Sen. Toomey Sends Letter To HHS Secretary Requesting Religious Exemption On Health Care Regulation
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing his concern with a new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act regulation that forces members of religious institutions to violate their deeply-held religious beliefs or potentially pay a heavy financial penalty.
The rule requires all group and individual health plans to provide coverage for prescription contraceptives and female sterilization, exempting only those religious employers who primarily serve and employ individuals who share their religious tenets. This narrow exemption would prove impossible for Catholic hospitals, universities, colleges, nursing homes and charities given the diverse population that they serve and their workforce.
"I am extremely concerned about this new regulation that would force religious employers to violate their religious beliefs in order to keep their doors open," Sen. Toomey said. "My staff has spoken with Bishop David Zubik of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and has reached out to representatives from other religious institutions in Pennsylvania. There are serious concerns that providers of important communal services like Catholic Charities and Catholic hospitals and schools would be forced to close their doors if this regulation remains on the books. I intend to do everything I can to obtain a meaningful exemption for religious institutions."
A copy of Sen. Toomey's letter is below:
September 23, 2011
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
Dear Secretary Sebelius,
I am writing to express my serious concern with an interim final rule (76 Fed. Reg. 46621) published by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on August 3, 2011. The rule, promulgated in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), requires all non-grandfathered group and individual health plans to provide coverage for prescription contraceptives and female sterilization.
While the rule articulates a narrow exemption for religious employers, some criteria - for instance, requiring that religious employers both primarily serve and employ individuals who share their religious tenets - would prove impossible for Catholic hospitals, universities, colleges, nursing homes and charities given the diverse populations that they serve and employ.
This regulation requires that a Catholic institution either violate its fundamental beliefs by providing coverage that includes contraception and sterilization or, per the new requirements of PPACA, potentially pay a heavy financial penalty for failing to provide what PPACA deems adequate health coverage to their employees. The myriad of existing regulations generated by PPACA and other federal laws already impair the work of Catholic institutions across Pennsylvania. If this additional federal regulation is imposed as promulgated, it may prompt some Catholic institutions to close their doors, adversely impacting the tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians these entities serve. The aggressive nature of this regulation threatens religious freedom and is unacceptable.
I respectfully ask that HHS redraft the religious exemption to ensure the protection of religious liberty, freedom of conscience, and important public services that Catholic institutions provide. Thank you for your consideration.
United States Senator