White House Defends Compromise on Birth Control
Obama announces compromise on contraception insurance coverage for women. (KTLA-TV)
"This was a challenge to reconcile two important principles, and the president found a way to reconcile those," Lew said on CNN's "State of the Union." "There are others who don't have the same objective, and they have to speak for themselves."
Under the new proposal, institutions with religious affiliations, such as hospitals and universities, will not be required to include contraception in their health insurance plans. Instead, insurers will now be forced to directly offer coverage at no cost to women employed by the institutions.
President Barack Obama announced the compromise on Friday, following a firestorm of criticism over the original rule put forward by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The policy was met with opposition from religious circles--particularly Catholics, whose teaching bans contraception--as well as fierce resistance from some members of Congress and Republican presidential candidates.
While churches would have been exempt from the rule, religious institutions would have been forced to cover contraception beginning next year.
Pressed on whether insurance companies will actually comply with the new standards and offer free contraception provisions, Lew said the rule will hardly make a dent in insurers' pockets
"As somebody who has done budgets for a lot of years, usually when people say to me that something doesn't cost a lot of money, I ask them how could that be? This is the exception to the rule," Lew told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.
He went on to explain that when pricing two insurance plans--one with contraception, one without--the plan without contraception costs more than the one with it, as "the total cost of care for a person is higher" without the form of birth control.
"So this will not cost the insurance companies money. It will not put religious institutions in a place where they have to violate their principles," he said. "I actually think there won't be as much resistance to this from insurance companies as people might think."
The plan has received mixed reviews among Catholics. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced the new proposal on Friday, saying it "continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions." However, other Catholic groups called the Obama compromise an acceptable solution.
Lew argued the policy does not put such religious organizations in a position of paying for or facilitating a provision that goes against their faith.
"We've put out a plan that reflects where the president intended to go," Lew said.
Asked if there was room for compromise moving forward, Lew insisted the White House was satisfied with the recent change.
"This is our plan," he said.