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White House revises contraception opt out

By Gabe LaMonica, CNN
updated 8:41 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama administration announces revisions to contraception policy
  • Action follows Supreme Court issuing temporary order for religious school in Illinois

(CNN) -- The Obama administration announced revisions to the Obamacare contraception mandate so that nonprofit religious organizations can opt out of signing a release form to avoid covering birth control and workers for those nonprofits are able to obtain separate contraception coverage without a copay.

"This is part of ensuring that all women have access to contraception coverage," said a senior administration official.

Earlier this month the Supreme Court issued a temporary order that allows Wheaton College to avoid covering birth control without filing a religious exemption form with its insurer. The new revisions to the Obamacare mandate reveal that the White House is anticipating the U.S. Supreme Court's finalization of the temporary injunction in the coming months.

"In light of the Supreme Court order regarding Wheaton College," said the official, "the Departments intend to augment their regulations to provide an alternative way for objecting nonprofit religious organizations to provide notification, while ensuring that enrollees in plans of such organizations receive separate coverage of contraceptive services without cost sharing"

The July ruling on behalf of the evangelical Illinois school was seen as an important victory for those objecting to a compromise that aimed to allow coverage and allowed a workaround for those opposing it. The new White House revision aims to resurrect that compromise but cut out the so-called permission slip that had been a requirement for employers to skirt the Obamacare contraception mandate.

The rules, which are still being worked out, will provide an "alternative way for objecting nonprofit religious organizations to provide notification," according to the White House.

In a brief filed Tuesday in the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Department of Justice said that "The Wheaton College injunction does not reflect a final Supreme Court determination that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires the government to apply the accommodations in this manner," but that the rules outlined in the brief are meant to augment a Department of Health and Human Services accommodation process that will no longer require the use of a form -- for any institution -- if the temporary order for Wheaton College is enacted for all religious nonprofits.

The senior White House official said that "the administration believes the accommodation is legally sound."

The White House expects to issue the regulatory revisions within a month, upon which time the Supreme Court will be informed of the interim final rules.

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