This post was updated on August 9, 2012.
Thanks to Obamacare, starting this month most insurance companies are required to cover preventive services without any cost sharing. This includes coverage for birth control and other forms of contraception.
The rule exempts churches and houses of worship from covering contraception based on religious objections, and it provides a special accommodation for other religious employers. But in his ad “Be not afraid,” Mitt Romney falsely insists that the rule amounts to a “war on religion.”
Despite this misleading distortion, the facts show that the Obama administration is helping protect religious freedom while ensuring women’s access to vital health services.
Religious employers will not be required to pay for contraception coverage or communicate with employees about it. Churches and houses of worship are completely exempt. For other religiously affiliated institutions, like some hospitals and charities, the cost of covering contraception will shift to insurance companies—at no additional charge to consumers. As President Obama made clear, “Women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services—no matter where they work. … But if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company—not the hospital, not the charity—will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.”
Contraception provides important health benefits for many women. The Institute of Medicine, an independent and non-partisan group of doctors and researchers, found “overwhelming evidence” of contraception’s health benefits and recommended that insurers should be required to cover it free of charge. According to the National Cancer Institute, studies have shown that the use of contraception reduced the risk of ovarian cancer by 10% to 12% in the first year of use and resulted in a drop of approximately 50% after five years. Additionally, the use of oral contraceptives has been shown to “significantly reduce the risk of endometrial cancer.” Today, nearly 99% of all women have used contraception at some point in their lives, but more than half of all women between the ages of 18 and 34 have struggled to pay for it. Obamacare will ensure that 47 million women can afford the established health benefits associated with contraception.
A majority of states already have similar requirements for contraception coverage, and the Obama administration’s rule is supported by both religious and women’s groups. Today, 28 states already require insurers to provide coverage of the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices. The executive director of Catholics United, James Salt, called the Obama administration’s decision to extend coverage nationwide without requiring religious employers to pay for the coverage a “win-win solution,” and added that President Obama has shown he is “willing to rise above the partisan fray to deliver an actual policy solution that both meets the health care needs of all employees and respects the religious liberty of Catholic institutions.” Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, praised the policy as a “reaffirmation of the commitment to ensuring contraceptive coverage” that will allow women of all faiths to get birth control without a co-pay.
While the President has fought to guarantee that women will not be denied coverage based on their health or charged higher rates because of their gender, Mitt Romney plans to repeal Obamacare on Day One if elected. Romney even said he’d support a bill that would allow bosses to deny their female employees insurance coverage for birth control and other health services based on their personal beliefs. In fact, Romney’s extreme views go even further—he actually backed a bill to outlaw all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.
President Obama believes America’s women deserve better. He respects the principle of religious liberty and is committed to providing women with access to affordable to health care—and that includes birth control.