University insurance policy plays waiting game with contraception
The University follows the tradition of the Catholic church regarding contraception. SARAH CELONE/THE VILLANOVAN
Earlier this month, the Obama administration proposed that all employers must provide access to contraception.
While the policy did exclude institutions such as churches, Catholic hospitals and universities, it held the potential to provide access for either employees or students under this mandate.
Though under the new compromise struck this past week, affiliated organizations, such as universities, would not need to directly pay for contraceptives. Policyholders who elect to use it would be eligible to contact the insurance company and obtain it without a raise to their premium.
The University sponsored health insurance plan, facilitated by United Healthcare Options PPO, currently has approximately 400 students under the policy.
According to Mary McGonigle, director of the Health Center, the majority of students elect to waive the school sponsored plan in favor of existing insurance options, such as those of parents or spouses.
The 2011-'12 insurance policy is effective for a calendar year and began on Aug.1.
For a student, the policy costs $1,190. Though medical coverage is quite extensive, there are exclusions.
Contraceptives, according to McGonigle and the policy brochure, are not covered under the current policy nor will be covered under the 2012-'13 academic year policy.
The uncertainty regarding the implementation and actual language of the proposed mandate leaves the future inclusion of such clauses open to interpretation.
For now, however, the University is upholding its longstanding policy.
"In keeping with the Catholic church's teachings, the University will not prescribe anything that will inhibit the conception of life," McGonigle said.
This includes contraceptive methods such as birth control, devices or medications and emergency methods, such as Plan B.
This has the potential to change in the coming years depending on the result of the heated debate.
"It is hard to say—it is happening so quick," said Rev. John Stack, O.S.A., vice president of Student Life. Stack cited the evolving dialogues and changes, as well as the November election outcome as evidence for the questionable future of contraception and insurance.
While the recent compromise did produce a positive reaction from some Catholic groups throughout the nation because it eliminated the direct payment of the institutions for contraceptives, other groups have condemned the policy.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has maintained their disapproval based on moral grounds, a position that Stack says is most closely aligned with that of the University, though the position of the Catholic church in general is reflected in University regulations.
While the University does not permit prescriptions for contraceptives for students or access to un-prescribed contraception, such as condoms, the Health Center does offer treatment and testing for STIs, as well as women's health services. These include gynecological exams and infection evaluation or treatment. The Health Center also provides pregnancy testing free of charge through urine analysis.
The availability of such services raises a contradiction for some, such as junior and practicing Catholic Miller Edwards.
"Why is it that the Health Center offers STI testing and pregnancy tests but doesn't offer the very things that could prevent those?" Edwards said.
To McGonigle, however, there is a distinct separation.
"Pregnancy is not a disease," McGonigle said. "STI treatment is not inhibiting pregnancy."
Instead of contraceptives, the University offers a wealth of resources designed at helping students abstain from sexual activity, such as the Office of Health Promotion's "101 Ways to Make Love without Doing It at Villanova," a list which includes activities a couple can partake in such as "study together in Bartley" and "give them a piggy back ride."
The office also provides information on postponement, intimacy and sexual expression.
In addition, the University offers counseling and support, both academically and otherwise, to students who are pregnant.
"We want pregnant students to stay in school," McGonigle said. Resources such as the Peer Educators, the Villanovans for Life group and Kathy Byrnes, the associate vice president for Student Life, work with students to provide guidance for pregnant individuals.
Until a final decision is made regarding the inclusion of contraceptive coverage in Catholic universities' health insurance plans, the existing measures regarding students' sexual health will be the only sources made available.
As for future health insurance plans, the University, along with the nation, will wait and see how the controversial debate plays out.
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