What You Need to Know About the HHS Mandate

6 Feb

The communications department of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has offered some important clarifications regarding the Health and Human Services (“HHS”) regulations on mandatory coverage of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, reproduced below:

1. The mandate does not exempt Catholic charities, schools, universities, or hospitals. These institutions are vital to the mission of the Church, but HHS does not deem them “religious employers” worthy of conscience protection, because they do not “serve primarily persons who share the[ir] religious tenets.” HHS denies these organizations religious freedom precisely because their purpose is to serve the common good of society–a purpose that government should encourage, not punish.

2. The mandate forces these institutions and others, against their conscience, to pay for things they consider immoral. Under the mandate, the government forces religious insurers to write policies that violate their beliefs; forces religious employers and schools to sponsor and subsidize coverage that violates their beliefs; and forces religious employees and students to purchase coverage that violates their beliefs.

3. The mandate forces coverage of sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices as well as contraception. Though commonly called the “contraceptive mandate,” HHS’s mandate also forces employers to sponsor and subsidize coverage of sterilization. And by including all drugs approved by the FDA for use as contraceptives, the HHS mandate includes drugs that can induce abortion, such as “Ella,” a close cousin of the abortion pill RU-486.

4. Catholics of all political persuasions are unified in their opposition to the mandate. Even Catholics who have long supported this Administration and its healthcare policies have publicly criticized HHS’s decision, including columnists E.J. Dionne, Mark Shields, and Michael Sean Winters; Notre Dame president Father John Jenkins: and Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association.

5. Many other religious and secular leaders and groups have spoken out strongly against the mandate. Many recognize this as an assault on the broader principle of religious liberty, even if they disagree with the Church on the underlying moral question. For example, Protestant Christian, Orthodox Christian, and Orthodox Jewish groups–none of which oppose contraception–have issued statements against the HHS’s decision. The Washington Post, USA Today, N.Y. Daily News, Detroit News, and other secular outlets, columnists, and bloggers have editorialized against it.

6. The federal mandate is much stricter than existing state mandates. HHS chose the narrowest state-level religious exemption as the model for its own. That exemption was drafted by the ACLU and exists in only 3 states (New York, California, and Oregon). Even without a religious exemption, religious employers can already avoid the contraceptive mandates in 28 states by self-insuring their prescription drug coverage, dropping that coverage altogether, or opting for regulation under a federal law (ERISA) that pre-empts state law. The HHS mandate closes off all these avenues of relief.

Additional information on the U.S. Catholic bishops’ stance on religious liberty, conscience protection, and the HHS ruling regarding mandatory coverage of contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs is available at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/index.cfm.

11 Responses to “What You Need to Know About the HHS Mandate”

  1. mike hurla February 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    This mandate should be a wake up call of what this administration is capable of doing.

  2. Michelle Herrington February 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    This is a wonderful summary! Could I have permission to reprint this post in our bulletin?

  3. Leon Suprenant February 7, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    Michelle, please do. Our post is taken almost verbatim from a press release from the USCC communications office that was meant to be circulated widely among the Catholic faithful. I think they did an excellent job on this!

  4. Nicole February 10, 2012 at 4:03 am #

    How does this HHS mandate effect sole proprietors and CEOs/boards of directors of corporations who profess to be Catholic? Must they also buy insurance plans which cover the contraception, sterilization and abortifacients or drop insurance altogether for their employees?

  5. Leon Suprenant February 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Nicole, my understanding is that you/your company would have to provide those “services” for your employees or face penalties.

    • Nicole February 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

      So, say, a trailer manufacturer would have to provide what is stipulated on the HHS mandate, even if the CEO or sole proprietor professed to be Catholic?

      • Leon Suprenant February 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

        My understanding is that if you have employees you would have to fall in line. I’d sit tight for now, as there’s a year before this becomes mandatory, and it could be overturned by the courts, etc. President Obama is speaking on the subject within a half hour.

  6. Leon Suprenant February 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    Further, the issue is really over religious institutions. There’s very little chance that individual employers will be given the right to opt out of providing mandatory coverages based on conscience rights.

  7. Nicole February 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    I understand this could be overturned by the courts, but shouldn’t the issue be that any employer who professes to be Catholic has to provide (i.e., is mandatory) “health” coverage which includes contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients…or no health coverage at all?

  8. Leon Suprenant February 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Yes, and the bishops have now included this in its opposition to the mandate: See http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/articles.cfm?id=523 about a third or so of the way down. I don’t know what sort of penalties you would face if you conscientiously objected and refused to provide insurance under these circumstances.


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