Dueling contraception coverage plans advance
A bill that would exempt employers from providing health care coverage for employees' contraception is making its way through the Arizona legislature, while President Obama's rule mandating that employees of religious-affiliated institutions receive free contraception coverage moved forward Friday.
The Arizona bill enables any employer - not just religious-affiliated ones - to site religious beliefs for excluding all FDA-approved forms of contraception coverage for its employees.
To receive insurance coverage for contraception, a women would have to show proof to her employer that the contraception is for a medical reason other than preventing pregnancy.
An employee can then ask her boss for reimbursement for the cost of contraception, though the Arizona bill states the employee could pay an additional "administrative fee" for processing the reimbursement claim.
Glendale Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko, co-sponsor of the bill, told the Arizona Star, "I believe that we live in America. We don't live in the Soviet Union. And so government shouldn't be telling employers, Catholic organizations or mom-and-pop employers to do something that's against their moral beliefs,"
A similar measure by Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and Marco Rubio of Florida died in the Senate earlier this month, but the measure is seeing greater success in Arizona, passing the state's House of Representatives and a key Senate committee and is awaiting a vote in the full Senate.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the Arizona bill goes further than providing a religious exception for birth control. In a petition to Senate President Steve Pierce, the liberal-leaning legal organization said this bill opens the door to discrimination and says an employee could be fired for using contraception.
"It is an abomination to put a woman in a position where she is forced to choose between her job and birth control," the petition reads.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said Friday she is unsure if she would sign the bill into law should it pass. According to the Associated Press, Brewer said it could make women "a little bit uncomfortable" to discuss their health care with their employers.
The battle over contraception erupted last month after President Obama announced that religious-affiliated institutions, including universities and hospitals, would have to provide free contraception coverage. He since modified the plan to say the insurance provider must include free contraception in health plans, shifting the cost from the employer to the insurance company.
On Friday, President Obama moved forward and took a concrete step to implement the new proposal. The administration offered ways to implement the rule and opened a 90-day public comment period to help formulate the proposal.
An administration official at the Department of Health and Human Services told CBS News' Political Hotsheet Friday that the milestone proves that "we are going to work over the next year to develop a policy to ensure those employees will receive coverage from insurance companies."
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