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Health insurance plan: No more changes on birth control rule

Health insurance program's new rule on contraceptive coverage, after Obama's compromise for religious groups, will have no other changes, says White House chief of staff. But US Catholic bishops say they will still challenge health insurance plan in the courts.  

By Jackie Frank and Lily KuoReuters / February 12, 2012

Chief of Staff Jacob Lew talks on CBS's 'Face the Nation' in Washington Feb. 12, 2012. Lew, who appeared on various Sunday shows, said the new compromise on contraception coverage in the health insurance plan had achieved 'broad consensus, not universal consensus.'

Chris Usher/CBS News/AP

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WASHINGTON

President Barack Obama will not make any more changes to the rule announced last week requiring health insurance plans to provide women with coverage for contraception, although U.S. Catholic bishops have said it violates the Church's religious principles.

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"We put out the plan that reflects where the president intended to go. This is our plan," White House chief of staff Jacob Lew said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.

Lew said no religious organization will be required to pay for or facilitate the coverage that it disagrees with since the insurance companies are the ones who will pay.

Asked what incentive insurance companies would have to provide contraception, Lew - Obama's budget director until a few weeks ago - said it would be cost effective just like other preventive healthcare coverage.

"As somebody who's done budgets for a lot of years, when people tell me things don't cost money, I ask a lot of questions," Lew said on ABC News's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos".

"This is actually one of those exceptions to the rule. If you look at the overall cost of providing healthcare to a woman, the cost goes up, not down, if you take contraceptives out."

Lew said the White House had not expected universal support for contraceptive coverage, but did find backing from several affected groups, including Catholic hospitals and charities.

"We didn't expect to get the support of the bishops or all Catholics," Lew said on "Fox News Sunday." He added on CBS's "Face the Nation" that the White House has "broad consensus, not universal consensus. This is an approach that's right."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a statement saying Obama's proposal involves "needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions".

The Catholic leaders urged Congress to overturn the rule and indicated they would also take up the issue in the courts.

The regulation at the center of the controversy requires religious-affiliated groups such as charities, hospitals and universities, but not churches themselves, to provide employees with coverage for birth control as other health insurance providers must do.

After an outcry from Catholic groups and Obama's Republican opponents, the president announced that religious employers would not be required to offer free birth control to workers and the onus would instead fall on insurers.

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