Catholic leaders and the GOP presidential candidates have intentionally distorted the Obama administration’s new rule requiring employers and insurers to provide reproductive health benefits at no additional cost sharing. Conservatives are seeking a way to politically unite Republican voters around a social issue and portray the regulation as a big government intrusion into religious liberties. In reality, the mandate is modeled on existing rules in six states, exempts houses of worship and other religious nonprofits that primarily employ and serve people of faith, and offers employers a transitional period of one year to determine how best to comply with the rule.
It’s also nothing new. Twenty-eight states already require organizations that offer prescription insurance to cover contraception and since 98 percent of Catholic women use birth control, many Catholic institutions offer the benefit to their employees. For instance, a Georgetown University spokesperson told ThinkProgress yesterday that employees “have access to health insurance plans offered and designed by national providers to a national pool. These plans include coverage for birth control.”
Similarly, an informal survey conducted by Our Sunday Visitor found that many Catholic colleges have purchased insurance plans that provide contraception benefits:
University of Scranton, for example, appears to specifically cover contraception. The University of San Francisco offers employees two health plans, both of which cover abortion, contraception and sterilization…Also problematic is the Jesuit University of Scranton. One of its health insurance plans, the First Priority HMO, lists a benefit of “contraceptives when used for the purpose of birth control.”
DePaul University in Chicago covers birth control in both its fully insured HMO plan and its self-insured PPO plan and excludes “elective abortion,” said spokesman John Holden, adding that the 1,800 employee-university responded to a complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission several years ago and added artificial contraception as a benefit to its Blue Cross PPO.
Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn., offers employee health insurance via the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, a consortium of Christian Bible and other private college and universities. Its plan excludes abortion, but probably covers artificial contraception as a prescription drug, said C. Gregg Conroy, the executive director of the TICUA Benefit Consortium.
Boston College, the six former Caritas Christi Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts, and other Catholic organizations that are located in one of the 28 states that already require employers to provide contraception benefits could have self-insured or stopped offering prescription drug coverage to avoid the mandate — but didn’t do so. Instead, they — like many Catholic hospitals and health care insurers around the country — chose to meet the needs of the overwhelming majority of Catholic women and offer these much needed services.