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Editorial: Better solution on contraception coverage

President Barack Obama is joined by Health and

President Barack Obama is joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius while making a statement in the briefing room at the White House in Washington, DC. Photo Credit: Getty Images, 2012

One of the quandries presented by the Affordable Care Act is how to extend the contraceptive coverage it requires to people who are employed and insured by religious organizations that object to birth control.

Now the Obama administration has proposed a sensible solution that accommodates both religious freedom and public health. Spelled out in rules issued Friday, the new approach would guarantee that people who work for religiously affilated organizations get contraceptive coverage with no out-of-pocket costs, as required by law. But their employers would not be forced to contract, arrange or pay for it.

That should go a long way toward dousing the firestorm of opposition from the Catholic Church and other groups that have resisted the coverage mandate they consider at odds with their religious beliefs.

Churches have been exempt from the requirement since it was announced in 2011, but not religious affiliated organizations, such as hospitals, charities and colleges. When that policy met with a wail of opposition, President Barack Obama announced a concession. Such employers could shift responsibility for contraceptive coverage to their insurance carriers.

That was a reasonable accommodation, but it left some tricky details unresolved, chief among them how coverage would work when the employer was self-insured and so had no carrier.

Under the new rules, the outside administrator for a religiously affilated employer's self-insurance plan would be tapped to arrange individual contraceptive coverage for workers though policies with private insurers. To cover the cost, the government would adjust the fees those insurers pay to participate in the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges.

That arrangement won't placate everyone. Companies that have no religious affiliation, but do have owners who object to contraceptives, will still have to provide the coverage.

But it's a workable solution to a sensitive problem that will enable almost everyone to get what they want.