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. Cesar Pardo

    Yawn, so tired of organizations and individuals who base morality on religion. Hopefully one day everyone will just grow out of it and come to the conclusion that no ones needs an intermediary to get connected to whatever powers control the universe or as an excuse to the do the right think. Helping out with women health services IS the right thing.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • roblearns

      You've demonstrated a remarkably ignorant and dangerous viewpoint on the world. Unfortunately it is you, and not the Catholic bishops who is on the wrong side of tolerance.

      Catholic bishops aren't suggesting you can't believe the way you wish. They are only asking for the right to believe their beliefs.

      Ultimately you would have to understand what this program is about.

      If its about providing contraceptives to people that can't afford it – the government has a long history of providing services to people who can't afford it.

      Constructing a prescription drug benefit for the elderly, or a contraceptive program for the young – wouldn't have caused this controversy.

      The problem here is saying, I want you – you religious person to violate your beliefs, simply because I have no tolerance for them.

      And I've read through the comments today – and I've seen that intolerance on display over and over again.

      Nobody has explained yet why a Catholic Bishop has to write a check to provide contraceptives for a millionaire that can easily afford it.

      Since this program is not means tested and not constructed as a government aid program – it has no semblance of being targeted at the poor, and it is certainly not being run in the style of earlier programs for the poor.

      But look, that takes a level of understanding that the peanut gallery doesn't have.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • ernestly

      roblearns – The Bishops do not pay extra for this – its mandated for insurance companies to supply it. I think everyone agrees employers (including religions) should not dictate what health care its employees can recieve. That said I do think the church's approach to this is probably correct – i.e. get out of the business of providing insurance for employees. I think the best option is to go to single payer or other similar type of system.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  2. ana

    As a Catholic educated woman and mother, I am disappointed that health coverage of ALL at this university is being denied because of the religious view of contraception. It only takes one tragic illness or accident to occur without health coverage for a family to be not only emotionally, but financially devastated. In addition, I do not see the Catholic Church supporting all the unwanted, abused, hungry, or uninsured children is this country. The fact of the matter is that the Church should spend more time protesting the higher costs of insurance, the higher costs of higher education, the inequities in K-12 education, demand that physical and mental abuses stop, and let GOD be the judge of a woman's right to care for her own body...On a theological note…where in the Apostle’s Creed (summary of catholic doctrine) does it mention anything about contraception anyway?

    May 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  3. Curious George

    Why isn't Obama promoting his obamacare while campaigning? Have heard very little, if anything, about it. Me thinks it's because it's a hot mess and hasn't helped at all. Romney's not much better, but obongo is a fool.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Obama's far from perfect, but he's no fool... your obvious lack of intellect, however, is abundantly clear...

      May 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Wilberforce Pumpernickel III

      Why would he promote a law that is already passed?

      May 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  4. cespur

    Dropping health care coverage entirely because you don't agree with certain parts of it is like firemen burning down houses that don't comply with the fire code.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  5. Scott

    Nice of CNN to fail to mention that one of the primary reasons they're dropping the coverage is that because of the healthcare law the premiums were going to double on them.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  6. Plops

    Atheists – I'll pray for you 🙂

    May 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Wilberforce Pumpernickel III

      How cute! Thank you for condescending down from your lofty arrogant pinnacle to pretend you care about the people who you want to go to hell. Very thoughtful of you.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Emperor Vadik, CA


      Did any of them ask you to do that???

      Stay out of other people's beliefs and look in the mirror at your own sins...and pray for yourself.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • xmxm

      Thanks. While you are at that, I'll work toward making the world a better place by doing some actual effort. Also, just in case you have not heard, we evolved from humans, the earth is not round, and the universe is much, much older than 6000 years.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • xmxm

      err.. evolved from monkey-like apes.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  7. echo40

    I don't have any problem with what the churches are doing, or church owned university. Now... if they want government completely out of their lifes. START PAYING TAXES, just like the rest of us. If we are so much against taxation without representation, how about get rid of representations without taxation?

    May 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      Great post.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Arthur Smegma

      Agreed, but not relevant here. This is a private non-profit college.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  8. FS

    This is certainly one way to save money.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  9. Jack

    Yet the pedophilia within the catholic corporation continues...

    May 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  10. Sally

    Was considering sending daughter to school there, never now.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  11. NPRJim

    They will let their folks die while they "protest" right to life...Interesting tact. Maybe they are tired of paying for all the little boys bung hole repair services caused by their pedophile priests.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  12. Bad_Lieutenant17

    Yeah I gave up on that whole "sacredness of life" thing after your God allegedly flooded the Earth killing all men, women, and children except for those on a raft. Life is not sacred folks.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • J.R.

      Apparently life is only sacred before it pops out or when it's old, in pain and wants to die. Everything in between is, eh.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • TheOneLane

      There was a gene problem in those days. 200 of his angels (The Watchers) came down to earth because they lusted after the daughters of Man. The offspring grew up to become giants and turned on Mankind. It's believed that Noah's family was the only one that wasn't tainted from the 200 angels that came to earth. All this can be found in The Book of Enoch. Basically God flooded the earth because of all the sins his angels (The Watchers) brought down to earth. Even if you don't believe in God it's still an interesting read.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  13. Tyler Pommerenke

    YYAAAHHHH WAY TO GO FRANCISCAN!!! shout out to all my friends over there, yall are great and I almost wish I went there now.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Chris T. N. Tanglebrain

      YES!!! Not having healthcare is SUCH A VICTORY!!!

      May 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • roblearns

      The bizarre part of this law was always that it never guarantees health insurance nor requires it.

      It did attempt to require Catholics to pay for services that they find objectionable – even when the covered person can easily afford to pay for those services out of their own pocket.

      This is the problem with this new way of thinking – it's supposedly opening up options that people didn't have before – but its not a social program – its not means tested.

      It benefits millionaires as it does the poor – it's just constructed in an ultra bizarre way – suggesting it truly isn't about providing healthcare – but about social engineering society.

      Government – if you want the poor to have access to services they cannot afford – that's what federal social programs are for.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • skytag

      Religious fanatics. Any adult with an imaginary friend is a menace to society. Franciscan University is proof.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      Yes what a victory! Oh except for the staff (which probably includes priests and maybe nuns). The staff must suffer the oppression of having a healthcare plan since the school has decided to retain the staff plan. Hypocrites.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Billy

      So they are keeping it for their employees, but dropping it for students. Way to stand on Principal. Why not drop coverage for everyone if there is such a moral delema?

      May 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  14. Jason

    To me this is simple. Most of you do not want a church imposing on your actions. In the same way the Catholic Church does not want the government imposing on its actions. I think they are validated here, the government is overextending.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • n8263

      This is not a church, it is a university.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • RapidOne


      GEEZ, IDI0TS!!!

      May 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      If they get government funding of any sort, then they are not justified. If any of these students are putting themselves in debt to go there or even going on their parents miney, then the school is not justified. If the basic human rights of the students are not being met, then the school is not justified. Everyone, regardless of their belief or disbelief deserves to be treated equally. What a person does to their own body is their choice. What they are not considering is that these are young people and while some may hold tight to the chasti.ty issue, you can't expect all to but it goes beyond that, this school is failing to take in to consideration the basic health issues here...why would they not want a female to take the pill to potentially prevent cancer or help with numerous other issues?

      To clarify: I live in Canada where universal healthcare is what I know. It is what the USA needs in my opinion. It's not a perfect system by any means but at the same rate, we're not fighting about these issues.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  15. CB

    This is unreal. Screw all students because a man in his ivory tower has a problem with contraception! Who are you serving? Your students or your own stunted and close-minded worldview? Absolutely pathetic. Seeing articles like this makes me glad to no longer be a Catholic.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Todd

      It is about separation of church and state.
      The government is saying to the Religion you must do this.
      The Church goes this is against our religion so we will not.
      The Government go well no you have to.
      The Church then goes well we won't offer any of the services.

      If the State says we cannot allow religious symbols on public ground, then the church should be allowed to have leniency against rules that tells them that they need to actively do something they feel strongly against. It isn't as if you feel that the church should or shouldn't have that belief, or even if the majority of it members like the rule. The United States has the Separation of Church and State to Prevent the Church from making rules, and for the government not to corrupt the values of the church.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Arthur Smegma

      By that logic, the government should not have the ability to prosecute priests for molestation. The government should not be able to stop the church from burning women as witches.

      Corporations need oversight or they run amok, and the Catholic Church is definitely a corporation.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • roblearns

      Arthur, you missed the chance to make a point by a mile. The government has not historically gone into private insurance contracts – the purpose of insurance is to mitigate risk.

      Insurance doesn't provide healthcare – Doctors, Hospitals, etc. do that. Insurance is about means of payment.
      This would be like the government coming in and saying, if you provide tornado insurance you must provide flood insurance.

      Why? It serves no purpose of any kind of the government to regulate private contracts in this way.
      If someone wants to offer that the real purpose of this law is to furtively provide healthcare for the poor – for people who couldn't afford contraceptives, now they can get it – then we can finally discuss why this hidden government aid program, didn't include any means testing – why does it apply to millionaires equally to the poor?

      Why does a Catholic bishop have to pay – as they would at a Catholic Hospital – why would they have to pay for a Doctor's contraception desires – when that Doctor has all the money to buy it for herself or himself? Just to slap that bishop in the face?

      You see, all those defending this law – don't even know what its about. You cannot get one to admit for what purpose this program even serves.

      Programs for the poor should be means tested.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • skytag

      roblearns, government has regulated insurance for decades. It's very heavily regulated industry. Your comments about health insurance reveal a fundamental lack of understanding of how health care works in practice and the differences between health care and other markets. You're talking as an ideologue, not as someone who has studied these issues. No insurance is really comparable to health insurance because no other insurance pays for something society feels obligated to pay for if you can't afford it.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  16. Georgia Tee

    Like every other faith, the phrase "it's against our religious beliefs" is used to pick and choose which tenet to be against. hogwash

    May 17, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  17. n8263

    For the people who ask what is wrong with religion if people find it comforting, this is a good example of how it harms society.

    Only with religion would anyone think a fertilized egg is a person and deny an entire student body of insurance because of it.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  18. Russ

    Oh well...

    May 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  19. David Ellis

    If they do not wish to provide health insurance, then they are free to take whatever legal course they can. It is, after all, a free country.

    I expect this will back fire horribly when the parents are forced to purchase insurance on the open market for their children and hideous expense, or move their children to a different school and enrollment plummets.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  20. tom clements

    This is not the real story. The healthcare was going to cost students double. The plan was dropped because of the 200% increase in cost to the student becasue of obama care. We were told obama care would reduce OUR costs.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • CB

      Well, it came straight from the horse's mouth that they were dropping coverage so they wouldn't have to comply with the mandate. I'll take the college's word over yours.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Tyler Pommerenke

      in reply to CB its in there and well explained, it would have doubled the price and in an interview with the Pres of the Univ. It would have eventually tripled the costs

      May 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • skytag

      People claim the ACA will double their premiums or some such thing, but I've yet to see anyone support such claims with hard facts.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • skytag

      Tyler Pommerenke: Other religious organizations have gotten waivers for this kind of stuff. That's why no one else is dropping coverage over it. This is a political stunt, pure and simple.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • setnommarih

      I just don't like the government telling me I have to buy something. With auto insurance issues, I can cause harm to someone directly, but with helthcare, I am not causing any harm to anyone directly.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Tom

      skytag says "People claim the ACA will double their premiums or some such thing, but I've yet to see anyone support such claims with hard facts."

      You want facts. Pre-ACA my health care plan had very small increases every year at renewal. Some years no increase at all. I went from paying $28 per pay period in 1999 to $45 in 2010. Post ACA my plan increased at least 50% in each of the 2 annual renewals. I am now going to have to pay $87 per pay period for the exact same plan. From $45 right before the ACA to $90 now. There is your facts proving the doubling of an individuals health care premium due to the ACA.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • RapidOne

      An ID1OT like tom clements mentions garbage he pulled out of his butt ... and all the IDIOTS nod in agreement–saddest to say, tom clements nodding and clapping frantically to his own fabrication. All the MOR0NS rejoice, and American loses another battle...

      May 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
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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.