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Locking the door

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Group health benefits -- most of us have them, relatively few understand their details. Like cars and computers, most consumers aren't really interested in knowing what goes into making them or how they function as long as they "work" when you need them, and aren't a bother when you don't.

Perhaps that is why there has been so much confusion regarding the nuances of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's decision to require all health care plans in the country to fully cover contraceptives, sterilizations and drugs such as ella, which can cause early abortions. Churches that have a moral objection to these services, such as the Catholic Church, can be exempted from the requirement. However, the health plans of most Church-affiliated organizations, such as Catholic hospitals, universities and charities, will still be forced to cover these morally objectionable services.

Since it was announced last year, the US bishops have been pushing for expansion of the conscience protection under the regulation. They were disappointed when on Jan. 20 the Obama administration announced that conscience protections would not be expanded, but instead nonprofit organization would have an additional year to comply with the mandate. They were further disappointed when on Feb. 10 the president personally announced what he called "a compromise" which would require insurance companies to pay for the objectionable services but not employers with a religious objection.

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