With a university-wide health insurance requirement likely on the horizon, the level and type of care to be provided in Marquette’s health plan is under the microscope.
One of the most hotly debated health care topics in recent months has been the issue of birth control and whether religious institutions should be required to provide it. Dr. Carolyn Smith, executive director of the Student Health Service, said the university insurance would cover such care if a health insurance mandate was passed.
“The state of Wisconsin, by law, says that anyone who insures anyone in the state has to provide contraceptive coverage,” Smith said. “So yes, it will be covered.”
Cobeen Hall Pastoral Minister the Rev. Michael Zeps said he is not happy with Wisconsin’s contraceptive care mandate. Being a Catholic, Jesuit institution, Marquette has values that would be compromised with the provision of birth control, Zeps said.
“I don’t think that the university should be required to act in a way that is contrary to Catholic teaching,” he said. “I think the government is taking a step backward with this law.”
Vice President of Student Affairs L. Christopher Miller said that since Wisconsin passed its law requiring insurance plans to include birth control coverage in 2009, “any student health insurance plan offered by Marquette since 2009 has provided this benefit.”
Wisconsin law only requires the university’s health insurance plan to cover birth control costs, so Student Health Service center in Schroeder Complex is not obligated to offer any forms of birth control. The service’s statement on contraception reads: “In keeping with the Catholic tradition regarding birth control, the Student Health Service does not dispense condoms nor prescribe contraceptive medication.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are 26 states, including Wisconsin, that require all health insurers to offer contraceptive services. Additionally, 21 states “offer exemptions from contraceptive coverage, usually for religious reasons, for insurers or employers in their policies,” but Wisconsin is not one of them.
The Affordable Care Act, which will fully go into effect in 2014, will also have a federal contraception requirement at the federal level, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, the act will offer exemptions from this requirement to “group health plans sponsored by certain religious employers and group health insurance coverage in connection with such plans.”
The university’s health insurance proposal will be presented to the Board of Trustees at either its meeting in December or in its spring meeting, Smith said. If the proposal is approved next month, the mandate will be implemented in fall 2013. If the presentation is delayed until the spring meeting, the requirement will go into effect in fall 2014.