Obama administration softens on employer-paid birth control requirement

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The Obama administration has announced an “accommodation” to its controversial law requiring all employer insurance plans to offer free contraceptive services in their health plans.

Catholic and other houses of worship were exempt from the requirement, but universities, hospitals and about 500 Catholic nursing homes would have been required to comply with the law, though they were given an extra year to meet the requirement.

The accommodation announced Thursday does not require faith-based organizations to pay for contraceptive services. Instead, the employer's insurer must reach out directly to the employees who want such services and offer contraceptive care free of charge, the administration says.

Groups on both sides of the issue, including Planned Parenthood and the Catholic Health Organization, have both issued statements of support for the modified law.

It is unclear how many Catholic health facilities nationwide currently offer contraceptive services in their plans. According to January 2012 statistics from the Catholic Health Association of the United States, there are approximately 497 Catholic long-term care facilities.
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