Friday, February 24, 2012

Senator Jim Webb's Response to Your Message.

February 24, 2012
Mr. Robert Bruce Alexander
615 Carys Chapel Rd.
Yorktown, VA 23693-2509
Dear Mr. Alexander:
Thank you for contacting my office regarding health insurance coverage of contraceptives.  I appreciate your taking the time to share your views with me.
First, I support strict adherence by all levels of government to the establishment clause of the First Amendment and the religious liberties it safeguards. These liberties, as well as the doctrine of separation of church and state, have allowed religion and religious institutions to flourish in our country.
With respect to contraceptives, on August 1, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued new guidelines governing not only contraceptives but other preventive health services for women.  Developed by the independent Institute of Medicine, the guidelines require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services such as well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening, and contraception without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible.  HHS proposed to exempt certain religious employers from the new contraceptive requirement.  I understand the deep-seated concerns expressed by millions of Americans that the definition of “religious employer” is too narrow. 
            On January 20, 2012, HHS announced that it would not broaden this exemption to allow other employers to refuse to cover contraceptives.  However, employers that do not currently offer their employees contraceptive coverage will be allowed one year to come into compliance with the new requirement. I would encourage you to visit!documentDetail;D=HHS-OS-2011-0023-0002 for more information on the HHS rule.
The new HHS guidelines have generated significant opposition from citizens and religious institutions who believe the guidelines unfairly restrict certain religious-based organizations.  In response to this concern, President Obama announced on February 3, 2012 that schools, hospitals and other institutions with religious affiliations would no longer be required to provide mandatory coverage of contraception in their health insurance policies. The cost of such coverage would be assumed by insurance carriers. This change in policy drew praise from many people and organizations – including the Catholic Health Association -- that had heretofore opposed the HHS policy.
I will continue to examine this issue closely and will be guided in large measure by the constitutional principles that I described at the outset of this letter. Please be assured that if the Senate considers legislation to modify or overturn the new rules, your views will be very helpful to me.  I hope that you will continue to share your thoughts with me in the future.
I would also invite you to visit my website at for regular updates about my activities and positions on issues that are important to Virginia and our nation.
Thank you once again for contacting my office.
Jim Webb
United States Senator

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