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Second Catholic College Drops Health Care Over HHS Mandate

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 5/23/12 6:59 PM

National

A second Catholic college has dropped health care coverage for students because of the Obama HHS mandate requiring it to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs.

From its founding, Ave Maria University has required students to have health insurance and made an inexpensive group policy available to them. The University does not subsidize this plan and the entire cost is borne by those students purchasing the health insurance.

Most students are covered under the plans of their parents, but approximately 15% of Ave Maria’s students currently are covered by this policy. It specifically excludes benefits for elective abortion, sterilization, and other morally objectionable services because the University is Catholic and follows the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Ave Maria’s insurance carrier notified the University that, because of the provisions of Obamacare, which require an increase in the maximum benefit per injury or illness (from $50,000 to $100,000), students would not only face a 66% increase in their premiums (from $839 to $1,392) but also an increase in their deductible (from $100 to $250 per policy year).

“For any college or university like Ave Maria that requires students to have health insurance, this new cost will come as both a surprise and disappointment to the students affected. But for religiously-affiliated universities like Ave Maria, the damaging effect of the new Federal government regulations goes even further,” the college said in a statement.

The insurance carrier also notified Ave Maria that the HHS mandate required it to pay all claims for “preventive care services” regardless of the fact that they are specifically excluded in the Ave Maria group plan.

“So while the proposed premium increase is a financial burden to our students, the PPACA-required coverage of “preventive care services,” such as abortion-inducing drugs, is an affront to our core values,” it added. “It is a sad day when Ave Maria’s students are forced to choose between enrolling in a health insurance plan that is both costly and offers morally objectionable benefits, and having no coverage at all. The University has heard from a number of our elected student leaders and they, too, find the latest twist in the Federal mandate saga unacceptable.”

“Effective August 15, 2012, Ave Maria University will no longer require students to have health insurance. The University also will cease making group health insurance available to them,” the college continued. “Students who are required to have health insurance as a condition of competing in intercollegiate athletics will now make their own arrangements and no longer remit insurance premium payments to the University.”

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.

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Ave Maria indicated it would continue its lawsuit against the Obama administration over the mandate.

“Ave Maria University will continue to vigorously prosecute its lawsuit against the Federal government’s attack on the University’s religious liberty. On Friday the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed on the University’s behalf a motion in opposition to the Federal government’s motion to dismiss the Ave Maria University v. Sebelius lawsuit. The University remains confident that it will prevail in this litigation, and is delighted that the University of Notre Dame and others have joined us in taking this battle to the courts,” it said. “Ave Maria University will not offer or pay for health insurance plans that violate our deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“The Obama Administration’s promised “safe harbor” for faith-based institutions is turning out to be no harbor at all. The fact that insurance carriers appear to be buckling under to the heavy hand of the Federal government and covering benefits regardless of the objections of the insured, should trouble all Americans,” it added.

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.

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.”