Franciscan University Becomes First to Drop Coverage Under HHS Mandate

Published May 21, 2012

A Catholic university in Ohio is the first institution to announce it will drop health insurance coverage for students rather than accept the demands of President Obama’s administration to pay for abortifacients and contraception services.

In response to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s decision to deem contraception services as preventive care which must be covered at no direct cost for employees or students under President Obama’s law, Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio has chosen to drop coverage for its approximately 2,700 students.

Franciscan’s vice president of advancement, Michael Hernon, says the decision was not easy.

“The Catholic Church is one of the pioneers of health care, yet the federal government is seeking to separate our faith from what we’re able to do,” Hernon said.

Mandate Already Increasing Costs

Hernon said recent conversations with the school’s insurance provider revealed the mandated coverage for these aspects of student care, along with other requirements in President Obama’s law, would double the premium cost of their student plan.

“When Franciscan University found out about the HHS mandate, we alerted our alumni and others and stood up to fight it. And we will still fight it. But in March we found out it was also going to more than double the cost we were passing on to students,” Hernon said. “We said this was unconscionable. Not only is this looming mandate going to coerce us to violate our conscience, but students would face increased costs.”

The provider estimated the annual cost for student coverage would rise from $600 per student to approximately $1,300.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Hernon said.

Hernon says the university will retain its employee plan for the time being but will reexamine the issue should the government not reconsider its actions.

“Right now our employee plan is not impacted immediately—we have a grace period of a year or so before the coercive mandate hits our employee plan. We are pursuing all options in fighting this, and hopefully cooler minds will prevail,” Hernon said.

“We’re not going to be complicit with a government action like this,” Hernon said.