President Thomas Keefe urged U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to allow Catholic universities to opt out of regulations that will require them to enroll in health insurance plans that cover sterilization and contraceptives.
In a letter dated Sept. 28, Keefe petitioned Sebelius to broaden the meaning of “religious employer” in order to allow “nonprofit charitable religious institutions” – such as the University of Dallas – to be exempted from HHS guidelines issued Aug. 1.
“Requiring the members of an institution to pay for healthcare which is contradictory to their religious and moral principles is an infringement upon the right to religious freedom,” Keefe said in a press release Monday.
The recent HHS regulations stem from the Affordable Care Act, passed in March 2010, and will require all health insurance plans to cover “preventive” care for women – including FDA-approved contraceptives and sterilization procedures – beginning on Aug. 1, 2012.
The new rules exempt “certain religious employers” from offering health insurance plans that cover contraceptives, but UD does not fit that category, according to Keefe.
“We would contract with a health insurance company that would cover the costs of these practices,” he said referring to contraceptives. “It would not be UD paying – it would be the health insurance carrier that would pay for the practices.”
The new guidelines will also cover preventive health practices for women – such as well-woman visits, breastfeeding support and domestic violence screening –without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible, according to HHS.
“These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need,” Sebelius said. The guidelines were proposed by the Institute of Medicine, a non-profit institution that provides the public with health care policy recommendations.
Keefe asked the UD community to push elected officials to rescind the new guidelines that contradict what “the Catholic Church teaches.”
“It’s imperative that we gain the attention of our legislators and our federal elected representatives and explain to them how this is a violation against our constitutional right to freedom of religion,” he said.