I mentioned this briefly in yesterday’s Roundup, but I wanted to circle back to it, because it’s incredible. Despite the annoying way in which the President touts his policy preferences as previously “conservative ideas,” it actually is pretty incredible, just on an anthropological level, how conservatives can manage to turn on a dime on these policies, like cap and trade or the individual mandate, things that they’ve touted for many years. Now we have another example of this.
For years, Xavier University, a Jesuit school in the Cincinnati area, had a health care plan that included birth control coverage. Certainly this did not cause a whole lot of alarm as a breach with Catholic teaching. Faculty and other employees at the college, including non-Catholics, could get birth control under their health plans. It was only when the Obama Administration mandated this as part of their preventive health services menu that the President of Xavier even bothered to look at his insurance plan and what it covered. And finding birth control on there, he swiftly moved to cancel it, presumably because it violated his deeply held beliefs of which he was unaware until a little while ago.
Xavier University, one of the oldest Roman Catholic colleges in the United States, will cut off birth-control coverage for its employees in July, a move that has divided faculty members and students on the Cincinnati campus.
The administration has mandated that nearly all health insurance plans provide free birth control by this summer, with limited accommodations for religious institutions that oppose contraception on moral grounds. Top Catholic bishops have blasted that mandate as an attack on religious freedom [...]
The controversy prompted Xavier President Michael Graham, a Jesuit priest, to review the health insurance plan offered to the university’s 935 employees. Graham announced this week in a letter to the faculty that the plan will cease to cover contraception on July 1.
The story profiles one associate professor, a non-Catholic, who uses birth control, and who will now have to pay for it out of pocket. The Catholic church, by stoking a controversy, just got her employer to determine what legal procedures she can or cannot have as part of her insurance coverage. Incidentally, this is coverage she pays for, by virtue of it being a benefits package attached to her salary. Her work for the university earns her those benefits, they are not just given to her. But Xavier has now stood in the way of those earned benefits.
They didn’t stand in the way of such coverage in 2009 or 2010 or 2011. Only after the issue became a political controversy did Xavier’s President start hunting for things in his institutions insurance plan to offend him. I’m thinking that other Catholic universities, like DePaul and Georgetown, which offer birth control coverage in their employee insurance plans, will soon follow suit.
This will set off a confrontation with the federal government. The preventive services mandate begins in August, and religiously affiliated institutions only have an extra year to comply. They can pursue the compromise laid out by the President, where the insurance company itself contracts with the employees desiring coverage to provide it free of charge. Many religious institutions have sued to block the mandate, and of course if the Supreme Court throws out the entire Affordable Care Act, this issue becomes irrelevant.
For now, though, religious institutions will continue to become suddenly offended by a policy that caused them no heartburn just a few months ago.