Contraceptives and Copays

| Thu Feb. 9, 2012 8:29 PM EST

I'm curious about something. Chris Matthews has been insisting for days now that the real issue in the Obama administration's new contraceptive rules is copays. That is, the problem isn't that the rules require Catholic hospitals and universities to provide healthcare coverage that includes contraceptives, it's that they're required to provide healthcare coverage that includes contraceptives with no copay.

Is there anything to this? I haven't heard a single critic of the new rules highlight this. Quite the contrary. Every one of them appears to believe that requiring contraceptive coverage from Catholic institutions is just flat-out wrong. Allowing copays wouldn't change this at all.

So where is this copay argument coming from? Does anyone know?

On a related topic, why was there (to my knowledge) no outburst last August, when these rules were first announced? The Catholic hierarchy certainly objected to them at the time, but aside from a few brief mentions it barely got any news coverage at all. My cynical view is that the only difference between then and now is that the Republican presidential primary is in high gear, but maybe there's more to this. Again, does anyone know?

UPDATE: In comments, Frank Parnell offers an answer to my second question:

According to NPR, the bishops were upset when the when the rules were announced in August, met with the White House, and (wink, wink, say no more) thought they received assurances from Obama that they would receive a broad exemption. Either someone badly misinterpreted the discussion, or someone is being less than truthful, or a bit of both.

And here's New York Times religion correspondent Laurie Goodstein a few days ago on NPR:

Well, I think part of the reason the bishops are so outraged is that they feel that they were given a signal by the administration and directly by President Obama. Archbishop Dolan met with President Obama. They talked about the work that the Catholic Church does, that the Catholic Church is not just parishes, but is also hospitals, is universities, charities and that all these institutions have a right to express their religious freedom and religious conscience.

So, Archbishop Dolan thought that he had gotten through to President Obama and thought he had a signal that this decision would go their way. So, when it didn't, they felt greatly betrayed by the president.

So there you go.