt out of the requirement as long as they provide employees with information regarding the availability of additional coverage for contraceptives:

Sources say it will involve health insurance companies helping to provide the coverage, since it’s actually cheaper for these companies to offer the coverage than to not do so, because of unwanted pregnancies and resulting complications.

So, instead of the employer picking up the cost of coverage, insurance companies would. The devil is, as always, in the details, but this may be a way out of what has become something of headache for the Administration.

FILED UNDER: Healthcare Policy, Religion, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Hey Norm says:

    The zealots will not be happy because at the bottom this is about controling the rights of women…not religious liberty. It certainly isn’t about the religious liberty of those who wish to have access to birth control. As Frum points out:

    “…If the audience is paying attention, for example, it will notice that Republicans are not proposing to allow employers and plans to refuse to cover blood transfusions if they conscientiously object to them (although there are religious groups that do). Or vaccinations (although there are individuals who conscientiously object to those as well). Or medicines derived from animal experimentation. (Ditto.)…”

    So Obama…ever the centrist…the only moderate in the room…will offer a compromise. But it won’t be enough because it will preserve women’s rights and that’s the last thing the so-called Right wants.

  2. @Hey Norm:

    Do Jehovah’s Witnesses operate charitable institutions that fall outside the definition of a “church”? This isn’t about individual employers and their religious beliefs — that is a different and far more complicated issue — this is about religious institutions that happen to employ people. The issues are different legally and, as the Administration is finding as even Democrats like John Kerry are distancing themselves from the decision.

  3. Hey Norm says:

    “…this is about religious institutions that happen to employ people…”

    That’s the means. The end is the usurping of women’s rights. And the fact that the Bishops, in their pointy hats and velvet robes, will not be happy with the compromise lays that bare.

  4. Jay says:

    @Hey Norm: Doug has a point. I don’t think we should conclude that republicans and The Catholic Left are conspiring to revoke women’s rights because they aren’t also fighting to stop coverage of those other items (are there any large employers who object to childhood vaccinations?). You’re making a claim that you may not be able to prove.

    On a side note, we shouldn’t assume that it is cheaper for insurance companies to cover contraception…the insurance industry’s actuarial figures can be very counter-intuitive. Obama may have to give them something in return for their help

  5. @Hey Norm:

    I didn’t realize that having something covered by insurance cost-free was a right. Which part of the Bill of Rights is that in?

  6. Hey Norm says:

    So we should conclude that the zealots are altruistically fighting for religious liberty and the fact that it happens to be over a women’s rights issue, and not transfusions, is just a coincidence? Right.
    Again…when a religious institution hires “civilians” it must be willing to accept regulations intended to protect the beliefs of those “civilians” even if they are in conflict with their own. The fact that the child rapists in the pointy hats are unwilling to do so proves that this is not about religious liberty at all.

  7. DRS says:

    I think it’s the Church throwing a tantrum because it can’t control the private actions of Catholics – the majority of whom use some form of birth control – and so it’s trying to control what it can. It would be nice to see the bishops dedicate even 10% of this outrage and energy to the efforts to prosecute pederastic priests…

    And for the record, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a Catholic.

  8. Individuals are free to do whatever they want, DRS. Why should the Church — or any employer for that matter — be forced to pay for it?

  9. Jay says:

    @Hey Norm: @Hey Norm: No, I don’t think we should conclude that this is simply about religious freedom. But you’re going nuclear…i think there are options in between “the church is only worried about freedom” and “the church is conspiring to oppress women”. Your impassioned posts remind me of a lot of the Yankee rants I grew up hearing…the only thing worse than a Catholic, is a Catholic agreeing with a republican.

  10. “That’s the means. The end is the usurping of women’s rights. And the fact that the Bishops, in their pointy hats and velvet robes, will not be happy with the compromise lays that bare.”

    If anyone sounds like a zealot, it’s you, Norm. Women can buy contraception pretty much all over the place, even in bathrooms at nightclubs. Somehow you think it is a right that women be given free contraception and morning after pills. How about answering Doug’s question as to where this right appears in the Constitution.

  11. DRS says:

    I don’t see it as a “force” issue, Doug. I’m not a lawyer and the whole we’re-on-the-verge-of-tyranny argument makes me laugh. If you’re going to offer health benefits to your employees, why wouldn’t you offer the range of coverage that your employees would use? It’s a way to attract good people to work in your organization. Doesn’t seem all that complicated to me.

    You have another post asking if people are getting turned off of politics. I suggest this constant pitch of hysterical OH-MY-GOD-WE’RE-BEING-DOMINATED-BY-THE-EVIL-GOVERNMENT over what seems to be an issue that is just not that big a deal is one reason people don’t want to think of politics if they don’t have to.

  12. Modulo Myself says:


    To the disconnected libertarian set, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory was the freest place on earth. Ever since, downhill to tyranny all the way.

    Also, you have to love the misogynist resentment on display basically everywhere, as if wanting birth control treated as a normal drug was a move by an uppity suspect class. After all, broads can get them some rubbers in a truck stop! What else do they want from me!

  13. Hey Norm says:

    @ Jay…
    But the Church is not fighting over transfusions…the Church is fighting over women’s access to health care. ipso facto…
    The so-called right insists that health care reform must maintain the free market…single payer is a non-starter. But then they want to use arguments like this…that a Religious Institutions freedom of religion trumps an Individuals freedom of religion…in order to further their agenda…in this specific case limiting the reproductive rights of women…and in general the rights of corporations over-riding the rights of individuals.

  14. Nikki says:

    Do Catholic women working at Jewish hospitals have more right to birth control than Jewish women working at Catholic hospitals? That’s the only question that needs to be answered. As for me, I am sick and tired of men having more say over my reproductive rights than I do.

  15. Moderate Mom says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Birth control isn’t being treated as a “normal” drug. It’s being treated in a special manner under the new rules. Is there any other medication that the Administration is proposing be issued free of cost?

  16. Nikki,

    Nobody is stopping women working at Catholic hospitals from buying and using birth control. Nobody.

  17. DRS says:

    The Pill is not just a contraceptive. It can be prescribed to regulate the menstrual cycle and often is. I hardly think you’re going to find that in “bathrooms in nightclubs”.

  18. Nikki says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Then let’s talk about fairness. Why is it that men can get free access to boner pills, but women cannot get free access to birth control?

  19. DRS says:

    Well, Doug, nobody is stopping people from going out and getting dental care or having broken limbs set or getting prescription reading glasses – all of which are often covered in health benefits offered by an employer to employees. Birth control options are often covered as well. What’s the big deal?

    The Church is acting as a employer in this situation, not as a moral advisor to its flock. It’s the Church here that is crossing the line.

  20. sam says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Nobody is stopping women working at Catholic hospitals from buying and using birth control. Nobody.

    Would it, in your opinion, be licit for a Catholic hospital to make, as a condition of employment, that women (or men) do not use birth control?

  21. @Nikki:

    Complete non-sequiter since in that case you’re talking about an actual disease

    Also, there are very few (if any) policies that cover the cost of something like Viagra in full.

  22. @DRS:

    Since when do people have a “right” to have all their prescriptions covered in full by their employer without any contribution to the cost on their part and no copay?

  23. Nikki says:

    There was never this much fuss when it came to insurance companies doling out Viagara at no cost to the insured. Now we have 60 and 70 year old men getting women pregnant, but if any women want to prevent that pregnancy, they are required to pay out-of-pocket. And heaven help us, if any woman decides she wants to terminate that pregnancy.

    If you don’t believe this is an ongoing war against women’s health, then you obviously have not been paying attention.

  24. Nikki says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Birth control pills are also used to treat actual diseases, Doug, not just to prevent pregnancy (which can also be described literally as a disease, but we won’t get into that since it upsets people too much)..

  25. Hey Norm says:

    “…Women can buy contraception pretty much all over the place, even in bathrooms at nightclubs…”

    I can’t even begin to form a response to this misogynistic tripe.

  26. anjin-san says:

    Complete non-sequiter since in that case you’re talking about an actual disease.

    Do you ever talk to any guys over 50 about sex? Come back and talk to us in ten or fifteen years when you have a little more life experience.

  27. David M says:

    Nikki is correct as birth control pills can be prescribed for reasons unrelated to contraception.

    Insurance companies cover quite a few preventative procedures at no cost to the patient, contraception is just one of the items in a list.

  28. @David M:

    And if the insurance company chooses to do that, that’s their choice. That doesn’t mean people have a right to cost-free, no copay prescriptions.

  29. Modulo Myself says:

    @Moderate Mom:

    Look, if you want to argue some sort of libertarian market-arrangement freshmen-dorm thing here, where employees and employers are all equal and no one has any rights, that’s fine. There’s 30% of the country or so who are fine with this in theory, as long as other people are subject to it, most notably the poor and minorities.

    But if you want to live in 2012, where even crappy American HMOs are subject to some sort of regulation and employees have some sort of rights which allow them not to be discriminated against, then having a health care plan where a crucial and normally-covered thing for actual living women has been excised is discrimination. And apparently, according to actual living women, this does make a difference. If you’re fine with that, if you think that the Catholic Church and its bishops should be bothering even to bother with inflicting what is basically an indefensible (in that nobody actually follows their conscience, other than the celibate hierarchy, on this matter) idea, then fine. Outdated religion trumps a massive number of employees.

  30. Nikki says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Ah, but yet, the Catholic Church and other religious leaders get the right to decide for everyone whether or not contraceptives should be cost-free, no copay prescriptions, is that right? Because, if you’ve been following the debate, you will see that the Church’s lawyer is arguing that no employer should be required to offer it cost-free, not just the Church.

  31. David M says:

    The no-copay issue is a little bit of a distraction, as I’m pretty sure there would still be objections to including contraception at all in the insurance policies.

  32. Rob in CT says:

    Once again: no one should take the RCC seriously on such matters. They have rather conclusively proven themselves to be morally bankrupt. Conscience? My ass.

  33. @Nikki:

    Which is exactly the position I take. The religion issue is irrelevant to me. The government should not be dictating what kind of insurance coverage employers should provide to their employees as a benefit in addition to the wages the are paying them.

  34. “I can’t even begin to form a response to this misogynistic tripe.”

    Why, are you a 10 year old girl or something, Norm? Are your poor little feelings hurt? Perhaps you should come play with us in Adult Land. Condoms can be purchased in bathrooms at nightclubs. Are you not old enough to get in?

    And you still haven’t answered Doug’s question as to where this right appears.

  35. Nikki says:

    @Doug Mataconis: And I would support you in this stance, but you and I would take different approaches to how the situation could best be resolved. I would prefer that employers not provide health insurance at all; let the government provide national health coverage instead. That right there solves the problem.

  36. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    William, please tell us where we can find nightclub vending machines that carry Nuva rings and The Pill.

  37. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Why should the Church — or any employer for that matter — be forced to pay for it?

    Doug M: Proponent of single-payer! Who knew?

  38. David M says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Then you’re arguing Obamacare needs modified. Part of the law includes subsidies to purchase insurance, but they are not available if your employer offers insurance coverage. In this case the government absolutely needs to set a minimum standard of coverage for policies offered by employers need to meet. As the law currently stands, regulations like this are required for it to work.

  39. Are you willfully ignorant, Gold Star? Most rational adults would realize I’m referring to condoms.

  40. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Contraception comes in many forms, William. And the birth-control measures needed by women for non-contraceptive reasons are NOT condoms. So it’s insultingly glib for you to say, “Let ’em pay a cover charge and buy rubbers.”

  41. Doubter4444 says:

    I hate to be all “long ball”, Sullivan-ish – but I really see this as a trap the Administration set for the GOP. It was a bit of a chance, but he’s a bit of a gambler.
    And they walked right in.
    Think of it this way:
    1) Obama riles conservatives and catholics with the decision – takes a hit from people most likely not voting for him anyway.
    2) Obama takes a hit from a moderate group of Catholics that may vote him.
    3) It’s a long way to November.
    Group one he’s never going to please.
    Group two: he offers a “compromise” – and tries to unruffel feathers, reminding them that what he proposed is state law in over a third of the country already.
    What way he looks like he’s willing to bend to those who care, knows (hopes) this is forgotten in November, and gets to harp on the fact that’s he’s only building on previous, un-objectional laws in place.
    Then he gets to paint the opposition to this as far right, and tries to claim the reasonable middle.

    That’s just the opening – because by doing this, he REFRAMES the debate from abortion to birth control.

    The right will, as expected, way over reach on this issue, first by tying to pound the president for doing it, then when they smell blood, they’ll push for more, way more than is popular.
    That’s already happening.

    Suddenly this will move from being about religious freedom (dubious from the start, but somewhat defensible) to rolling back access to birth control to women.

    Given that’s he willing to “compromise” on the delivery of birth control and his opponents push for more, he again looks like a reasonable man facing zealots.

    So now in the fall, he’ll get to say – “look at these guys (the GOP) give them an inch they take a mile’. ” Give him an exemption on BC, it’s not good enough. They say is just about Religion, but it’s really about subjugation”.
    If you hate Obama already, you’ll argue till you are blue that he’s changing the subject, meanwhile, you will go from attacking his overreach to defending the right’s overreach.
    There is a bit of a risk that moderate Catholics may not approve, but he’s betting that the far right pushes and makes it easier for him.

  42. Nikki says:

    There is a bit of a risk that moderate Catholics may not approve, but he’s betting that the far right pushes and makes it easier for him.

    And that risk is minimal as poll after poll shows not only that Catholics support Obama’s rule change by over 50%, but that they also oppose an exemption for the Catholic Church.

    People have grown tired of religious leaders and politicians intruding in their bedrooms. The right will lose on this issue.

  43. @David M:

    That’s why I oppose the law

  44. WR says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Is this the glory of libertarian freedom when it comes to health care? If you have money, you are completely free to choose your health plan. If you don’t have money, you are completely free to suffer and die.

    Is this really the world you want your children to grow up in?

  45. Hey Norm says:

    @ WR…
    Libertarianism has nothing at all to do with the real world in which children live. In fact Libertarianism wilts at the least exposure to the real world.

  46. Hey Norm says:

    @ Bill Teach…
    You forgot to mention that they can get abortions in alleys too.

  47. Modulo Myself says:

    I’m not a huge believer in Obama’s political skill, but this compromise was a thing of brilliance.

    When a nun stands up for a compromise, the win is automatic.

  48. Nikki says:

    Lessee, the GOP doesn’t want anyone to provide birth control to women and now they want to weaken the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 which passed with plenty of bipartisan support. It’s all of a piece.

    I guess the Republicans have decided they can win in 2012 without any women voters.

  49. Fog says:

    Doubter4444: Spot on. This has been the Obama strategy from Day One.

  50. An Interested Party says:

    Yet another reason for single-payer health care…

  51. John Burgess says:

    Hey, you know, the Catholic Church has approved the prescription of ‘birth control pills’ for medical reasons other than controlling birth. If a doctor thinks the pill is required to address a medical need–exceptionally painful menses, even extreme outbreaks of zits–then the Church will not second guess the doctor. If the pill has a secondary effect in these cases of barring conception, well, that’s a secondary effect. It’s the primary purpose of blocking conception that the Church has trouble with.

    A prescription of a birth control pill to address a medical issue other than contraception is likely to be covered by insurance policies that do not, generally, cover contraception. I’d bet that even the policies held by religiously affiliated hospitals cover it. It’s a non-controversy.

    The nightclubs I’ve been to–including the ones I used to clean–have condoms for sale in the men’s and women’s rooms. I’ve been told, but cannot verify, that Plan-B is also being sold through vending machines at nightclubs.

  52. sam says:

    Maybe we can round this thread up with Gloria Steinem’s observation that if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

  53. anjin-san says:

    Condoms can be purchased in bathrooms at nightclubs.

    Umm. So what? Maybe the women want to be in charge of their own reproductive choices. They are the ones who do most of the dealing with the consequences.

    When I hear conservatives discuss this issue, I hear a lot of repressed anger towards women.

  54. Doubter4444 says:

    @Fog: It’s already happening…
    On the one side:

    Both Catholic Health Assn and Planned Parenthood Say They’re Pleased With Contraception Rule Announcement

    On the other: Senator Blunt is against it – without even reading it

  55. Jay says:

    @Hey Norm: There are no major religious employers (that I am aware of at least) who are against transfusions. Obviously there are people who refuse transfusions at hospitals, but that is not an insurance issue. This an established doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is no surprise that they are against it. If you want to argue that this is also a cynical attempt to oppress women, then you need more proof than just pointing out that the Catholic Church isn’t also randomly fighting for the right to not insure against transfusions/vaccinations/other things.

    You may be right about the Right’s problem with reform, but I don’t see how the free market arguments have anything to do with this. The Right is fighting this probably because they want to derail Obama as often as possible. Again, if you want to argue that they are doing so to oppress women, you should prove it.

  56. WR says:

    @anjin-san: “When I hear conservatives discuss this issue, I hear a lot of repressed anger towards women.”

    Repressed? You must be listening to nicer conservatives than I have…

  57. Gulliver says:

    Contraceptives are readily available, period. Y’all just seem to think that those that need them shouldn’t have to actually pay for them. The central question has absolutely nothing to do with “women’s rights.” To say that women’s rights are involved is like saying that it’s a violation of “biker’s rights” if a city won’t put in bicycle lanes along every avenue and street. If you want to ride in the city, use streets that allow that.

    Another invented “right” being promoted as sacrosanct by the left, at the expense of our guaranteed rights in the Constitution.