Lew: Obama's latest stance on birth-control mandate final, puts issue to rest

President Obama's new birth-control stance should put to rest the controversy over employer-sponsored contraception coverage, a top administration official said Sunday.

White House Chief of Staff Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewBig tech lobbying groups push Treasury to speak out on EU tax proposal Overnight Finance: Hatch announces retirement from Senate | What you can expect from new tax code | Five ways finance laws could change in 2018 | Peter Thiel bets big on bitcoin Ex-Obama Treasury secretary: Tax cuts 'leaving us broke' MORE said Obama's new plan, unveiled Friday, effectively addresses "the core issue" of simultaneously ensuring religious freedom and women's access to healthcare.

"It does not force an institution that has religious principle to offer or pay for benefits that they find objectionable, but it guarantees a women's right to access. We think that's the right solution," Lew said on Fox News Sunday.

"Hopefully now this will set the issue to rest."

Asked if the policy is final, Lew was terse.

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"Our policy is clear," he said. "We have set out our policy."

Obama stirred a hornet's nest this month when he announced new rules requiring all insurance plans – even those offered by Catholic hospitals, universities and charities – to cover birth control regardless of their religious convictions.

Faced with an outcry from the Catholic Church, Republicans and even some Democrats, Obama on Friday tweaked the plan so that female employees retain free access to contraceptives, but the cost is covered by insurance companies rather than faith-based employers who object.

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Lew said the change makes sense economically as well, because insurers will pay less for contraception than they would for a pregnancy. 

"It actually does not cost the insurance company money to do it," Lew said.

The remarks will likely do little to appease Republicans, who are eying legislation to repeal Obama's birth-control mandate.

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