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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.

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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. Rajiv Shaw

    Oh Mitt, Mitt, what have you wrought?

    May 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  2. PatD

    Most of you missed that the cost were doubling and the school could not afford it next year. But, if you look closely at Obama-care the people in the 47 million pool that we were told that did not have coverage are young adults. So the Obama-care will be the largest tax increase to this group. The plans need more money without any payouts. So who better to make buy insurance young healthy adults? Who currently do not need any insurance or will not have many claims but now have to buy it so the older population does not collapse the system.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Greg

      Young adults don't have babies anymore? Or cancer? Or automobile accidents?

      The health-care system will soon implode on itself with its unsustainable corporate profit-taking that far outpaces inflation. Obamacare was a hope, but the GOP made sure the most important provisions were removed (public option, etc).

      May 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Jimmy

      Another transfer of wealth from teh you to the old

      May 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  3. Jimmy

    These blogs just show this country is more polarized than 4 years ago.
    Thanks Mr. President for bringing us together.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • MikeB

      He is actively fulfilling the saying that a 'House Divided' cannot stand. His purpose is to divide us so that his Global Progressives can become 'Masters' over us.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Alverant

      He's not the one doing the dividing. It's the "my way or the highway" teabaggers doing the dividing.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • MikeB

      Alverant – Seriously? Who are the ones dictating to us their government regulations and mandates?
      Obama and his appointed Clergy.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  4. Burbank

    Catholics are idiots! That's why I'm not one of them anymore! Evil stupid religion full of lies! Mary wasn't even a virgin, they just decided to make that up at the Council of Nicea to control people, and still they go on telling the BIG LIE! Evil bunch of hypocrites!

    May 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Mike

      They're not idiots. They were smart enough to protest it with other people's health. Selfish, yes. Hypocrites, yes. Idiots, no.

      Did you catch the bit at the end that they kept the health care plan for employees? I guess their religious beliefs aren't important enough to risk THEIR OWN health, just others'.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  5. Tha Chikin

    How stupid is this? "We don't like it, so WAAAH! we won't have it." Bunch of babies. Now stomp your feet and pout... pitch a fit.

    Here is an idea: if you don't approve of birth control, don't do it. Just because it is a requirement to have this covered under the insurance plan, doesn't mean there is a gun pointed at your head making you take it. Morons.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • clevercandi

      Exactly!! If the students are "good catholics" (lower case usage intentional, tyvm), they won't need to use the coverage for "contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing medications" because they won't be engaging in pre-marital se x u al activity.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • MikeB

      That is a 'narrow' perspective of what this is all about.
      The focus here isn't limited to ones genitalia and what people do with it.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • denial

      So true. And the logic of denying health coverage of ALL types to ALL students and staff is really the best way to demonstrate the preciousness of human life. And God said...thall shalt harbor and spread easily cured communicable illnesses because my self-appointed human representatives say it should be so! Go forth and break bones! Go forth and die from appendacitus! Go forth and birth your babies in a bathtub for want of healthcare!

      May 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  6. MikeB

    The 'Affordable Care Act' is a 'Social Doctrine' waver for the Executive Branch to mandate upon the American people conduct and economy.
    Really, what doesn't have a health component to it. Keystone Pipeline, Coal Mining, Birth Control, Equal Justice, ...
    Now we have an appointed clergy to define, redefine, mandate, and even get Executive Orders to impose upon and force the citizenry to be compliant with the Social and Political Doctrine of the Faction in power. All subject to be churned with the transition into power a Faction with its own Social Doctrine. We now have a 'State Religion'.
    Dictators and Tyrants know that a 'Free' and fiscally independent citizen, Families, and Churches are obstacles to their absolute control of the masses.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • KK

      Wow!! I would hate to live in your fear filled paranoid world.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  7. T

    .... and furthermore, we declare the earth is flat and still the center of the universe.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • MikeB

      When it comes to Humanity and Civility. This world is the center of everything we do and experience.
      With that perspective, yes the World out of necessity must be Flat and be the 'Center' of 'Our' Universe.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  8. Debbiey In Washington

    So, let me get this straight. A Catholic University is cutting off its nose to spite its face by eliminating health insurance for 2,500 of its Catholic students? All because there is a provision in "Obamacare" (their word not mine) that requires the availability of contraception? Let me correct them: The health care act DOES NOT REQUIRE INSUREDS TO ACCESS CONTRACEPTION!! So, if all your Catholic students believed in your dogma, the provision wouldn't matter to them one iota, because they wouldn't be getting the pill on your insurance! But because the University has chosen to make a political statement, they are more than willing to deny these students medical insurance. Brilliant thinking!

    May 17, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • dt

      You don't understand. In addition to all the tax advantages these religious schools enjoy (wrongly) they now want to save money on their staff and students. It is a money issue. The great American Eagle – who says CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP

      May 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  9. lunchbreaker

    Our current insurance system can only survive if the amount paid in insurance premiums is more than what is paid out for medical services. As we get fatter and less healthy more and more goes to the cost of medical services. Insurance companies can only turn a profit by having lots of people paying in who hardly ever go to the doctor or by turning down claims, which makes it worthless to the policy holder. If the ratio of services paid for vs premiums paid in continues to increase the system will fail. That's a big IF, but an if nonetheless.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  10. jpzipp

    Make all religions pay taxes! that will end their involvement in politics!

    May 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Blaise

      How is it a political action to exercise their freedom?

      May 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • pjusa

      How much more ignorant can you be! If religions are taxed they will get involved in politics more than ever. They will use their influence to fight every tax increase that gets proposed.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • denial

      JPZipp, taxation requires representation and we desperately need to kick the G-O-D out of government. What we need is a religion filter starting with a "bleeper" every time "God" is mentioned by a politician.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • ernestly

      I agree with you – making them pay their share of the property taxes and at the same time making donations to them non-tax deductible (donations which they generally use for themselves) would put most of them out of business

      May 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  11. 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 a religion would anyone think a fertilized egg is a person and deny an entire student body of health insurance because of it.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Blaise

      I guess you missed the part about the students supporting the decision.

      No one has to go to a Catholic school. If you choose to, prepare to be treated in accordance with Catholic teaching. Is that so complicated? Are you only satisfied with a secular worldview? Move to China.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • n8263

      I agree they are within their right. It is just twisted to deny health insurance based on such an irrational view.

      If they really did recieve overwhelming support from parents and students then they must be matching this with a drop in tuition to allow them to buy their own coverage which should have been publicly disclosed. There is no way they would get overwhelming support from students without cutting tuition accordingly.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  12. Sherrie0824

    The catholic church opposes contraception because they want larger families to brainwash. They are losing members in droves because of their draconian rules. They are swiftly becoming irrevelant and they will fight with their dying breath. Can't wait for the day that they have absolutely NO say in politics or social issues.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • anthony

      can't wait for the day you get a brain

      May 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • pjusa

      Of those who voted in the last presidential election 20-25% of them were Catholic. A majority of them voted for Obama. Not this time!

      May 17, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Rolf Eczema

      That, pjusa, is why this non-issue is being made an issue. The Church want to manipulate their laity for votes, beig a non-political body and all. They are trying to get their rubes all chummed up with anger ofver NOTHING because they are supporting a total loser on the right.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Alverant

      pj you do know that most US catholics use contraception right? There's a huge disconnect between ordinary catholics and their leaders. For example most decent people don't want pedophiles in positions of power while the RCC is OK with it.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  13. Reality

    ONLY FOR NEW MEMBERS AND THOSE OF THE AGE OF FOURTEEN OR OLDER:

    Condoms are available over the counter. Make the Pill available over the counter and there will be no more debate.

    Planned Parenthood can offer deep discounts for those who say they cannot afford said protection.

    Or better yet, put a pack of condoms and a box of Pills in cereal boxes. Unfortunately, that would not ensure the condoms and/or Pills would be used. Based on Guttmacher Insti-tute data, said condoms and/or Pills are currently not being used as they should. (one million abortions/yr and 19 million cases of S-TDs/yr because either the daily Pill was not taken or a condom stayed in the pocket.)

    Maybe selling Pill-enriched sodas??? Hmmm?

    Condom-fitted briefs for men?? Hmmm? 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    The door is open for other ideas!!!

    May 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  14. skytag

    Anyone who is really concerned about freedom should oppose the widespread practice of employers and other organizations providing health insurance. Why should your employer determining which company will provide your health insurance, or what it will cover? How is that any if his business. Wake up, people. No other country in the world is dumb enough to rely on employers to provide health insurance for their citizens. Address that problem and this issue disappears.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • John Jacob Jinkleheimer Schmidt

      I really hope you are kidding, because I have my own private health insurance (semi-retired), and I pay easily twice what employees do. Totally free markets do NOT handle social issues well at all.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Get Real

      John Jacob Jinkleheimer Schmidt,

      You are fortunate to be able to even get private insurance. The last 10 years of my career I had to pass up several great jobs because I needed one where they would let me into their group plan (on my dime) since I was rejected by private insurance because of age and a non-serious previous condition.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  15. 1ofTheFallen

    Liberals are all knowing and people should Do as they say not as they do. Then condemn your president for bowing down to the Saudi Kings.

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

      You must be a republican to make as little sense as you do.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • JC

      What distant galaxy marooned you here on this planet to prevent you from polluting their world?

      May 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • skytag

      fBrainwashed fool prattle on endlessly about liberals because that's what they've been trained to do to cover up for the fact they can't intelligently discuss issues.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Mike

      "Do as they say, not as they do"

      Interesting choice of words regarding an article about a school that cancels students' health care plan for "moral" reasons, but retains the plan for themselves. Guess the "morality" of it doesn't apply to the school's administrators.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  16. CMH

    Now if we can only talk the local hospitals into kicking the students/faculty into the street if they try to come into the ER for something that could have been prevented by early detection in anual checkups.

    That would show how bad preventative care is when people die because they did not get it.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  17. PraiseTheLard

    ObamaCare is simply postponing the inevitable: a fully-funded single-payer (Government!!!) system like Canada or any other progressive country. The insurance industry is nothing more than fraudulent, spending most of their energy in denying coverage in order to maximize profit.

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

      Or, it could evolve into a system like Switzerland's where everyone is on nonprofit, private insurance. No Medicare, no Medicaid, no VA health care system, no CHIP, no profits to influence insurance company priorities. One system that services everyone.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Good. I live in Canada and it does work. It is not perfect. The only things not covered by our coverage are things like dental, physio, vision, free drugs (thankfully or we'd have a bunch of freaked out people on oxy-cotin wandering our streets)...I'm sure there are more but in the end, most employers offer some additional benefit package that does cover those other things up to a certain percentage (most I've seen have been around the 85% mark).

      May 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  18. Steve

    How ironic. So many that want to be protected from the Church imposing it's beliefs – yet don't think the Church deserves to be protected from your beliefs. This country was created/founded by those trying to escape that mentality in order to freely practice their beliefs. Our country is founded on the premise of freedom of action/belief/religion. If that no longer exists then America is dead.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • momoya

      Steve, the college had a right to act spitefully like a snotty little brat four year old and that's exactly what they did.. I'm glad.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Vincent

      President Obama is not bowing down nor kissing the ring of the Saudi King (there is just one). Unlike President George Bush after 9/11 in his Crawford Ranch (another vacation). People don't want to be held down by Government or Religious leaders but want the FREEDOM And LIBERTY that allows ADULTS to make their own choices and choice for their Children. So don't pass your big Government on me or my family.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Elmer

      The School/Church in question isn't being forced to do anything.
      And FYI, being free from religious persecution goes both ways...

      May 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • n8263

      It is not unreasonable for the government to set insurance standards. If a religious business opposed cancer screening or bypass surgery do you think it would be ok for it to deny those as well? If the law allowed businesses to deny certain coverage by stating a moral objection that would completely undermine the purposeful setting of standards.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Debbiey In Washington

      Steve, you said it correctly - "the Church imposing its beliefs..." The operative word being IMPOSING. In my opinion, and yes I have that right because I'm a proud American, the Catholic Church (or any other church for that matter) DOES NOT have the right or authority or whatever else you want to call it, to tell their "people" what to do with their lives. It should be the Church's function to nurture its "people's" understanding of God. No Church has any business knowing EVERYTHING about a person's private life. People in this country have the absolute right to make choices and believe what they will. In these things, the ONLY judge is GOD. We will all answer for the decisions we make in our lives when we leave this world. Catholics don't believe in contraception...what an absolutely archaic belief. But, hey, I respect their right to believe what they choose. Just don't impose your beliefs on those who may not share the same one - even those who are Catholic.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  19. Patrick

    Oh my, how interesting. What remains of the Roman government decides to let people suffer and maybe even die because it refused to recognize the right of the US federal government to rule over it. Someone needs to let them know Rome does not rule in this nation. The emperor of Rome is not god!

    May 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  20. 1ofTheFallen

    Obama bowing down to Saudia Kings and trying to take away freedom of religion. I'm not a Catholic but I respect the right for freedom of religion. Chuchs and schools should not be forced to pay abortions or contraceptives if it is against their beliefs. If students can choose to go to another school then the schools should be able to choose benefits that best represent their beliefs. If Obama cared so much about peoples health then he should not have waited 6 months to send in extra soliders to Afghanistan that the generals said were necessary to stop our troops from being overrun and killed.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • skytag

      Showing respect to foreign leaders is not relevant to this discussion. Besides, Bush held hands with a Saudi prince. Grow up and learn to focus on real issues instead of regurgitating what you've been brainwashed to hate.

      The real issue here is that churches, schools, and employers should not be providing health insurance. Health insurance is personal. Organizations shouldn't be able to dictate what your health insurance will cover or from whom you will buy it. You might have figured that out if you could think for yourself.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      @ 1ofTheFallen

      Religious people much like other folks deal with their mortality in secular societal anguish. Many genders, including myself fear death and disease! We want to be free of all manner of illness and treasure healthy goodness of Life! Modern physiscians have been around for a really short period of time. They have gained a wealthy Lifestyle on the backsides of people's sicknesses! Death is an inevitability and all any doctor can do is prolong one's life from dying. Death is inevitable and is ever a prolonging issue for the weakened minds! I too am weak minded when it comes to sickness & dying!

      May 17, 2012 at 3:17 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.