After revisions to the Affordable Care Act in late June, Georgetown student and faculty health insurance will cover contraception through United Healthcare beginning August 15.
The Obama administration’s final ACA regulations require insurance companies to pay directly for contraceptive services for those covered by nonprofit organizations that oppose contraception on religious grounds. The ACA mandates that employee group health plans and fully insured student health plans cover preventive care and screenings for women, including Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling, at no extra cost. Employees and students with ACA healthcare will be covered by Aetna, Kaiser, United Healthcare or CareFirst beginning in January 2014.
“These regulations give us the opportunity to reconcile our religious identity and our commitment to providing access to affordable healthcare,” University President John J. DeGioia wrote in a campus-wide email announcing the policy change Thursday.
Though students will be able to pay for contraception using Georgetown health insurance off campus, the Student Health Center will not begin prescribing medication used for contraception, as mandated by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services.
While Georgetown accepted the new accommodation for religious institutions, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops rejected it July 3, stating that the definition of eligibility was too narrow to guarantee religious freedom. USCCB objected to the implication that circumventing religious institutions through their insurance providers upheld Catholic moral values.
“We are concerned as pastors with the freedom of the Church as a whole — not just for the full range of its institutional forms, but also for the faithful in their daily lives — to carry out the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ,” USCCB President Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in a press release.
Right to Life Marketing Chair Evelyn Flashner (COL ’15) agreed that the university’s decision contradicted its Catholic identity.
“The university is violating its own principles as a Catholic institution on this issue … Georgetown is diverging from the opinion of the Catholic Church,” Flashner said. “The new accommodation does not solve all the problems, and according to the USCCB, it doesn’t present a feasible version of religious liberty.”
Flashner used an analogy from USCCB member Bishop William Lori to explain the accommodation’s shortcomings.
“There is a Jewish deli that doesn’t sell anything but kosher meat, but the government says, ‘You have to sell non-kosher meat,’” Flashner said. “Everyone freaks out, but the government says, ‘Never mind, I take it back. Instead of having you sell kosher meat, we’re going to put a little kiosk in the middle of your store and sell non-kosher meat.’”
H*yas for Choice President Laura Narefsky (COL’14), however, applauded the announcement.
“I think the College of Cardinals is in a very privileged position, in that they are not directly responsible for the health and well-being of so many people,” Narefsky said. “Georgetown has a responsibility not just as a member of the Catholic Church, but also as a research and educational institute with thousands of people who are and are not part of the Catholic Church.”
Narefsky said that the accommodation was a step in the right direction toward reproductive justice.
“Georgetown doesn’t have to finance or endorse it, but they realized that they can’t maintain these archaic and out-of-touch views on modern healthcare,” Narefsky said. “It shows progress and ability to move forward on a position that a lot of people think is a stalemate.”