by Steven Ertelt
November 8, 2004
Peoria, IL (LifeNews.com) — A new pro-life health care insurance plan allowed by the Bush administration for federal employees that doesn’t pay for abortions is now accepting new clients. Enrollment opened Monday for a group of Illinois employees who can opt into the new plan as it begins a trial run.
Announced in September, the new plan is run by a Catholic insurer, OSF Health, and will not pay for abortions, contraception, artificial insemination or sterilizations. It is part of a trial program sponsored by the $1 billion initiative to encourage faith-based groups to participate in social welfare programs.
Pro-life groups support the idea, saying it gives pro-life federal workers an alternative.
"I see it as allowing the individual government employee to exercise their moral judgment and to follow their moral conscience in terms of how they want their benefit dollars spent,” Philip Karst, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Health Association, told the Chicago Tribune.
OSF Health, based in Peoria, will offer health plans to 4,000 eligible workers in 27 counties in central and northern Illinois. The number of people qualified to participate in the plan will expand after this trial run.
The plan is a health care savings account combined with a high-deductible coverage.
However, opponents attacked the plan as another method of denying insurance coverage for abortions.
"It’s inappropriate for federal dollars to subsidize a plan that is blatantly designed to foster one religious point of view,” Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told the Associated Press. "This is just another part of the Bush administration’s attacks on access to family planning."
The 4.2 million federal employees entitled to health insurance plans normally have 249 plans available to them.
Under federal law, federal health insurance plans are prohibited from paying for most abortions, but can pay for those for women who have been victims of rape or incest. Federal law also mandates that insurance companies providing health care for federal employees pay for contraceptions.
Abby Block, a senior official in the Office of Personnel Management, which manages the plan, told the New York Times that it is the first for federal employees that "has tailored its benefits in line with a set of tenets that are supported by the Catholic Church."
That the faith-based initiative plan opens the door for federal workers to choose private plans that conform fully to their pro-life views is good news to Nancy Valko, a spokeswoman for Nurses for Life.
"The benefits from a plan like this are economic as well as spiritually satisfying," Valko explained. "If successful, such plans can change the face of health care for the better and not just for federal workers."
Valko said that options such as this are important as more states are beginning to require health insurers — including Catholic health plans — to cover abortions and other objectionable procedures.
As more abortions are covered, Valko says "health insurance premiums will naturally have to rise."
Related web sites:
OSF Health Care – https://www.osfhealthcare.org