By SR. CAROL KEEHAN, DC
CHA president and chief executive officer
Recently, the definition of required preventive services for women to be included in every health plan was released. Some of this was exceptionally good news. Screening tests and checkups now have to be allowed without a co-pay. For women who have limited financial resources, they can now access these services without any barrier.
One area that was included as well was contraceptive coverage. The bishops have been clear that the Catholic Church does not view this as an appropriate inclusion. For Catholic health providers, it would mandate that contraception and sterilization be included in the health plans we offer our employees.
There was a religious exemption included, but it is so narrow that it provides no conscience protection for us or other faith-based groups such as Catholic universities, schools and Catholic Charities agencies. CHA has been in conversation with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on this issue. We also have presented our concerns to the appropriate public officials.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is accepting comments on the religious exemption section through Sept. 30. CHA is preparing comments for submission. We will be sharing our comments with members in time for them to submit their own comments.
Conscience protection is an important issue that has a long history in our country. It has allowed many religious individuals and groups to follow their conscience and be contributing citizens. This has been especially true in health care. For the good of our country and our ministries, we must preserve it.
Copyright © 2011 by the Catholic Health Association
of the United States
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