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.

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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. Rev. Rick

    I'm glad the college did this! Now I can be more sure of where NOT to send my kids (and my money).

    May 17, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  2. Moby49

    Students no, employees yes?? How can they stand there and say it is a moral issue and only screw the students? Boy is that hypocrisy or what?

    May 17, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      It’s a religious thing.. you wouldn’t understand.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  3. MikeMazzla

    It should really be a non issue for the school because im pretty sure no one attending this school is getting laid and this no need for contraception.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • TommyTee

      LOL 🙂

      May 17, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  4. mandarax

    ...and we wonder why the US ranks 37th in the World Health Organization's survey of national healthcare quality.

    Americans have allowed conservatives to convince them to fight angrily against their own self-interests. How do they do this? The average rural, red state republican has been convinced to fight against the very policies that benefit them – to fight with all their might to make rich people richer and poor people poorer, to fight with all their might the subsidies that keep their states afloat, to fight with all their might to avoid having affordable healthcare. It would be such impressive politics if only it weren't so infuriating and sad.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Sean

      When they study each countries health care system the number 1 thing they look for when setting the rank is if they have nationalized health care.. Since we dont, we will never score high on the list, but that have nothing to do with the care provided in this country.. If we did have nationalized healthcare we would immediately be #1 on that list.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  5. tas72

    So does this mean that health plans covered by Jehova's Witnesses can exclude blood transfusions?

    May 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  6. Bjohns23

    Great job guys. Way to punish your employees by making a stand. What about the other parts of the health coverage. I am sure they would go all in if the plans were forced to provide fertility drugs and more ways for people to have 8 kids that they can't take care of anyway.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • admin

      Did you even read the entire article or do you just form opinions of the first paragraph and rush to the comment section?


      May 17, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  7. MikeMazzla

    Its probably not a big deal because any Kid crazy enough religiously to go to a school like this probably agrees with the church on this issue, or they have cray religious parents. But one thing is they arent getting laid

    May 17, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  8. QS

    So, I'm a little confused – is the republican party an arm of religion in the war on women, or is religion an arm of the republican party?

    So hard to tell the bigots from the zealots anymore!

    May 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Eugene FRANK MD

      When politics transcends the value of human life, what preposterous propaganda allows schools to do so in the name of religion? Sect, yes; cult, yes; fanaticism by any other name is enslavement to irnorance.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Sean

      The bigots are easy to find.. Just look in the mirror QS.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  9. Patriot

    Students – piece of advice for you – drop this college from you short list.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm |

    Animal sodomizing right wing Christian redneck lunatics

    May 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • TommyTee

      No. They are allowed, in fact encourared and supported to free speech and all that it entails. However as a free society, we can simply not attend this school. In fact I would drop this school from my short list faster than third period religion...

      May 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      @ TommyTee
      You are correct but what does that have to do with SCR3W having a tantrum?

      May 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  11. TM

    Insurance companies have a solution for this..is called "exclusions." You have a policy that does not cover this specfic coverage!! Then again, deceptive agendas blind people to the truth & false (not true) religion has a history of the blind leading the blind. Their day is nearer than they think!!!

    May 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • TommyTee

      Well said!

      May 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  12. MikeMazzla

    Relgion in general is for uneducated schmucks...but the restriction on contraception is silly, unrealistic, and probably not followed by 90% of "catholic" adults who can concieve. It is so laughable.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  13. Phuckem

    Good. Phuckem. Tired of idiot christian jihadists.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  14. Get the Full Story

    In its decision to drop coverage, the school cited the contraception mandate, but also a requirement that the maximum coverage amount be increased to $100,000 for policyholders - claiming that would have made premiums skyrocket.

    The students’ basic $600 policy was going to double in cost in the fall and triple next year and that the school’s insurance provider said the increases were the result of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • cw

      Yes, because a health insurance company would never lie.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • caroline

      Health care costs were skyrocketing well before the health care law was passed. My plan had double digit premium increases four times in the 2000-2008 period, and I now pay 50% more than I did 10 years ago, and for less coverage. So why is this reference to increased costs suddenly the reason for dropping coverage now?

      May 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • hippie power 69

      oh yes, right the insurance companies are in this for the common good of all. and if you believe that i have a bridge for sale. healthcare should be a right for all not a privilege for the few. the rich don't have to worry about going to the doctor or getting their prescriptions filled and god help you if you have a job that doesn't have the benefit of healthcare. sooner then we think most businesses are not going to be able to provide this benefit as the insurance companies keep raising the price. what are we going to do america? make everyone just take their chances that they won't get sick or in an accident? or make sure that the profit that insurance companies make are not obscene.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  15. EarthRider

    If a student has coverage from their parents Health care plan that covers these things are they banned from attending?

    May 17, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • The Amazing Insights of Melvin Sklunkman, Purveyor of Fine Luxury Aardvard Haberdashery

      If a student has an IQ above 75, they are banned from attending.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Aardvark haberdashery? How pas·sé. Ocelot is the new aardvark.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  16. Ron in California

    More to come. However, I think the Supreme Court will strike Obamacare down...or at least remove the mandate which essentially kills it.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • The Amazing Insights of Melvin Sklunkman, Purveyor of Fine Luxury Aardvard Haberdashery

      Good. We need single payer anyway. The Healthcare bill got muddled into something no one really likes. The present choices are Obama's weird compromise, that isn't going to improve things much, and going back to the old way, which was absolutely dysfunctional (do you really like paying all that money, buddy?).

      Yoou must be very very rich if you liked things the way they were.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • aaron

      you got to love the right wingers sticking up for the uninsured and insurance companies that keep jacking the cost up and up. What is their solution? Nothing, keep it the way it is, we like having medical cost being the number 1 reason for bankruptcy. Create a nation of social Darwinism where only those who can afford a decent healthy life deserve it, and f/ /ck everyone else.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • hippie power 69

      good. then its the public option or medicare for everyone. thats what it should have been anyway.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  17. I_want_a_moon_base

    This is just an excuse to cut cost and drop health care coverage

    May 17, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Ron in California

      You are right..the added cost imposed by Obamacare. This is what happens when government tries to micromanage the private sector.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • ab

      Ron, the non-partisan CBO continues to say the act will save taxpayers money. Where do you get your information?

      May 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      Exactly. As normal the church is claiming the moral high ground when its all about the money. If it was a moral stance they would have canceled it for its employees as well.

      Ron stop talking.. you look stupid.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  18. Loki

    If you don't like their policy.....don't go there. I like the message it sends also...no mandated heathcare burdens for employers. Not their concern. You want heathcare....get it yourself.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • mandarax

      And we wonder why the US ranks 37th in the World Health Organization's survey of national healthcare quality ...

      May 17, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      Funny think Loki.. they kept it for the employees. So much for your message.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  19. WDinDallas

    Good job......I am fighting having to provide this stuff also to my employees. We may have to create a private non-profit insurance company.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • MikeMazzla

      Thats sweet.. if you are going to provide Healthcare just provide the healthcare.. not just the parts you like

      May 17, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  20. Yabba Dabba Don't

    Oddly enough, Catholic organizations have had all that stuff for years on their health insurance and not said a word about it, but now it suddenly becomes an issue. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . .

    May 17, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      100% correct.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
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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.