HHS tweaks final birth control rule

Religious-affiliated hospitals have until August 2013 to comply

The Obama administration on Friday announced that religious-affiliated organizations—including certain hospitals and universities—must cover birth control free of charge by August 2013.

The announcement represents a slight shift from the White House's initial proposal last summer, which called for the same regulation to take effect in August 2012. The new arrangement follows six months of lobbying from religious groups and some employers, the Washington Post reports.

However, the one-year delay is likely to "disappoint" these groups, according to the Post. Organizations like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had sought to obtain a broad exemption from the regulation, which is part of a federal health reform law rule that requires workplace health plans to cover certain preventive health services with no copay. 

Although birth control is widely used in the United States—and covered by most employee-sponsored insurance plans—many religious-affiliated organizations have chosen not to cover it.

HHS said religious-affiliated organizations have until Aug. 1, 2013 to comply with the rule. "I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Washington Post, 1/20; Aizenman, Washington Post, 1/20).

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