Senate kills amendment to overturn birth control rule

Bill would have allowed benefit denials for moral, religious reasons

Topics: Payer and Regulatory Policy, Market Trends, Strategy, Health Policy, Primary Care, Service Lines

March 2, 2012

The Senate on Thursday rejected an amendment that would have allowed employers and health plans to refuse to cover certain health services, including contraception, based on moral or religious objections.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) last month proposed the measure—which was attached to a highway funding bill—before President Obama announced changes to a religious exemption to new federal contraceptive coverage rules.

The White House in February announced that religious-affiliated organizations—including certain hospitals and universities—were no longer required to cover employees' birth control and that insurers must offer no-cost contraception directly to women.

The vote
The Senate voted 51-48 to table Blunt's amendment largely along party lines. One Republican—Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine)—joined the majority of Democrats in voting to table the amendment, after expressing concern that it would allow health plans and employers to deny coverage for a wide range of services.

Meanwhile, three Democrats—Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and Ben Nelson (Neb.)—voted against tabling it (Aizenman/Helderman, Washington Post, 3/1; Morgan/Ferraro, Reuters, 3/1; McCarthy, National Journal, 3/1 [subscription required]).

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