While an increasing number of colleges require students to have health insurance either through the school or with their parents, Wheaton College has dropped health care plans for its students based on insurance coverage of contraceptive pills.
Paul Chelsen, Student Development Vice President, explained to the student body that the decision was made to protect a lawsuit the school has against the Department of Health and Human Services, reports the Associated Press.
Wheaton College, an evangelical four-year school, objects to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate and in 2012 filed a federal lawsuit and postponed complying with the law.
“What has brought us here is about student health insurance, but it’s bigger than student health insurance,” Chelsen said. “What really breaks my heart is that there are real people that are affected by our decision. But if we don’t win this case, the implications down the road in terms of what the government will tell us what we can and cannot do, will be potentially more significant. “I acknowledge that students have been hurt by this decision and I regret that.”
This decision leaves 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students to look for another source of health insurance, writes Eben Blake for International Business Times. The college will still provide insurance coverage for faculty and staff.
The Affordable Heath Care Act requires health insurance providers to cover contraceptive methods for all women with reproductive capacity. The law, which applies to all employers and educational institutions, does allow for organizations to opt out of birth control coverage. However, insurance companies themselves would still be required to offer contraception directly. Wheaton College does not want to allow any form of coverage because it “violates [its] religious beliefs”.
While Protestant institutions don’t mind covering some forms of birth control, unlike Roman Catholic churches, which object to all forms, they do take issue with intrauterine devices and FDA-approved morning after pills. Evangelical Christians believe those measures are equivalent to abortion, writes Manya Brachear Pashman for the Chicago Tribune.
Many people including the colleges students believe the school is putting politics over care for its students.
The Rev. Katherine Kallis, 74, who graduated in 1962, also disagrees. “I just feel it is a very sad thing. Nobody is forcing anybody to go against their religious convictions. … Wheaton is really overstepping its bounds.”
However, the college has attempted to ease the burden for students who utilized their health insurance coverage and is setting money aside to aid students who will have increased insurance costs. International students, among others, may have to seek coverage with a private health insurance plan or a federal public health insurance exchange.