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Wheaton College To Stop Student Health Insurance To Sidestep Contraceptive Coverage Rules

Wheaton College To Stop Student Health Insurance To Sidestep Contraceptive Coverage Rules

July 29, 2015 — Beginning Friday, an Illinois-based evangelical Christian college will stop providing health insurance for students to avoid having to comply with accommodations in the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the Chicago Tribune reports (Brachear Pashman, Chicago Tribune, 7/29).

Background

Not-for-profits that hold themselves out as religious are able to receive accommodations for meeting the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) contraceptive coverage rules for employers. The accommodation enables such not-for-profits to notify their insurer or third-party administrator of their objection so the insurer or third-party administrator can facilitate contraceptive coverage for members of their health plans.

Wheaton College objected to filling out the accommodation form, arguing that doing so would violate its constitutional rights.

Last year, the Supreme Court in a split decision granted an injunction to Wheaton College that prevented the federal government from enforcing the contraceptive coverage rules for the school while its case was pending in lower courts.

Earlier this month, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Wheaton College's request for an exemption from the accommodation. In the ruling, Circuit Judge Richard Posner wrote that the accommodation "is hardly a burdensome requirement; nor does it leave the provider -- the opt out -- with any residual involvement in the coverage of drugs or devices of which it sincerely disapproves on religious grounds" (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/15).

Implications

The decision, announced earlier this month to students, will end health care coverage for an estimated 700 students at Wheaton College (Hegarty, Daily Herald, 7/28). According to the Tribune, colleges and universities are not required to provide health insurance for students. However, Wheaton in 2010 instituted policies requiring students to provide proof of coverage or enroll in the college health plan.

Paul Chelsen, vice president of student development at Wheaton College, said the decision to end coverage was related to the lawsuit over the contraceptive coverage rules' accommodations. "We are attempting to protect the larger lawsuit the college has against [HHS]," he said. He added that Wheaton is considering a self-insured health plan.

According to Chelsen, the college has set aside funds for students who were insured through the college to help them cover potential cost increases associated with purchasing private coverage (Chicago Tribune, 7/28). "Funding will be made available for students who were enrolled in the student health insurance plan for the 2014-2015 school year and are experiencing an increase in health insurance costs in comparison to the announced 2015-2016 student health care plan," he said (Daily Herald, 7/28).

Chelsen added that access to the campus health clinic will not be affected by the decision (Chicago Tribune, 7/28).