While fielding questions from the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health regarding President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius alleged that a reduction in U.S. pregnancies will offset the costs for employers and insurers to comply with a new mandate requiring all healthcare plans to cover sterilizations, contraception, and abortifacient drugs. "The reduction in the number of pregnancies compensates for the cost of contraception," Sebelius stated, and the estimated cost will go "down not up."
Catholic bishops, social conservatives, and Republican lawmakers have called for the mandate to be revoked so that no insurer, employer, or individual is forced to violate his or her own moral and religious values. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) had proposed the "conscience" amendment, later called the "Blunt Amendment," that would have rolled back the HHS mandate, but it was quashed in the Senate on Thursday.
Sebelius claims that religious organizations will not bear the costs of the healthcare regulation. "The rule which we intend to promulgate in the near future around implementation will require insurance companies, not a religious employer, but the insurance company to provide coverage for contraceptives," the HHS Secretary assured.
However, during the hearing, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) charged that contraception distributed to employees at religious institutions under the HHS mandate would not be free. "Who pays for it? There’s no such thing as a free service," he contended.
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Photo of Kathleen Sebelius: AP Images