Ave Maria drops student health plan, insurance requirement

Tristan Spinski/Staff
Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University, holds a press conference on Friday afternoon at the Hilton hotel in Naples in reaction to President Obama's announcement that the Affordable Care Act will not require religious institutions such as Catholic colleges and hospitals to provide their employees with health insurance coverage for contraception and birth control. 'There's more confusion than ever before,' Towey said about the White House's compromise on the issue, which originally mandated contraception and birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act but adjusted its stance under heavy pressure from Catholic leaders and politicians.

Photo by TRISTAN SPINSKI // Buy this photo

Tristan Spinski/Staff Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University, holds a press conference on Friday afternoon at the Hilton hotel in Naples in reaction to President Obama's announcement that the Affordable Care Act will not require religious institutions such as Catholic colleges and hospitals to provide their employees with health insurance coverage for contraception and birth control. "There's more confusion than ever before," Towey said about the White House's compromise on the issue, which originally mandated contraception and birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act but adjusted its stance under heavy pressure from Catholic leaders and politicians.

Ave Maria University will no longer offer health insurance to students or require them to carry it, school officials announced Monday.

With premiums and deductibles expected to rise, and a new federal mandate requiring coverage for contraceptive care — which the Catholic school doesn’t support — university President James Towey said the decision was a “no-brainer.”

“We simply have no choice,” he said.

The university is suing the federal government over the contraceptive mandate included in the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurers to pay for FDA-approved contraception, such as birth control, sterilization and the “morning after” pill. Towey noted that Notre Dame announced Monday it, too, is suing over the new requirements.

“It’s exciting to see some of the big guns now entering this debate,” Towey said, adding that he believes it’s more likely the provisions will be revisited as more schools follow suit.

On Monday, Ave Maria University leaders who met to discuss dropping student health coverage agreed it was the best choice for the college.

It has required students to maintain health insurance since its founding, and about 12 percent of the college’s 800 students use the university’s plan.

Under new federal mandates, the plan’s insurance premiums were expected to jump from $839 to $1,392 annually. Deductibles were slated to rise from $100 to $250, Towey said.

Dropping the plan and the requirement that students have coverage was a “painful decision,” he said, but one that has been embraced by student and university leaders.

“It’s not possible for us to require health insurance and coverage that is contrary to our Catholic identity,” he said.

The decision is effective Aug. 15. Towey said officials decided to announce it Monday to give students who use the Ave Maria plan time to find another.

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