Thursday, November 27, 2014

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Loyola Marymount Univ. Drops Abortion Coverage Following Complaint

Sacred Heart Chapel, LMULoyola Marymount University (LMU) has told The Cardinal Newman Society that it will drop its employee insurance coverage of abortion but retain its coverage of contraceptives, following protests from a faithful Catholic professor and just prior to publication of a Newman Society report revealing LMU’s benefits plan.

The Jesuit university in California released the following statement:

Last fall, LMU inquired of its health insurance broker and insurers whether it could exclude elective abortions from coverage under its fully-insured PPO and HMO plan options effective January 1, 2013.

In response, LMU was advised that:  “Based on contract filings with the California Department of Insurance (CDI) and California’s Department of Managed Care (DMHC), neither organization can exclude elective abortions from coverage under a fully-insured contract.”

Notwithstanding this response, LMU continued to confer with its broker, insurers and others to determine if practical and effective alternatives exist or could be created.

As a result:
(1)  Coverage for elective abortions in LMU’s PPO plan and one of its HMOs was excluded effective January 1, 2013;

and,
(2)  LMU was recently advised that its other HMO provider has re-evaluated its policy on exceptions for excluding elective abortions and now has determined that it will allow the exclusion of elective abortions from LMU’s HMO plan effective January 1, 2014.

In response to LMU’s further inquiry about its ability to have this exclusion become effective prior to January 1, 2014, the HMO provider stated: “This is a custom benefit and our internal process for these requests and building non-standard benefits takes several months so we would not be able to offer this until sometime in December 2013.

As part of this process, when we are removing a benefit during the contract period, we need to notify members in advance. That is why we are offering it coinciding with LMU's January 1, 2014 renewal.”

But the policy reversal occurred only following a series of emails between Rebecca Chandler, LMU’s Vice President for Human Resources, and LMU philosophy professor James Hanink, who complained that the University was providing insurance coverage for both contraceptives and abortion.

In those emails, obtained by The Cardinal Newman Society, Hanink complained that LMU was failing to live up to its Catholic identity by offering such coverage. Chandler told Hanink that the University was forced to cover both contraceptives and abortion:

LMU inquired of our health insurers about our ability to exclude coverage for elective abortions under the fully-insured PPO and HMO plan options.  In response, LMU was advised that the California Department of Insurance and the California Department of Managed Care will not allow California insurers to exclude such coverage from its fully insured contracts offered in California.  This response and the requirement to provide this coverage are consistent with advice obtained by other Jesuit universities in California.

We continue to confer with our health insurers and explore other options in an effort to determine if practical and effective alternatives exist or can be created.  At present, no such alternatives have been identified.

But The Cardinal Newman Society subsequently obtained confirmation from Thomas Aquinas College, a faithful Catholic college in California recommended in The Newman Guide, that the College does not cover contraceptives or abortion in its employee health coverage.

Thomas Aquinas College released this statement to the Newman Society:

In 1994, California became the first state to require its insurance companies to provide coverage for contraceptives.  In order to avoid facilitating such coverage for its employees, Thomas Aquinas College became a member of the Reta Trust, ‘a self-funded benefit trust’ whose plans "only provide benefits that are in compliance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services published by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.” Because the College self-insures through the Reta Trust, it is exempt from the State of California's regulation requiring coverage of contraceptive services.

Biola University, an evangelical Christian institution in California, also told The Cardinal Newman Society that it does not cover abortion in its employee insurance plan, adding to the evidence that LMU may have had options for avoiding abortion and contraceptive coverage.

“The easiest thing in the world is to blame everything on the insurers, forgetting the fact that you listened to what the insurers said,” Hanink told The Cardinal Newman Society. “Obviously [LMU] should’ve challenged it from the beginning.”

And LMU still argues in its statement that California forces the Jesuit university to cover contraceptives, despite the experience of Thomas Aquinas College with a self-insured plan:

In regard to insurance coverage of contraceptives, California law requires coverage which was decided by Catholic Charities of Sacramento Inc. v. Superior Court 32 Cal.4th 527, 85 P.2d 67 (2004).

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

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