In an email sent this morning, April 26, 2012, President DeGioia communicated the University’s decision regarding contraceptive coverage for students in the upcoming year. The University will seek the one year deferral period allowed for in the recently promulgated Health and Human Services Department regulation. Last week, a petition signed by more than 780 law students was released asking the University to forgo the one year delay.
The current practice of providing employees with subsidized access to contraception will remain unchanged. The University has made no effort to explain this discrepancy despite a nearly month-old formal request for clarification from the Student Bar Association.
Continue reading for the full text of DeGioia’s message.
To the Members of the Georgetown University Community
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:
I write to you regarding Georgetown’s health insurance and contraceptive coverage in our plans. Many members of our community have expressed different perspectives on this issue. I am grateful for the respectful ways in which you have shared your opinions.
As you know, like most universities, Georgetown requires that students have health insurance. Students are not required to purchase their health insurance through Georgetown University and are free to acquire health insurance through a third party. The student plan offered by Georgetown is consistent with our Catholic and Jesuit identity and does not cover prescription contraceptives for birth control. It does provide coverage for these prescriptions for students who require them for health reasons unrelated to birth control, as determined by a physician.
After thoughtful and careful consideration, we will continue our current practice for contraceptive coverage in our student health insurance for the coming year, as allowed for under the current rules issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
There will also be no change to the University’s approach to contraceptive coverage for employees for 2013.
We will be monitoring further regulatory and judicial developments related to the Affordable Care Act. I hope this is helpful in clarifying a matter of concern to many of you.
You have my very best wishes as we conclude our academic year.
John J. DeGioia
Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) released a statement responding to President DeGioia’s announcement and questioning several of its claims.
President DeGioia stated in his message that students may purchase their own insurance on the open market. This suggestion, says the LSRJ statement, “exposes a lack of understanding of how financially unfeasible” purchasing insurance on the open market can be for students.
Kelly Percival (2L), current co-president of LSRJ, took issue with the announcement’s appeal to morality. “For many students,” writes Percival, “it is hard to accept that moral grounds are at issue because the university provides faculty and staff full contraception coverage for any reason. What moral distinction can there be between students and faculty/staff when members of both groups can be of similar ages, can be married or single, etc.?”
According to the statement, this discrepancy between coverage for employees and students makes Georgetown’s eligibility for the HHS rule’s one year exemption for religious institutions questionable. In order to qualify for the one year exemption, the statement argues, “Georgetown must certify that it has a moral objection to contraception coverage.” It is unclear, and Georgetown has yet to explain how it “plans to certify to the federal government that it has a moral objection to contraception coverage when it has long provided full contraception coverage for faculty and staff, excluding only students.”
In order to qualify for the exemption, the final rule requires that the University and its health plan “satisfy the terms applicable to an employer and its group health plan.” This is a reference to a separate guidance released on February 12, 2012, that requires that a university requesting exemption “self-certify” that it and its health plan meet the following two criteria:
1. The organization is organized and operates as a non-profit entity.
2. From February 10, 2012 onward, contraceptive coverage has not been provided at any point by the group health plan established or maintained by the organization … because of the religious beliefs of the organization.