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  • The Cost of Saving Ave Maria from Obamacare's Anti-Conscience Mandate

    Last month Ave Maria University, a Catholic institution in Naples, FL, dropped its student health insurance plan because of the moral costs that the Department of Health and Human Service’s anti-conscience mandate imposed on the school. The mandate requires all insurance plans to cover “preventative” services, including abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization.

    From its founding, Ave Maria has given its students the option to have health insurance through an inexpensive group policy plan that specifically excludes benefits for elective abortion, sterilization and contraceptives. As a result of the HHS mandate’s coercive requirement to offer drugs and services that violate the teachings of the Catholic Church, Ave Maria decided to drop its student health insurance plan and will also not require students to have health insurance in order to attend the school this fall. The current student health insurance plan covers about 15 percent of students attending the university.

    “We no longer made student health insurance a requirement and then we ceased being an intermediary for students who wanted to get health insurance because the policies would force us to violate our conscience,” Ave Maria President Jim Towey said.

    Ave Maria has also filed a lawsuit over the HHS mandate, claiming the requirement to provide coverage of drugs and services that violate Catholic teaching is an unwarranted assault on the university’s religious liberty.

    In addition to the moral implications of the anti-conscience mandate, other provisions under President Obama’s health care overhaul — marketed as being “affordable” — will, in reality, increase health care insurance costs for students. Due to Obamacare’s mandated increases in the maximum benefit per injury or illness from $50,000 to $100,000, premiums for Ave Maria’s student health plan would have increased 66 percent and deductibles would have skyrocketed 250 percent.

    “They increased the maximum benefit and they required all the health plans to adjust to that,” Towey said. “That was a hidden cost increase that no one discussed and that no one anticipated. And then, [Obama] had it thrust on us this spring, surprised us all, and made us do what we did.”

    Students may find the sudden loss of health insurance or staggering increases in cost surprising in light of Obama’s promises of greater access and affordability.

    “I think it’s really sad that Obamacare is supposed to make things cheaper for students, but it’s actually more expensive,” said Bridget Littleton, a rising senior at Ave Maria. “It’s interesting that they’re trying to make college affordable by providing federal loans. But ObamaCare in this way, at least, is making things more expensive.”

    Unfortunately, for students in need of health insurance — and coverage that aligns with their beliefs — the outlook is grim.

    Student athletes at Ave Maria may have an even harder time under the new rules. The NCAA requires them to be covered by individual, parental or institutional medical insurance to defray the costs of significant injury or illness.

    As a Catholic institution, many students at Ave Maria participate in service projects around the globe. If the university does not provide a health plan to its students, it may disrupt their ability to engage in activities that benefit society.

    “I suspect it may come into play when our students are pondering going on a service-learning trip to a third-world country,” Towey said. “They probably will have to make insurance arrangements that previously would’ve been covered under their student health plan.”

    Towey acknowledged the difficulty of deciphering what will happen at Ave Maria, given the scale of the health-care overhaul.

    “I think everybody is entering the land of the unknown with this huge bill,” he said. “Nobody a year ago was talking about an increased student health insurance or the magnitude we were looking at. We wonder whether there are other things in this health bill that we don’t know about.”

    Student health plans aren’t the only coverage options in danger. The HHS mandate applies to all insurance plans, including the school’s employer health insurance.

    Ave Maria, along with countless other religious employers, is now faced with a daunting decision: violate its deeply held beliefs by providing coverage for services against their conscience or drop employer health insurance in addition to student plans.

    The latter decision may result in arduous fines at roughly $2,000 per employee per year. For Ave Maria, this yearly fine mounts to at least $400,000 that might otherwise go toward helpings its students. With the HHS mandate trampling on religious liberty, the federal government is undermining the mission of universities to educate while diminishing the incentives for private schools to continue serving their communities.

    Towey is hopeful that Obamacare’s onerous provisions will soon be a thing of the past.

    “Like everyone, we’re watching the Supreme Court to see if they throw the whole law out. If they don’t, we will continue to prosecute our lawsuit against the federal government and defend our First Amendment rights. That just means more time in court,” Towey said.

    Melanie Wilcox is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.

    Posted in Featured, Obamacare, Scribe [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to The Cost of Saving Ave Maria from Obamacare's Anti-Conscience Mandate

    1. Laurie Davis says:

      Difficult to believe that we have a President who refuses to uphold the laws he doesn't like and doesn't believe in religious freedom. He supports a 'kill list' that he controls, believes it is OK to kill an American citizen with a drone (overseas for now, but who knows) wages war on one of our own states, wants to destroy the 2nd amendment., and destroy the very energy companies that have made this country the economic success it is. He has increased unemployment, welfare, and is destroying our military.

      Who would want this to continue? Who?

      • Debbie says:

        Sadly, too many people are apparently happy with Obama’s policies and their results if one is to judge the latest presidential polls. We can hope they wake up by election day, but who knows?

      • Capt. A. says:

        +100 – Straightaway, your comment is spot on! Smart cookie!

        Capt. A.
        Principauté de Monaco

    2. Stephanie says:

      Thank you Ave Maria University for standing up to Obamacare. I hope more catholic universities and catholic hospitals stand up to Obamacare as well. I know they are and I hope Obama hears our pleas; it's a bad policy for everyone.

    3. Bobbie says:

      I can't believe obamacare isn't repealed immediately on the basis of it's illusionary intent and false advertisement! And Obama in jail. Signed by reckless elected unconstitutional members before reading as if all a miracle cure while the traitor Pelosi knowing if read first it wouldn't be signed by any of the wiser that signed it. It's a set up that shows the President and the democratic cabinet is not in favor of the personal self control people have with their doctors, but in favor of taking control. Socialized health care is unfeasible with foreseeable crisis. It's out of reach. It's over bearing! Highly intrusive! There's corruption everywhere in government at a high tax paying expense that can be and needs to be easily removed. The private sector holds accountability at it's own expense! Let the insurance markets handle it with their own rules (competition) so our minds can think for ourselves to make responsible decisions without the monkey on our back.
      Ave Maria, what a beautiful song!

    4. Rich Pedersen says:

      I understand the school's action, but real resistance to the mandate would have looked more like this: continue the existing insurance policies in force and dare the government to come put Catholic school administrators (and nuns?) on trial for acting according to their faith.

      Letting the students go without school-sponsored health care is playing right into Obama's hands, because those students who truly need insurance will be forced onto a plan that is either Obamacare-sponsored, or at least Obamacare-approved, WHICH IS WHAT HE WANTS!

      Stand up, refuse to cooperate, go to jail if necessary. That's what resistance looks like.

    5. renaus45 says:

      Why would a Supreme Court uphold a specious law that was voted on only 24 hours after it was presented to Congress for examination. I can still hear that a$$ Pelosi saying 'we've got to pass it to find out what's in it'. We're talking 2300 plus pages of gobbledy-gook. This is the intelligence of our government? This is a sham. It only shows the incredible stupidity of our government. Not only that, NOT ONE REPUBLICAN gave the 'aye' vote for this monstrosity. Not that it's been out for review, 2/3rds of the American people want it TOTALLY repealed. Hello!!! Is anyone in Washington listening?
      There's a few lines in the Declaration of Independence that says, "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,…". Why aren't the Republicans moving on all these dictatorial abuses by the Obama Administration? Why? I'm telling you, November is not coming fast enough.

    6. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      As a Christian, I should put the best construction on things and assume that these mandates are issued due to Obama et als economic ignorance of free market principles. However, I suspect that it is being done with the intent to drive us "subjects" out of private health insurance into the gracious, open arms of the state which, as we all know, never breaks its promises.

      Lord, save the Republic according to your will.

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