(photo: Ðariusz/flickr)

The Obama administration continues its caving to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, and seeks input on ways in which to continue its spelunking in the future. From the National Catholic Reporter:

Coming after a month of continued opposition from the U.S. bishops to the mandate, which was first revised in early February to exempt certain religious organizations, today’s announced changes from the Department of Health and Human Services make a number of concessions, including allowing religious organizations that self-insure to be made exempt.

Also raised is the possibility that the definition given for religious employers in the original mandate could be changed.

HHS did not announce final rules, but put forward a 32 page proposal for comment [pdf] on religious organizations and their obligation (or lack thereof) to provide coverage for “certain preventive services.”

That “self insurance” loophole is a huge exemption. Look for any Roman Catholic institutions that aren’t self-insured already to set themselves up that way in short order.

If you wish to take HHS up on their offer to listen to comments on this proposal, page 3 of the pdf has four ways to submit your thoughts. The first is electronically, via www.regulations.gov. They say to “follow the instructions under the ‘More Search Options’ tab.” Unfortunately, regulations.gov is down for maintenance today. (You’ll probably need the file code: CMS-9968-ANPRM.)

But wait! There’s more from HHS on contraception. Again from NCR:

News of the changes also came as a separate ruling on student health insurance coverage was announced by the Department of Health and Human Services this afternoon. Under that ruling, health care plans for students would be treated like those of employees of colleges and universities — meaning the colleges will have to provide contraceptive services to students without co-pay.

Religiously affiliated colleges and universities, however, would be shielded from this ruling, according to a statement from the HHS.

Sandra Fluke and her classmates at Georgetown — a Roman Catholic institution — continue to be out of luck, it seems. Unlike the first announcement, this is a “final rule” [pdf] and not a proposal.

But they can look on the bright side. At least HHS didn’t call them sluts when they said “pay for your own contraceptives!”