At Iowa State University earlier today, Vice President Biden said that the White House “screwed up” the conscience exemption for contraception in its first attempt.
“The conscience clause is being honored in its literal sense,” the vice president told students. “What is happening now is that we have been able to provide what was hard to set up — it got screwed up in the first iteration – is that any hospital, no matter where it is, no matter who runs it, profit or non-profit, religious-based or otherwise, has to provide insurance to their employees like everybody else does in the country. Or pay a penalty for not providing insurance coverage – that comes out of the Affordable Heath Care Act.”
As ABC News reported at the time, for months, Biden and then-White House chief of staff Bill Daley argued internally against the initial rule, which required almost all employers – including religious charities, schools, and hospitals, but excluding houses of worship – to provide health insurance to female employees that fully covered contraception. Sources told ABC News that Biden and Daley didn’t think the rule was right on either the policy or the politics, and that Joshua Dubois, head of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, also expressed concern.
Ultimately, as ABC News was first to report, the rule was changed – what the White House called an “accommodation” – which requires the insurers to offer the coverage separately.