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. Nilkinggary

    This school is at best a bit player which the Conferece of Catholic Bishops is using as a pawn n its efforts to highlight this issue. Fine. But when they start instructing priests to make political points in their homilies for Mass, which is starting to happen, I refuse communion, stop all donations, and have my name struck from he parish rolls. There's no sense in having 150 testy old men trying to call the shots for 75 million American Catholics.

    May 17, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  2. gaucho420

    I know that's what Jesus would've done. He would've dropped his followers health coverage just to prove a point. Because that's how JC operates, out to prove points even if his followers suffer.

    May 17, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • decaf

      Guess you missed the overwhelming support line at the end of the article. Apparently, the students and parents think that standing up for their beliefs worth it.

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

    More important for the church to do business with the mob than to provide healthcare. I mean come on – Steubenville!

    May 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • gaucho420

      What a bunch of losers.

      May 17, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  4. Ken Margo

    The solution is simple people. STOP SUPPORTING THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. Do not give money to an organization that has molested children, protected molesters and now promotes bigotry by being against gay marriage. The phony pro-lifers now drop health care, (which is needed for life) are against birth control (Never offer any money to help the kids they want so badly to be born) The catholic church is no different than taliban, al queda, kkk or other terrorist organizations.

    May 17, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • mandarax

      I think the Catholic Church is more like an international crime syndicate – relatively well-educated and sophisticated but yet narrow-minded and malevolent. The evangelical Christians have the Taliban angle – generally ignorant and unsophisticated but still make up for it with fiery passion. I think a significant portion of the Catholic administration do not even believe particularly strongly, they are just part of the machine. The evangelicals are just burnin' up with delusion, though, and are determined that you must be too.

      May 17, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  5. jay zee

    but lets protect the priests that touch and molest little boys. yeah way to go Catholics!

    May 17, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  6. Aezel

    Good for them. And I hope all the students respond appropriately and tell them to go f*** themselves as they transfer away.

    May 17, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  7. derkobass

    so they dont want to buy health insurance. Dont go to school there if you dont like it

    May 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  8. LCA

    They are keeping the health care for employees and not dropping it because they are probably legally bound to continue to provide a benefit that was in place when they hired their employees (I don't know what the law is in Ohio) but breach of contract, etc. may play into it. They can drop their students and leave them high and dry probably only because they can legally. The pessimist in me wonders how much is "moral objection" and how much is just a way to "save a buck" at the expense of students and get away with it?

    May 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  9. btldriver

    That's one way to reduce the cost of college education.

    May 17, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  10. Humanist11

    The school should keep the health plan for the overall good of the students. If the students have been indoctrinated properly by the catholic church they will not partake in contraception or abortion medicine. They should just trust their followers.

    May 17, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  11. BuckRogere

    I'm surprised the Catholic Church still considers itself an arbiter or moral behavior here or anywhere else. I guess they think contraception is a greater 'sin' than child molesting.

    May 17, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  12. Peter Wolfe

    Let the people decide on what they should be able to do what is moral or what is nonmoral. Personally, I think if a woman wants this contraception that they should have to pay more for such services in the first place but the normal price is probably too extreme. On the other hand, no intedy should banned women from having such said services in my opinion in the first place whether government or for-profit interprise.

    May 17, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  13. BuckRogere

    Get out of the Church. If women walk out of the Church it will fall down behind them.

    May 17, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  14. nonconformist

    And some people wonder why there is a need for National Heath insurance. These kinds of dilemmas would not occur if we had a single payer system in place on a national level. To those who think it would be more expensive than what they have, look around, every nation that has national health insurance pays far less for better care than what we pay here in the good old US of A.

    May 17, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • George Mason

      And then when they are seriously ill they come here for treatment...if they can afford it.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Sean

      Most of the examples you are alluding to are doing so at the cost of putting their providers out of business and running up huge public debt. You obviously haven't been paying attention to the fiscal situation in the EU at the moment. The only country in the EU with potential for long-term solvency of their health care system is Germany which uses a free market health insurance system.

      May 17, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  15. Steve

    The Roman Catholic Church opposes the use of contraception = more Catholics = more money.

    May 17, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      FACT Catholics do the devils work.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  16. Steve

    This says "if you will not let me have my way, I am not going to help and protect anyone."

    May 17, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Tom

      I don't read it that way. The school is buying a product but the vendor is requiring the product to provide a service not consistent with their beliefs. If the product was free then I might agree with your assessment but as long as there is a cost then the buyer can either accept or reject the product. The school is choosing the latter.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  17. Jamie

    This is sick! Like babies throwing a tantrum because you haven't given them exactly what they wanted. Well TOUGH! All your doing is taking it out on your own people and that's sick!

    May 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • George Mason

      Standing on principle is a very responsible thing to do. The Obama administration seems to want to dictate what churches must do. He is trying to tear down the wall of separation between church and state.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Drew

      you should read the bible and be not conformed to this world. Obama needs to go . One nation under God with liberty and justice for all.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Todd

      I hope they all do this. Since Jesus certainly isn't going to cure their diseases, over time we will have less bible thumpers.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • David

      @ George Mason – if the University had the balls to really stand on principle they would cut all health care for both students and staff. By only cutting the care for students they are only playing at politcs. It reeks of insincerity.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  18. Jay

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

    Hmm...the students pay tuition which is used to pay health insurance. Employees provide the school with labor in exchange for compensation.

    May 17, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Steve


      May 17, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  19. Mike

    Why do Catholics think they get to dictate to any company how it ought to spend its revenue? Once you buy a product from a vendor, that is the end of your association with the money you spent. You don't get to tell the seller how he can spend the money you just gave him for the product you bought.

    May 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • coloradom

      Um...I think that's exactly the point, isn't it? If you don't like how the company you are using is spending its money, then don't use the company. If no company has what you want, then you don't have to buy at all, which is what they are doing.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Hmmmm

      I don't see that the Catholics are dictating to the insurance provider about the monies it gives them. I think they want to purchase insurance for their employees and students and are being told what kind of product selection they are limited. It's like wanting to buy a car but being told they can only buy red ones instead of the blue ones they used to buy. Also the article stated that overwhelmingly the students and employees supported their decision to drop the coverage.

      Perhaps if they were able to just give them the monies for the coverage then the employees and students could purchase their own insurance......no religious conflict, but they would not be able to as it would be too expensive.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Drew

      If the product doesn't have what we want why buy it? Obama is taking away our choices and freedom.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • kgb24peeps

      take that same logic and apply it to the government and the university. Typical liberal logic....tolerant only if it suits your worldview.

      May 17, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  20. ithink122

    "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...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."

    It's fun how you can just put two of their responses together and make them look totally hypocritical. Tell me conservatives, if the health plan violates their religious beliefs to the point that they cut it for their students, why does the exact same plan suddenly pass the belief test for the employees?

    May 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Neil

      I read it that they plan on dropping the coverage for the employees if it does not pass legal challenges to the law. I agree that they should be consistent with both employees and students alike, but I don;t see it as being hypocritcal.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • coloradom

      I'm pretty confident they will drop it for both employees and students if their insurer is forced to provide these services.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:24 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.