Bishops hail new healthcare mandate as return to common sense

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is praising the change to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Affordable Care Act healthcare mandate regarding funding contraception.

The USCCB says the change is a “return to common sense, long-standing federal practice, and peaceful coexistence between church and state.”

The change provides “a broad religious and moral exemption from the mandate requiring employers to fund health insurance cover for sterilisation, contraception, and drugs and devices that may cause abortions.”

Besides those already exempt from the birth control mandate, the change will exempt any nonprofit groups that have a religious or moral objection to contraception coverage. For-profit groups that are not publicly traded will also be able to be exempt for religious reasons. Insurance companies with a religious affiliation are also exempt from the birth control mandate.

The change in the policy took effect last Friday.

Among the reasons offered for the change in policy are Trump’s promises in relation to issues on religious freedom and 50 lawsuits filed by groups challenging the Obamacare coverage requirement.

“No American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our healthcare system,” Caitlin Oakley, HHS press secretary, said.

The USCCB issued a statement after the change in the mandate was announced.

“The Administration’s decision to provide a broad religious and moral exemption to the HHS mandate recognizes that the full range of faith-based and mission-driven organisations, as well as the people who run them, have deeply held religious and moral beliefs that the law must respect. Such an exemption is no innovation, but instead a return to common sense, long-standing federal practice, and peaceful coexistence between church and state. It corrects an anomalous failure by federal regulators that should never have occurred and should never be repeated.

“These regulations are good news for the Little Sisters of the Poor and others who are challenging the HHS mandate in court. We urge the government to take the next logical step and promptly resolve the litigation that the Supreme Court has urged the parties to settle.

“The regulations are also good news for all Americans. A government mandate that coerces people to make an impossible choice between obeying their consciences and obeying the call to serve the poor is harmful, not only to Catholics, but to the common good as well.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental right for all, so when it is threatened for some, it is threatened for all.

“We welcome the news that this particular threat to religious freedom has been lifted and, with the encouragement of Pope Francis, we will remain ‘vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.'”

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