NEW YORK (AP) — In a split with U.S. bishops, a trade group for Catholic hospitals said Tuesday it can accept the Obama's administration latest compromise on birth control coverage by religious employers.
"We are pleased that our members now have an accommodation that will not require them to contract, provide, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage," said the Catholic Health Association.
Under President Barack Obama's health care law, most employers are required to cover birth control as a free preventive service for women workers. Churches and other houses of worship are fully exempt from the mandate. But religiously-affiliated hospitals, universities and social service groups are not.
The compromise, in a final regulation from the administration, attempts to create a buffer for these employers. It requires insurers or the health plan's outside administrator to pay for birth control coverage, and creates a mechanism for reimbursing them.
However, U.S. Roman Catholic bishops are suing to overturn the entire requirement, saying it trespasses on freedom of religion.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops, said the hospital association had notified the bishops' conference about its stand late Monday.
Walsh said the bishops "did not contribute to the (group's) analysis or the statement itself." Catholic dioceses, charities and universities are among the plaintiffs in more than 60 lawsuits challenging the rule. The cases are expected to reach the Supreme Court.
The regulation has become another contentious issue in the health care overhaul Obama signed into law in 2010.