Student Health Policies Axed

STEUBENVILLE – Franciscan University of Steubenville will drop its student health insurance policy as of the coming fall semester.

The school cites the national health care law mandate requiring all insurance providers cover services that run counter to Catholic teachings as its reason for dropping the policy.

The university’s current health care plan expires Aug. 15.

“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. … Up to this time, Franciscan University has specifically excluded these services and products from its student health insurance policy, and 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 reads.

Vice President of Advancement Mike Hernon said the decision was “painful” for university officials, but they’ve already received positive feedback from both students and parents.

Because Franciscan University no longer will offer health insurance, the school also will drop its requirement that full-time undergraduate students carry such coverage.

In the past, students without coverage under a parent or guardian’s plan or their own personal plan automatically were charged for coverage offered through the university.

Spokesman Tom Sofio said 100-200 of Franciscan’s 2,500 students were enrolled in the plan during the most recent academic year. The cost for a full year of coverage was $588.

According to Sofio, had the university chosen to continue offering the plan, premiums likely would have doubled as a result of a provision in the law increasing the mandated per-incident coverage amount for student policies to $100,000 as of the coming academic year, with further increases expected in the future as the per-incident coverage requirement would rise to $500,000 for the 2013-14 academic year.

“The two factors that are driving our decision are the freedom of religion and the economics. We don’t feel it’s fair to pass that cost on to our students,” Hernon added.

Supporters of the mandate have pointed out that insurance companies will be the ones required to pay for contraceptives and other controversial services, not the religious institutions that oppose them. But opponents say it’s a matter of semantics.

“That’s a charade. That’s moving around the cups … because who pays the insurance company? We do,” said Sofio.

As of now, the university will continue to offer coverage to its employees but the policy still will not cover services the Catholic church considers immoral. Hernon said the law allows religious institutions that previously did not cover such services to be “grandfathered in,” at least for another full coverage year.

Franciscan will continue to operate its on-campus health center, which provides basic health-related services at a cost of $5 per visit. The center is staffed by a certified nurse practitioner during normal business hours Monday-Friday. However, students who are referred off-campus for further treatment will be responsible for the cost of that treatment.

Students who participate in a study abroad program in Austria will continue to be covered under a different plan, as will student-athletes during all activities related to their respective sports.