Jacob Sullum
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A month ago, the Obama administration said religious organizations will have to pay for health insurance policies that cover contraception and sterilization, even if they consider those practices immoral.

Two weeks ago, responding to widespread complaints that its edict violated freedom of conscience, the administration unveiled a "new policy," under which religious organizations will have to pay for health insurance policies that cover contraception and sterilization, even if they consider those practices immoral.

And people are still complaining. Can you believe it? Last week, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform heard from a lineup of Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, evangelical and Jewish leaders who noted that President Obama's supposed compromise, which the White House claims "fully accommodates important concerns raised by religious groups," is "no accommodation at all," as Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Yeshiva University put it.

Under the new rule, Obama explained, "if a woman's employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company -- not the hospital, not the charity -- will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles." He insisted that "religious organizations won't have to pay for these services."

But they will have to pay for the medical coverage, the price of which will reflect the cost of paying for contraception and sterilization.

"Ultimately," Harvard economist Greg Mankiw noted on his blog the day after Obama's announcement, "all insurance costs are passed on to the purchaser, so I cannot see how policy B is different in any way from policy A, other than using slightly different words to describe it."

News outlets nevertheless reported the administration's spin as fact. Reuters claimed "the revised approach puts the burden on insurance companies, ordering them to provide workers at religious-affiliated institutions with free family planning if they request it, without involving their employer at all." The New York Times called the new approach a "concession," saying it "shifts the cost to insurers."

And what prevents insurers from shifting it back? The White House argues that there will be no need, because providing 100 percent coverage for contraception and sterilization saves insurers money by preventing expensive pregnancies and births.

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Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
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