Health reform implementation

Boehner rips Obama birth-control mandate as unconstitutional

House Speaker John Boehner blasted new White House rules requiring some religious organizations to provide insurance coverage for birth control as unconstitutional.

“I think this mandate violates our Constitution,” Boehner said at a news conference Thursday. “I think it violates the rights of these religious organizations, and I would hope the administration would back up and take another look.”

{mosads}Using authority under the healthcare reform law, the Health and Human Services Department said last month that insurance policies must cover contraception without charging a copay. It offered an exemption to employers whose primary mission is to promote religion, such as

Critics say the administration’s policy does not have a wide enough exemption for religious organizations that oppose contraception. Although churches are exempt from the mandate, institutions like Catholic universities and hospitals will still have to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees.

A senior administration official defended the policy, saying it strikes an appropriate balance between religious beliefs and access to important healthcare services.

“It’s very unlikely that women who want and believe in contraception will be working at those institutions,” the administration official told reporters.

Organizations with a broader aim, like Catholic universities, will have to comply with the mandate. It also will apply to policies that cover students at religious universities. Student plans are generally sold as individual policies, without a contribution from the school, and the contraception mandate applies in the individual market, the official said.

“We made a decision after very careful consideration and believe it strikes the appropriate balance,” the official said when asked whether the White House would heed Boehner’s request and review its policy.

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