HHS, Catholic hospitals make progress on contraception rule

While the Catholic Health Association called the Obama administration's relaxed rules on contraceptive coverage "substantial progress," the group is still seeking comments from its membership and bishops before declaring an end to the dispute, the Associated Press reported.

Under its latest proposal, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services would defer the obligation of offering contraceptive coverage to insurers, rather than religious hospitals and employers, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

The Catholic hospital group also praised the expanded definition of "religious employer," their main concern. "This is a great relief to our members and many others," CHA President and CEO Sister Carol Keehan said yesterday in a statement.

But before HHS finalizes how it will provide contraceptive services to employees of nonprofit religious organizations, it wants evaluation and input from CHA and its member hospitals, the group said.

HHS also is working with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and individual bishops to resolve the contraceptive coverage issue.

Catholic bishops last week rejected Obama's latest proposal and vowed to continue fighting it through lawsuits.

While the bishops look forward to reaching a solution, the new proposal "offers second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic healthcare, Catholic education and Catholic charities," USCCB President Cardinal Timothy Dolan said earlier this month in a statement.

For more:
- here's the CHA statement
- read the AP article
- check out the USCCB statement