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. rachel0573

    this is simple, they have every right to put up a wall between themselves and government imposed laws regarding healthcare options. And they also should also lose any tax exemptions and be treated as every other business. Make a choice, you can't have it both ways.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  2. Willy4

    Seems many loyal CNN readers have no interest in the facts. First, when did it become a crime to stand on principle, religious principle, to make a decision. Second, the economic issue, which was glossed over in the article, is that rates under Obamacare for the same coverage would triple for this University. The Great Divider certaining has found the Hate Mongers that frequent this site...

    May 16, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • momoya

      Too late.. Just like with the pedo priests.. They already said that they were making this decision out of spite.. Now they have to live with it.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Balls McGhee

      so then by principle, the church should drop its tax exempt status.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Gezellig

      Well you loose all crediabilty when you refer to the President of the United States as the Great Divider, pure Fox propaganda. But you don't stand on principle when you harm young people over a misguided protest over something that is not prohibited in the Bible. Tell me something, if the Catholic church rulled the mark of cain refered to black people, and thus would only pay for insurance for their white employees, and the Obama administration said that was not permissable; would you be defending their right to stand on principle, defending their right to deny insurance for their black employees on principle, and complaining about the cost of insuring their black employees? THIS SCHOOL IS NOT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. It is a school receive my tax dollars and federal funding. Its employee are functioning as agents of corporations engaged in commercial activitiy an the first amendment only covers them when they are acting in their capacity as individuals, not agents of corporations engaged in commercial activity.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  3. biblicalaaronc

    Good, then students will leave and the school will go bankrupt. Every penny of federal and state funds that it receives should be yanked. Whether they are private or not, I am sure they receive some money from the government. BTW, they should not be receiving tax exemptions anyway, because this amounts to government sponsorship of religion by a similar argument to the one they are using. Giving them tax breaks means that they can use that money for religious activities, effectively making government the sponsor of those activities. If churches had to pay their fair share of taxes, instead of getting a free ride on the backs of taxpayers, then they might not behave quite so arrogantly as they do now.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  4. paPO'd

    Maybe if the Catholics spent less money shuffling pedifiles around and paying off victim families for covering up the corruption of minors they would have more money to pay for heathcare.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  5. profart

    So the employees of the school can still have their health coverage, but students are screwed. Did I read this correctly?

    May 16, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Milo daimen

      No they can get on mommy and daddy's plan.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
      • profart

        Only if Mommy or Daddy HAVE a plan, and only until they reach the age of 23.

        May 19, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • momoya

      Not if they're not with mommy and daddy, dipsh!t.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
      • profart

        they can only be on Mom and Dad's plan if 1. Mom and/or Dad HAVE a plan and 2. they are 23 or younger. Not all college students hop in right after high school.

        May 19, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • Pedo Bear

      They can come to MY plan. 😉

      May 16, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • fred

      it is 26 not 23

      May 19, 2012 at 12:17 am |
      • profart

        Where are you that you can keep a kid on til they are 26? Called to check ours, and it is definitely 23.

        May 21, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
  6. MrCredik

    Catholic teaching also opposes in vitro fertilization and "extrordinay measures" to prolong life. Do their policies exclude that coverage? Christian Scientists basically reject a lot of medical intervention in favor of prayer, do their followers offer regular medical coverage, or just prayer (readings). My religion, The Church of Mr Credik believes prostate cancer is punishment for masturbation by the Flying Spaghetti Monster Head God. Can I exclude that from coverage based on my religious beliefs?
    Where does that stop? Can anyone exclude any kind of coverage based on their moral beliefs? What government agency ( or insurance company bureaucrat) would you have be the arbiter of who can exclude what?

    May 16, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  7. george

    Catholic church is a joke! It supports rapist priests who abuse children, but complains about women's health care.I can understand that because, if there are no unwanted (orphan) children, where will they get the kids for fulfilling their fantasies!

    May 16, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • John Lubeck

      It was not always that way in the Catholic Church. I am 57 and grew up in a different church where the Catholic ideology and the real world were allowed to coexist in the church and the Pope and the US Bishops were not so overtly political and ignorant.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  8. denny

    The next to last paragraph says the school is maintaining its health care program for employees. The incompetence of CNN is only rivaled by the incompetence of Obama, Romney, Pelosi, and Boehner.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • momoya

      non sequitur.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • John/kc

      So you want a President that sacrifices women and bends over for the Catholic Bishops? The churches can offer the health plans they want, but when they have a business outside the church, such as a school, or hospital, they must go by the laws of the land and not be granted any special treatment because they are owned by a church. Also, only the church should be getting any kind of tax exemption, and really churches shouldn't even get that. Churches are people, just like corporations and unions, and they all pay taxes!

      May 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  9. timz

    "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."

    My bad. I guess the good Fathers couldn't see their way clear to giving up the little purple pill.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  10. Jason

    Deal... you guys pray the sickness away. Ill go to the doctor for free with my health insurrance and we'll see who gets better first! That whole contraception thing is optional by the way... incase you change your mind. You dont have to include that part since youre a religious organization. I guess that isnt good enough though... Options are more evil than being forced.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • johnfrichardson

      You are factually incorrect on several points. Health care for which you don't pay at point of service is not FREE and the loss of the religious exemption is what this dust up is about. Obama miscalculated enormously on this issue.

      May 16, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • momoya

      LOL.. This school's decision isn't about Obama!! This school made a decision out of spite and they advertised it.. And michael carlton already explained the rest of the matter to you.. Stop lying.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  11. timz

    At least they're no longer covering Viagra for the priests.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  12. Jackie

    It's sad that this is what Obama turned our country into – nothing but warfare in every way possible. Let's get Obama out of office ASAP!

    May 16, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • momoya

      Jackie, this isn't about Obama, it's about a school being a bully and refusing to play and instead taking their ball and going home.. Sure, they have the freedom to be that big of an azzhole, but you can't shift that azzhole-ness onto the president.. How silly?

      May 16, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • johnfrichardson

      No, momoya, it's about out of control insurance costs going ever higher because more and more is mandated to be covered, it's about tax exempt groups being in effect taxed via mandates and indeed mandated to pay things that go directly contrary to their philosophy, it's about disingenuous mumblers on the left talking incoherently about people being "forced" not to use contraception when (a) no one is forcing them to affiliate with the organization balking at the mandate, (b) no one is preventing them from buying contraception on their own dime and (c) no one is preventing them from buying their own health insurance plans, something MANY will have to do when Obamacare kicks in for real.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • michael carlton

      @johnfrichardson. The facts are that businesses without religious exemptions, such as this university, are NOT required to pay for contraception. The insurers cover the cost, which will actually allow the insurers to save money, as there will be fewer pregnancies to pay for. Thus, the university has no legitimate grounds to complain about the contraceptive coverage. The university wants to impose its morals on its employees.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Guest

      Jackie, you are absolutely right regardless of what many libs will say. And you don't have to try to shift azzhole-ness over to Obalma, he has plenty of his own which he continues to try to spread around. ABO in 2012!

      May 16, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Hap

      So when you morons refuse to go along with the majority, the President of the United States is the great divider. This is a democracy, it is only because of some BS rules in congress that the minority party has been able to drive a wedge in our system. Your days are numbered, soon real people with minds of their own are going to take over everything. I know it's scary to think for yourself, but give it a try, you might actually have an original thought.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Pedo Bear

      Gather up the kids.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • John Lubeck

      It would be hard to make a more ignorant statement. Good job.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • magic man in the sky

      The class warfare started with Ronald Reagan, not Obama.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  13. Jackie

    Thanks a lot, Obama! Doing a lot of good with your stupid, oppressive government regulations, huh?

    May 16, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • momoya

      Really?!?!? The college makes this decision and you're blaming Obama?? You must be Catholic!

      May 16, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Weasley

      Yes, thanks a lot President Obama. Your healthcare plan is going to provide much needed healthcare to millions, especially children, that otherwise not have affordable healthcare. And its great knowing that my medical insurance company cannot drop me for fear that they might actually have to provide the coverage I paid for. Yes, thanks Obama!

      May 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • johnfrichardson

      Weasley, what is your evidence that health care is going to be more affordable? Mandating that people must buy health insurance if otherwise not covered will do exactly what for family budgets? There are ways of assuring access to a certain level of care at a cost that won't break people just barely making it as it is, but there is nothing in this plan that gives any but the most starry much faith that the real problems have even been addressed, let alone solved. And ANYONE who thinks that involving government automatically creates all these wonderful efficiencies and no overpayment has apparently never heard of the Pentagon or the military-industrial complex.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • momoya

      Yes, john, we all know that you'd rather little children die in pain rather than be provided basic medical care.. If they can't afford it, fvck 'em, eh? What a compassionate conservative you are!

      May 16, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  14. HS

    I think this is a good opportunity for the college to really show their faith and the power of prayer. Let their Christ and their God cover their illness and sickness. Ye of little faith.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  15. LMC

    So the University cares nothing for the health of their employees I take it?

    May 16, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • HS

      No they are simply putting it in God's hands.

      May 16, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "So the University cares nothing for the health of their employees I take it?"
      No, they don't give a shit about their students. They are keeping the plan for their employees.

      May 16, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • fred

      ah LinCA
      The school is in court fighting to block the change on employer plans and will drop the coverage if they loose. Student plans are often association plans and the school does not have a legal basis to appeal Obama mandates that are imposed on these plans.

      May 16, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  16. just wondering

    politics and money..... who would have thunk it from one of the worlds biggest business's

    May 16, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  17. JacinJax

    You have to wonder how much money the school will be saving by not having health coverage for employees and students. And you have to wonder where that money will be spent. But since they don't have to open their books I guess those left in the cold will have to warm themselves by thinking it's about BELIEF.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  18. traceya117

    Doubter & Phil – EXACTLY! Thank you.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  19. Pokydoke

    Another "my way or the highway" from the religious right trying to force their particular religious views on everyone they can. Sorry Holy Roller U, your sales pitch is getting stale.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  20. @momoya

    momoya u get the fk out

    May 16, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • momoya

      lol sincerest form of flattery, I take it?

      May 16, 2012 at 7:37 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.