Iowa bishops issue statement on state health mandate


By Barb Arland-Fye

DES MOINES — In response to a request for information, Iowa’s four bishops have issued a statement concerning Iowa’s mandate for contraceptive coverage in state-regulated health insurance plans.
The federal Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate exempts some churches and other houses of worship, but the state mandates does not. The state mandate does not cover sterilization procedures, while the federal mandate does, said Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.
Iowa’s bishops have concerns with federal and state mandates, which they addressed in their statement, issued July 9:
A “contraceptive mandate” was enacted in 2000 for all state-regulated health insurance plans in the state of Iowa. It requires coverage for prescription contraceptive drugs, devices and services. Following the law’s passage, a task force made up of representatives from Catholic organizations in Iowa discussed alternatives to compliance.
During the intervening years, some Catholic organizations decided under protest to provide health insurance regulated by the state.
The recent passage of the Affordable Care Act, the publication of the HHS mandates, and the Supreme Court decision regarding the Affordable Care Act have served to intensify the efforts of the dioceses of Iowa to determine a resolution of health care provisions under diocesan supervision which will be in conformity with long-standing Church teaching.
At the present time, serious consideration is being given to several options which attempt to synchronize both state and national efforts on this question.
The letter is signed by Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB, of the Dubuque Archdiocese; Bishop Martin Amos of the Diocese of Davenport; Bishop Walker Nickless of the Sioux City Diocese; and Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Diocese.
Bishop Amos said the Davenport Diocese “has complied with the Iowa mandate so that we do not violate Iowa law. Catholic individuals covered by the policy are expected to observe the teaching of the Church regarding contraceptives. The problem is that these same individuals are expected to partially cover the costs of contraceptives by paying for them through insurance premiums.”
Meanwhile, the Davenport Diocese is “looking into beginning a self-insured plan to provide benefits for all employees in the diocese as a cost-control measure. There is some possibility of avoiding the mandate by being self-insured than there is by remaining fully insured,” said Char Masske, chief financial officer for the Davenport Diocese.

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