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May 16th, 2012
04:25 PM ET

College drops health care plan over religious objections to new law

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – A Catholic college in Ohio has apparently become the nation’s first to drop its health care plan because it opposes parts of the federal health care law signed by President Barack Obama.

The Franciscan University of Steubenville posted on its website last week that it is discontinuing its health care 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,” the university says.

“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,” the statement says.

The coverage includes emergency contraceptives such as Plan B, which can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, but not drugs like RU-486, which can end an early pregnancy.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

The school is also dropping its health insurance plan for students because the new health care law requires employers to provide more robust coverage, making it more expensive, said Tom Sofio, a spokesman for the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

“It was our own moral reasons and then the rising cost of health care because of the act,” Sofio said, explaining the university’s decision.

Sofio said school officials are not aware of another college that has dropped its health insurance plan out of disagreements with the federal health care law.

A spokeswoman for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing three religious schools that are challenging the health care law, said that she was also unaware of another college that had taken such action.

A spokeswoman with the Health and Human Services Department, charged with implementing the new health care law, said Wednesday that the department had no comment on the school’s decision and that it does not keep track of changes to college health insurance plans.

The Obama administration faced a firestorm of controversy from many religious groups this year over a proposed rule that would require employers to provide no-cost contraception coverage to their employees.

In what it called a compromise, the White House revised the rule to require health insurance companies – not employers – to provide contraception coverage, mollifying some Catholic critics. Other Catholic groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are not satisfied by the revised rule.

The Roman Catholic Church opposes the use of contraception.

“We’re paying the health insurance company, and if they provide abortion-causing drugs, that’s against our religious beliefs,” Sofio said Wednesday.

About 200 of the Franciscan University of Steubenville's 2,500 students rely on the university health care plan, which costs about $50 a month, Sofio said. He said the school is retaining its health care plan for employees because it is hopeful that legal challenges to the health care law will prevent much of it from taking effect.

Sofio said that the school sent letters about its decision to students and parents in April and that it has received overwhelming support from both constituencies. Ninety-five percent of students at the university are Catholic, he said.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Politics

soundoff (1,561 Responses)
  1. olepi

    So, it is obviously not a moral issue for them, since they are keeping the insurance for themselves. But, they make the "moral" noises, why?

    May 17, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  2. jerryab

    What a joke !! A college decides to "stop sellilng their own brand of health insurance" and it is a big story? WHY? They still REQUIRE students to HAVE health insurance (through their parents, perhaps?)–so what is the big deal? More importantly, the students CAN be covered under their parents' healthcare insurance BECAUSE of the 2010 healthcare reform. So, the only "story" here is the fact the school will not get the healthcare insurance revenue–the insurance companies will.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • momoya

      Not all students can piggy back on mommy and daddy's insurance.. And besides, that doesn't change the fact that the college acted out of spite like some little four year old brat..

      May 17, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  3. k

    Drop that school like a hot potato. Who says u have t go there. Plenty of other options in Ohio that would cover health insurance.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  4. Malcolmscott

    If this law was not a manndate then every time a new CEO came into a company they would be changing the health coverage offered based on what they believed. Different religions have different things they are against. We shouldn't have to worry about what the new guy belives to know what we will be offered next. If we do we allow anyone to say they are against something just to save money and we would have no way to prove they are lying. You can't question faith.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  5. HS

    They drop it for the students for "moral" reasons but keep the coverage in place for the "employees"? Un this is called hypocrisy. The reason is not moral rather $. God you have to love the Catholic Church...protect a child r ap ist and save some $ on the side. PATHETIC you Catholics are that is for sure.....I have ZERO respect for any of you worthless humans.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Chronically Missing the Point

      You misspelled rap artist! I'm assuming. Why would the catholic church be involved in rap artists, especially so young!!?!?!?!?!

      May 17, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • WOW

      WOW!!! What a blanket statement! I'm sure you believe ALL Muslims are evil, ALL Republicans are dumb, ALL Democrats are "forward-thinking" heroes, and ALL women are oppressed against...

      Glad I don't know someone so arrogant in real life... read other's positions/opinions and make a educated decision for once, instead of being fed information from the media! I'll definitely be praying for you.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  6. ThereisNoGod

    Religious extremism....Islamic, Christian, Judaism....no matter what the flavor, nothing good comes from it!! Persecution, intolerance,.....

    May 17, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Don't Lie

      Ignoramus.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  7. B

    Let's just call a spade a spade. This tiny NOWHERE college is using this law as an excuse to get rid of their health care that undoubtedly costs them HUGE dollars every year. They're trying to cut budgets and are disgustingly blaming the government. Sick.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • lunchbreaker

      I think that because they they kept it for employees.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • momoya

      And they CHOOSE to make it about spite instead of economic concerns or whatever.. Stupid, bratty catholics!

      May 17, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  8. AaaaCccc

    If we would eliminate employers as the purchasers of group coverage, then insurers would have to market to the consumer directly. Eliminates forced choices like this. No one will buy it if they object morally, if it doesn't cover enough, too much red tape, or too expensive. Why don't we really let free market work instead of the pseudo Capitalist plan by Republicans and Demicrats to support big insurance industry? Get rid of the employer mandate.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Squeezebox

      Individuals are no better at picking insurance companies than they are at picking doctors or hospitals. I'm no dummy and I've tried comparing insurance plans, but they're way too complicated for a non-medical professional to understand. Companies can at least hire consultants who know what they're doing to compare and recommend the plans.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • AaaaCccc

      Employers buy what is cheapest for their company. Not what is best. Chronically Sick people soon get fired. So there is no incentive to invest in long term health.
      If a person picks a bad plan, for 1 year they are stuck with getting the run around, referrals, complicated plans, lack of coverage. Then they switch. Plans would get simpler if their customer was us. It's deliberately complicated. Also eliminates the high premiums for self employed people.
      If anything, a voucher system to have the employer subsidize cost.

      Currently the employer group model rewards insurance companies and subsidizes those that provide the minimum level of mandatory care. Then at 65, it becomes the governments responsibility to take over health care.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  9. Lisa

    Sounds more like the "beached white male" trying to flex whats left of their muscle. Way to show our future how much we care. Not a caring move on the part of those who worship God; unfortunately its a very Catholic move. Hasnt the Catholic religion alienated itself enough. Can't keep churches open due to lack of young priest; way to bust your numbers boys, wage an assault on those young people who are charged with our future. Brilliant!

    May 17, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  10. JeramieH

    We can't afford it... Uh, I mean, we object to it.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  11. Ed

    If contrceptives are for a medical condition they are indeed covered as necessary for a women's health even by the Catholic Church. As to having health plans, churchs, businesses or every individual being forced to pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing medications for those that choose to spread their legs for a good time – that they should pay for on their own good time or go to a free clinic sponsored by some liberal group. Everyone is free to do what they wish – but don't force everyone else vis government dictate to pay for it.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • momoya

      Ed, this isn't about what an organization can and can't do, it's about an organization acting like a 4 year old taking his ball and going home.. It's about decisions made out of spite.. When a college does something this childish and is proud of it, they should be discredited.. Yes, the college had the right to act as they did; they just proved themselves to be childish punk dovchebags.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      No they are not. You do not have your facts right. The church see's it one way and one way only. It is not their place to get involved in the personal lives of anyone. They need to clean up their group of pedophiles before becoming intrusive on other peoples rights. (www.bishop-accountability.org lists numerous members of the catholic cult of pedophiles, the years of the crime and whether or not they have been held accountable)

      May 17, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      momoya: that was not directed at you but at Ed.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • sam

      The spreading-their-legs-for-a-good-time comment tells us plenty about your issues with women, Ed. We're sorry you're not getting any.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Ed

      The whole purpose of religion is to get into the personal lives of people and to stand up for their basic beliefs against everyone and everything. I know for a liberal or atheist the concept of morality, life begins at conseption, and right/wrong doesn't exist so you will never understand. But many do and many are concerned about any government directly or indirectly putting mandates that force a reglious affliated organization or any other organization to pay for what is directly against their beliefs. If you don't agree with these religious organization – don't work for them or go to their schools. They have beliefs and have a right to defend them as do you – without the government in the middle of it.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • pourter

      Yeah! And to get them women to stop spreading their legs! And if they do, they're not allowed to protect themselves from sti's or pregnancies from....um, well, whoever they're spreading their legs for, but thats not the point, the point is their spreading their legs. So, they have to stop forcing poor catholic girls to buy contraceptives and charging them back to their health care programs. Every sperm is sacred!!

      May 17, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • JeramieH

      > ... atheist the concept of morality ... doesn't exist so you

      Never known an atheist then, eh?

      May 17, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • pheeel

      By your logic I should not have to pay a dime for our overzealous military since I object to what it does. I should also not have to pay for subsidies for ranchers or farmers since I think these are wrong. I should not have to pay for a whole lot of things. But I do anyhow, without complaining, because this is what it means to be part of a society. We all take part in the whole thing or it will not work. You don't get to pick and choose based on some fairy tale religion.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  12. Yadaydayda

    That is crazy! Just because the healthcare plan covers those things doesn't mean that those who practice Catholicism have to actually USE it.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Justin

      NO...... But it makes them PAY for it....

      May 17, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Yadaydayda

      I see your point. But not having it will also make them pay for it, just not directly. If they get cancer and need treatment, they will definitely be paying for it. Either way, the money goes right back to the pockets of the insurers.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      No Justin, everyone pays a fee for the coverage-it's called equality and everyone has the god damn right to do with their body as they wish to. There are numerous benefits to the use of the pill other than preventing pregnancy...including but not limited to, being pro-active in helping to regulate a woman's menstruation cycle; prevention of breast cancer; prevention of cystic ovaries. This is not the churches business, it is a personal issue between a woman and her Doctor. No-one is forcing the women use contraception.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  13. Justin

    This story has the typical CNN liberal bias and mis-representation of the truth, and it seems most of the readers who comment don't believe in religious freedom. This insurance was a voluntary perk for kids who may not be covered under their parents policies. It was not required. The cost because of Obamacare is going to double the following year and nearly triple the next year. The school was going to have tough time selling an expensive policy that violates the students morals.

    Funny how libs think freedom of choice is okay only for themselves, not for babies or anyone with religious beliefs...

    May 17, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • momoya

      Justin, nobody is saying that the college doesn't have that right.. Of course they do.. The 4 year old who quits playing the game and takes his ball and goes home has the right to do it; it just shows him for what he really is–a spoiled brat.. Same thing here.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Justin

      momoya,......

      How bout' we make you PAY for something that violates your beliefs....

      May 17, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • dogs rule

      Believe me, not all students who go there share those "morals". And FYI: unborn babies don't have rights. They're not people yet. It's people like you who give religious fanaticism its power!

      May 17, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • hippie power 69

      and this from the catholic church that protects the pedophiles and not the children they abuse. this from the catholic church that has no regard for women or their private health matters. shame on you. this from MEN who have never had to feed or clothe or provide for children or a family. how hypocritical of you.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • B

      Then don't read it. idiot.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      Justin,

      The church is acting as a business when it comes to hospitals, colleges, ect. What happens when the Jahovah's Witnesse's decide that thay will not cover blood transfusions for non-JW's employed by them?

      May 17, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • HS

      Justin

      momoya,......

      How bout' we make you PAY for something that violates your beliefs....

      ----------------

      The insurance is voluntary. And yes you are being a spoiled brat. Will the Catholics stop paying taxes because they disagree with a few things our government does? Where does you whining stop? If only the Catholics and its outdated church showed such zeal against the child ra p ists they protect. Sorry but tiyr church and priests lack integrity,

      May 17, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • pourter

      Not a voluntary Perk at all. Forced upon kids that didn't have insurance already. Kind of like Obama care. But I guess its ok for a school to force you to have your health covered, as long as its not big government. And as long as they get to decide what parts of your health are ok to cover.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • momoya

      @Justin

      I already pay taxes.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • John in WNY

      Justin,

      Your exactly right, those on the left feel you should have the freedom to make only the choice they decide on. Just like how these same "open minded" free speech supporters will do anything to stop any speech they disagree with.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Justin 2

      Momoya and I are paying for things which violate our conscience. War in Iraq wasn't my choice, but my taxes paid for it.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • GDawg

      Justin, in your haste to mischaracterize the article, you misread it. It says the college dropped its health plan. It goes on to say that it ALSO dropped a plan (voluntary) for students. The fact is that employers provide health plans for employees as a benefit. Now, those employees will have lost a benefit and have to pay substantially more in some other healthcare market, or perhaps go uncovered. No doubt this is all the result of a bunch of celibate or pseudo-celibate guys playing god with women.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Brian

      Yeah, what he said. I'm using that logic to refuse to pay federal taxes, because they use part of those funds for war in the middle east, which I'm MORALLY opposed to in a big way. A BIG way.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • pourter

      Disagreeing with you is not stoping your speech. Making reasonable and intelligent arguements is not liberal bias forcing you to make choices. If you want to adhere to antiquated religious dogma, please hold on with dear life. Not on single liberal is going to force some poor Catholic couple to buy contraceptives and get them reimbursed on their health care plan. None of them will be forced to do anything requiring an abortion in the near future. You have the freedom to remain chaste should you feel thats important to you.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • sam

      Justin enjoys his misplaced outrage too much to be bothered with silly things like common sense.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • What?

      Unborn babies have no rights...So do birthed babies have rights? Whats the difference, location? Are they not the same person. Oh because they are dependent solely on the mother they do not have rights. But, they act independently of the mother. The mother does not move the babies hands or head. The baby does. A birthed baby also is dependent on the mother or caretaker. The baby will die if it is neglected. So, what is the difference or should we say until you are able to reason for yourself (which for some is 25 years of age or never) you are able to have rights. Where do you draw the line?

      May 17, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • pourter

      Do sperm have rights? How about ovum?

      How about adult women who want to make choices about their own reproductive health, including contraception?

      May 17, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • MK

      Justin, I have been paying for something that violates my beliefs for quite some time now. The moment I get reimbursed for the Iraq War is the moment I will consider the churches argument.

      And guess what, I'm Catholic and go to a Catholic Church every week. This nonsense is ridiculous though. It's forcing beliefs on others. Sorry, but not everyone that's Catholic believes contraception is a sin. That's why I don't have 20 kids.

      Maybe the church should worry about their own internal problems, like punishing the few priests (it is a few...most are great people) responsible for child molestation instead of trying to sweep it under the rug like they've done for decades. I'm sure God agrees with that, too, huh...

      And lets add in the tidbit about when it's actually needed. My wife had ovarian cysts and had to be put on birth control to shrink them. Worked like a charm. Or ectopic pregnancies that could easily kill the mother and should be ended or you may end up with a dead baby and/or a dead mother.

      This is a joke. people need to get over themselves. Your religious convictions are yours alone. Share them with others if you wish, don't force them.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • OnlyOne

      Justin, I've definitely been forced to pay for things that violate my beliefs. My taxes have had to pay for your wars, your torture, your tax cuts for the rich, your nuclear weapons. You may think these to be a good idea, but I still have to pay for them whether I agree with them or not, because this is a DEMOCRACY. Oh, and I'm Catholic too – one deeply ashamed of the image we're presenting to the world.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • pheeel

      My freakin tax dollars are basically supporting your ridiculous religion since you folks take huge tax exemptions that the rest of us end up paying into the system to cover. How about you step up to the plate and start paying taxes on the billions of dollars that you take in each year (profit) and quit yer whining ? Plus since Bush, we now put over a billion bucks into faith based initiatives that totally violate my personal beliefs that religions should stand on their own with no support from the Gov.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  14. Puzzled

    “We’re paying the health insurance company, and if they provide abortion-causing drugs, that’s against our religious beliefs,” Sofio said Wednesday.

    Since when do insurance companies provide health care services? I thought insurance companies provided REIMBURSEMENT, and the doctors were the ones providing services.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Squeezebox

      Yes, but this same government is also forcing Catholic owned hospitals to provide abortions on demand. The Church, on the other hand, wants abortion and contraception outlawed. There is no middle ground between them.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  15. tsar140

    Their doesn't make any sense at all. If they are really dropping coverage for moral reasons they would drop it for BOTH students and employees. The law applies to both so what is the difference? Clearly they are doing this for either 1.money or 2. publicity. What a joke, by their own standards they are complicit in providing birth control to their employees. OR If it is ok for their employees then the only reason to deny access to students is to save money. The hypocrisy of it all!

    May 17, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • SAC2000

      Beyond the hypocrisy, these people have no "faith" in their flock. Just because something is covered in the health care law doesn't mean one has to mask use of it! What a joke.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Amused1944

      They have to be more careful with employee benefits since –they have to avoid violating federal laws of gender discremination. Most of the benefits involved affect only women.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • What?

      tsar, the student plan is voluntary and financially draining and may even hurt the college to where it will be able to maintain the services it provides. The employee plan is part of a contract that they have to keep due to employment. That takes more risk and there is a hope that things will change. It is not only a more question about contraception but also whether or not the obligation to the employees is morrally binding. Give them time, if there is no change in the law, there will be some change.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  16. Trin

    Souns like a way to make a statement that will be detracted in a few weeks. No publicity is bad publicity.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • dogs rule

      Perchance do you mean "REtracted"? Please stay in school..........

      May 17, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  17. wolvver

    Government and religion – once again, dividing the people.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • dogs rule

      Government + religion; schools + religion. Both are a BAD idea!

      May 17, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • What?

      So dog, tell government to get out of what the schools are doing and leave them alone. At least that will take one piece out of the trouble equation.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  18. The Truth Teller

    Well I guess it's time not to go to that school , let's see how long they stay in the school business ! Screw any church that holds those same views ! As far as I'm concern they are writing there own sentence !

    May 17, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • dogs rule

      Contraception coverage, IMHO, should be mandatory! Prophylactics especially. It costs more to treat an STD!

      May 17, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • dogs rule

      Unfortunately as long as there are Roman Catholics there will be Catholic schools. I was raised Roman Catholic, but I like to think I can now tell the difference between common sense and lunacy!

      May 17, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • rainydayninja

      It's too bad you don't want to go to that school, because you could sure use the help of an English teacher.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  19. blackbeard79

    So, to support the "sacredness of human life", you're not going to provide health care coverage to the other 99% of sick people who need services besides abortions and sterilization? This is why I hate organized religion.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Veronica13

      That is an extremely immature view that doesn't take into account many other variables involved. Further, at what point do people stand up for themselves...what line has to be crossed. We already saw in Nazi Germany people slowly blurring moral and ethical lines until they were ok with people being murdered. If the Catholic Church believes abortion is murder, they see it the same way you might see the murder of any other person. Because your lines are blurred, you think abortion is ok and don't see a problem with it. Don't judge them for what they believe, respect them for standing up for something they feel is seriously wrong and evil, and which may be wrong and evil. There is no definitive evidence that the fetus doesn't have feelings or a soul for that matter. Small doesn't mean not human, proximity to the birth canal doesn't mean not human, lacking mental ability doesn't mean not human, youth doesn't mean not human. To them, it is killing a human person – an individual.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • momoya

      Are you saying that Catholics shouldn't trust fellow catholics to act in accordance with their own religion.. Hmmmmm...

      May 17, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • dogs rule

      I agree. And since when is an embryo a "human life"? It's an embryo–period.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • pourter

      What about contraception? Preventing disease and infections. Further, if their students are as devout as these folks claim (I just saw their rep on TV) they don't have to worry about them cashing in any reciepts for any unholy health care.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • tffl

      Veronica – you are seriously equating requiring health insurance companies to provide reimbursement for (voluntarily gotten) contraceptive pills with the atrocities of Nazi Germany??? Of course, you (like most on the silly side of this argument) ignore both the voluntary and contraceptive issues, and go straight for abortion, which isn't even a part of this coverage requirement. That (making claims that are irrelevant on the face of them) is one of the reasons that your side in this dispute is considered by most people to be somewhere between disingenuous and fraudulent...

      May 17, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Nazi Germany was prodominantly Catholic – and the Vatican had good relations with the Third Reich for quite some time. They even helped to hide a number of Nazi war criminals.
      It can be definitively said that a blastocyst has no cognition.
      The purging of a cluster of cells might be eliminating a potential human, but is not qualitatively the same as infanticide.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  20. ROCKWOOD

    Sounds like a way to eliminate operating costs to me........

    May 17, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • momoya

      Sounds like a pretty bratty "take my ball and go home" reasoning to me.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:45 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.