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Second Catholic College May Drop Health Care Over Obamacare Mandate

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 5/17/12 10:36 AM

National

A second Catholic college is looking at dropping its health care package for students in the wake of the mandate the Obama administration put in place that requires religious and pro-life groups to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.

Ave Maria University President James Towey told FoxNews, “We’re studying it right now. My own sense is, I don’t see … how it makes sense for us to stay in this.”

University officials plan to meet Monday to discuss their insurance options and potentially make a decision.

Towey said the school’s insurance provider told them that students would be looking at a premium increase ranging from 65 to 82 percent in the coming year if no changes are made.

“At a minimum, we’ve got to communicate to students on why they’re going to see a huge spike in insurance,” Towey said. He added, though, “we just might get out of this business.”

The expected premium increases apparently stem from a requirement in the health care law to restrict annual limits on insurance policies. The change for student plans is expected to be phased in, but the first stage will still require coverage limits to be at least $100,000 – a number that would rise sharply from there in the coming years. The reason this change could affect colleges dramatically is that some schools don’t exactly offer comprehensive insurance coverage. So new coverage requirements — as seen with Franciscan and now Ave Maria — can cause a big jump in premiums.

Towey noted that a lot of students are covered by their parents’ plans, but not all. “Parents who don’t have a health plan — then these students are out there,” he said.

Franciscan University was the first casualty of the new Obama HHS mandate. Although President Barack Obama declared “If you like your health care coverage you can keep it,” when it came to passing Obamacare, the Catholic college in Ohio has determined it will no longer offer a student health insurance plan.

“The Obama Administration has mandated that all health insurance plans must cover “women’s health services” including contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing medications as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA),” the university says in a new post on its website. “Up to this time, Franciscan University has specifically excluded these services and products from its student health insurance policy, and we will not participate in a plan that requires us to violate the consistent teachings of the Catholic Church on the sacredness of human life.”

“Additionally, the PPACA increased the mandated maximum coverage amount for student policies to $100,000 for the 2012-13 school year, which would effectively double your premium cost for the policy in fall 2012, with the expectation of further increases in the future,” FUS continues.

“Due to these changes in regulation by the federal government, beginning with the 2012-13 school year, the University 1) will no longer require that all full-time undergraduate students carry health insurance, 2) will no longer offer a student health insurance plan, and 3) will no longer bill those not covered under a parent/guardian plan or personal plan for student health insurance,” the college said.

Franciscan University says the current student health insurance plan will expire on August 15.

Writing at CatholicVote, Tom Crowe, an employee at Franciscan University, blamed the mandate for Franciscan’s decision.

“Employers, until Obamacare was passed, were not compelled to offer health insurance but they did do because it is expected and good for business—good luck getting top-notch employees if health insurance coverage is not among the benefits. Under Obamacare employers can both assure that employees have health insurance coverage by dumping them onto the exchanges, and can save lots of money and headache. Win-win,” he writes. “But now there is another device by which Obamacare violates the “if you like it you can keep it” pledge: the HHS Mandate.”

“See, part of reason I like my current health insurance plan offered by my employer, Franciscan University of Steubenville, is that it does not waste money on things I will never use because they are morally repugnant to me, like contraceptives, sterilization, and abortofacients. The HHS mandate purports to force me into a plan that I do not want rather than the plan I’ve been very happy with. But that’s a still-pending issue because of the one-year extension given (not that we will comply even after a year, of course),” he continues.

Crowe says the Obama mandate has left students “high and dry” and some students now may not have health insurance as a result.

Catholic colleges and universities warned about the mandatebefore the Obama administration put it into effect. It was one of a dozen Catholic colleges standing together against an Obama administration proposal to approve a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine suggesting that it force insurance companies to pay for birth control and drugs that can cause abortions under the Obamacare government-run health care program.

The IOM recommendation, opposed by pro-life groups, called for the Obama administration to require insurance programs to include birth control — such as the morning after pill or the ella drug that causes an abortion days after conception — in the section of drugs and services insurance plans must cover under “preventative care.” The companies will likely pass the added costs on to consumers, requiring them to pay for birth control and, in some instances, drug-induced abortions of unborn children in their earliest days.

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Eighteen Catholic colleges and universities joined with The Cardinal Newman Society in an appeal to the Obama administration to exempt all religious objectors from a mandate requiring health insurance plans to cover sterilization and contraceptives, including some that cause abortion.

The appeal was organized by The Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education, a division of The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), and authored by attorneys Kevin Theriot and Matthew Bowman of the Alliance Defense Fund.

The comment on behalf of Catholic colleges describes the HHS exemption for religious employers as “potentially so narrow as to be not only nearly inconsequential but insulting to religious entities, in particular to Catholic Colleges and Universities.”

“No federal rule has defined being ‘religious’ as narrowly and discriminatorily as the Mandate appears to do, and no regulation has ever so directly proposed to violate plain statutory and constitutional religious freedoms,” the letter argued.  Whether considering religious institutions, other employers or individuals, “federal law simply prohibits the federal government from violating the religious and moral beliefs of any of these stakeholders.”

“For this reason we urge HHS (and the Departments of Labor and of the Treasury that jointly issued the interim final rule) to exempt all stakeholders with a religious or moral objection to ‘contraceptives’ (including abortifacients as well as non-abortifacient mechanisms of action), sterilization, and related education and counseling, from having to provide, offer, pay for or in any way participate in health insurance that includes such coverage.  The right to religious freedom requires no less.”