Daniel Kuebler

The tale of two Catholic universities, and Obamacare

Daniel Kuebler
By Daniel Kuebler

Two Catholic universities, Franciscan University of Steubenville and Ave Maria University, recently announced that they will drop their student health-care plans for the coming year. The schools also announced that they will no longer require students to have health insurance.

Given the giant range of institutions and people affected by Obamacare and its mandates, the impact of this decision by two universities, each with less than 3,000 students, may seem small. But it is not the scope of impact that matters so much as the broader problem the decision highlights. Two federal regulations that pushed Franciscan and Ave Maria to drop student health-care plans indicate quite clearly what will happen if Obamacare is allowed to stand: More Americans will become uninsured unless they transition into government-subsidized healthcare plans.

As Obamacare passed through Congress, the president promised that everyone could keep his health-care plan if he liked it. No one would be forced to move to a different plan if he was content with the coverage he had. Yet one need only grasp the outcome of each new regulation put forth by the unaccountable bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services to see this lie being gradually exposed.

What Obama should have said is that everyone can keep his plan only if the government likes it. As Obamacare’s burdensome regulations are defined and put into effect, very few existing plans will be able to survive. This seems to be the unspoken goal of Obamacare: to ensure the slow but steady demise of private insurance plans, all under the guise of reform. What this “reform” will leave in its wake is a single, onerous, and restrictive government-run health-care system.

Franciscan and Ave Maria’s decision to drop student health-care plans is just a case in point of institutions being prodded toward this goal. In their case, two recent regulations have led to the decision to drop student health care, a decision that will probably move more people to government-subsidized care.

The first regulation that prompted the universities’ decision is one with which most people are familiar: the HHS mandate that requires all plans to cover abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilization. Since this mandate violates the moral obligations of these two religiously affiliated universities, and the Obama administration’s religious exemption to this rule is so restrictive—without precedent—the universities’ only option is to mount a legal challenge.

If the courts fail to protect their right of religious liberty, Franciscan and Ave Maria—along with dozens of other religiously affiliated institutions, no doubt—will drop health coverage for employees in addition to students. That move will inevitably drive more people toward the government-subsidized exchanges and away from privately funded plans.

Since the contraceptive mandate will not take effect for another year, however, these schools could have, in good conscience, provided health-care plans to students this year. They decided to drop coverage this year because of a second federal regulation affecting student health-care plans that took effect in March. It stipulates that student health-care plans must have no annual coverage limits by the year 2014. This regulation will be enforced through two intermediate stages: All current plans must have annual coverage limits of at least $100,000, and plans issued after this September must have annual coverage limits of at least $500,000.

Because roughly 25 percent of student health-care plans have annual limits lower than half a million dollars, this means steep premium increases for these students over the next few years. Franciscan and Ave Maria have indicated that their premiums would go up at least 66 percent this year, and more than double next year. By 2014, when these plans must have no annual limit, the premiums will rise even higher.

It might seem that removing annual limits would protect more students from catastrophic health-care costs. But it won’t, because many universities and colleges will probably follow Franciscan and Ave Maria by dropping student health-care plans altogether. Moreover, the typical college student’s health-care costs never even approach the annual limits that have been calculated for these plans. College students are a relatively healthy population for whom low-cost/low-benefit plans are often the option of choice. Not any longer.

The net effect of this change is that it will make health care too expensive for many college students. The Government Accountability Office estimates that this new rule will affect at least 300,000 students in the next two years, and even more in 2014. The adverse effects of implementing this regulation are simple to comprehend from an economic standpoint: The spike in health-care coverage cost will raise the number of uninsured Americans.

While Obamacare requires that all citizens have health insurance coverage by 2014, it is hardly a stretch to assume that some college students may decide that risking the small penalty is better than paying the new higher premiums. Indeed, taking that risk would be a financially sound move for the many students who will not experience serious health-care problems during college. And students who do get hospitalized without insurance will still receive care. Their costs will simply be passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher premiums. All they would have to do is pay the fine.

For students who want to maintain their insurance coverage but cannot afford it, government-subsidized plans—which will be paid for by taxpayers—will make up the difference. Thus the side effects of this regulation—one could hardly call them unintended—are that thousands of students will find themselves either without any health-care insurance at all, or dependent upon the government dole for it.

Most people would see this as problematic, yet the goal of Obamacare seems to be to move people from well-functioning private plans toward government-approved and -subsidized plans. In fact, the very manner by which it is set up has many businesses considering dropping health insurance coverage when Obamacare is fully implemented in 2014. For many businesses it will be cheaper to pay the fine than to offer health-care coverage to their employees.

A report from the House Ways and Means Committee found that once Obamacare is fully implemented in 2014, the average Fortune 100 Company could save $402 million by dropping coverage and pushing its employees into the government-subsidized exchanges. In a market economy, businesses will do what makes economic sense, and the architects of Obamacare not only know this possibility but welcome it.

At the end of the day, the more people the Obamacare architects can corral into government-approved and -subsidized health care by regulating private plans into submission, the more control they will have over the health-care system. They can then further incentivize the dispensing of contraception, abortion, sterilization, and euthanasia—all of which can be at least short-term cost-savers—and at the same time use their own cold utilitarian calculus to determine who gets access to the health-care system. In a bloated unresponsive government-run system, these are the only ways to drive down costs. This is where we are heading once Obamacare fully flexes its muscle.

While the health-care system in America needs to be reformed, Franciscan and Ave Maria’s decision to drop student health-care plans offers just one example of how Obamacare is not the answer. Rather than reforming the system, it is deforming it. Step by step, regulation by regulation, the authors of Obamacare are bent upon creating a monolithic government-controlled system that will eventually take on a life of its own.

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Daniel Kuebler is a Professor of Biology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. This article reprinted with permission from thepublicdiscourse.com.

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Cardinal Dolan: Debate on denying Communion to pro-abortion pols ‘in the past’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

As America heads into its 2014 midterm elections, a leading U.S. prelate says the nation’s bishops believe debate over whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians is “in the past.”

The Church’s Code of Canon Law states in Canon 915 that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Leading Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI himself, have said this canon ought to be applied in the case of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. However, prelates in the West have widely ignored it, and some have openly disagreed.

John Allen, Jr. of the new website Crux, launched as a Catholic initiative under the auspices of the Boston Globe, asked New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan about the issue earlier this month.

“In a way, I like to think it’s an issue that served us well in forcing us to do a serious examination of conscience about how we can best teach our people about their political responsibilities,” the cardinal responded, “but by now that inflammatory issue is in the past.”

“I don’t hear too many bishops saying it’s something that we need to debate nationally, or that we have to decide collegially,” he continued. “I think most bishops have said, ‘We trust individual bishops in individual cases.’ Most don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat.”

Cardinal Dolan expressed personal disinterest in upholding Canon 915 publicly in 2010 when he told an Albany TV station he was not in favor of denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. He said at the time that he preferred “to follow the lead of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who said it was better to try to persuade them than to impose sanctions.”

However, in 2004 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI the following year, wrote the U.S. Bishops a letter stating that a Catholic politician who would vote for "permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" after being duly instructed and warned, "must" be denied Communion. 

Cardinal Ratzinger sent the document to the U.S. Bishops in 2004 to help inform their debate on the issue. However, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then-chair of the USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, who received the letter, withheld the full text from the bishops, and used it instead to suggest ambiguity on the issue from the Vatican.

A couple of weeks after Cardinal McCarrick’s June 2004 address to the USCCB, the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger was leaked to well-known Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, who published the full document. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office later confirmed the leaked document as authentic.

Since the debate in 2004, numerous U.S. prelates have openly opposed denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

In 2008, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley suggested the Church had yet to formally pronounce on the issue, and that until it does, “I don’t think we’re going to be denying Communion to the people.”

In 2009, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. in 2009 said that upholding of Canon 915 would turn the Eucharist into a political “weapon,” refusing to employ the law in the case of abortion supporter Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, said in a 2009 newspaper interview that pro-abortion politicians should be granted communion because Jesus Christ gave Holy Communion to Judas Iscariot.

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However, one of the Church’s leading proponents of the practice, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, insists that denying Communion is not a punishment.

“The Church’s discipline from the time of Saint Paul has admonished those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not to present themselves for Holy Communion,” he said at LifeSiteNews’ first annual Rome Life Forum in Vatican City in early May. "The discipline is not a punishment but the recognition of the objective condition of the soul of the person involved in such sin."  

Only days earlier, Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told LifeSiteNews that he has no patience for politicians who say that they are “personally” opposed to abortion, but are unwilling to “impose” their views on others.

On the question of Communion, he said, “Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?”

Cardinal Christian Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala, told LifeSiteNews around the same time that ministers of Holy Communion are “bound not to” give the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Pro-life organizations across the world have said they share the pastoral concern for pro-abortion politicians. Fifty-two pro-life leaders from 16 nations at the recent Rome Life Forum called on the bishops of the Catholic Church to honor Canon 915 and withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians as an act of love and mercy.

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‘His bones are basically like paper’: Parents refuse to abort baby with rare condition

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By Kirsten Anderson

At just 11 weeks old, little Layton Diven is not like other babies. Every time his parents pick him up or cuddle him, there is a chance they will break his bones. In fact, Layton has already suffered more than 20 fractures in his short life – beginning at the moment of his birth.

Layton has Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a rare disease that makes his bones brittle and prone to breakage. There are several types of OI, and Layton’s type, OI Type III, is the most severe type found among infants. Most babies born with the disease, like Layton, are born with multiple fractures, especially along the rib cage. Many struggle to breathe or swallow. The incurable disease is progressive, so it will get worse as he gets older.

Layton was diagnosed with OI in the womb, but abortion wasn’t an option for his parents, Chad and Angela Diven, who considered their baby a gift from God, no matter his condition.

“We weren't going to have an abortion, so he was born with the disease,” Angela Diven told KSLA. “God chose me for him, to be his mom, so I have to take that huge responsibility and do what's best for him.”

That responsibility comes with a heavy price. Layton requires 24-hour care, but both Angela and Chad have full-time jobs. He can’t go to regular daycare, because it’s not safe for him.

“You can't just pick him up like a normal baby,” Diven said. “You can't dress him like a normal child; his bones are basically like paper. He can't go to daycare because of his condition. He's medically fragile, and a daycare can't handle him."

Childcare costs are just the beginning, though – the treatments Layton will need throughout his life are expensive and may not be covered by insurance.

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Layton is currently receiving pamidronate IV therapy, which will help to strengthen his bones. But in order to be able to stand or walk, he will need metal rods implanted in his legs – an operation that will cost the Divens $80,000. The OI specialist coordinating Layton’s care is in Omaha, Nebraska, while the Divens live in Louisiana. As he grows, Layton will also require special equipment, such as a wheelchair, along with extensive physical therapy.

Despite the hardships they knew would come, the Divens stepped out in faith to bring Layton into the world. Now, they are reaching out to the internet for help to shoulder the financial burdens that came with their baby blessing. The family has set up both a GoFundMe and a Facebook page called “Lifting Up Layton Diven,” where people can receive updates on Layton’s condition and contribute to the cost of his care.

To donate to baby Layton’s medical trust fund, click here.

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Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
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Sources confirm Cardinal Burke will be removed. But will he attend the Synod?

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By John-Henry Westen

Sources in Rome have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, is to be removed from his post as head of the Vatican dicastery and given a non-curial assignment as patron of the Order of Malta.

The timing of the move is key since Cardinal Burke is currently on the list to attend October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family. He is attending in his capacity as head of one of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, so if he is removed prior to the Synod it could mean he would not be able to attend.

Burke has been one of the key defenders in the lead-up to the Synod of the Church's traditional practice of withholding Communion from Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried.

Most of the Catholic world first learned of the shocking development through Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, whose post ‘Exile to Malta for Cardinal Burke’ went out late last night.

If Burke’s removal from the Signatura is confirmed, said Magister, the cardinal “would not be promoted - as some are fantasizing in the blogosphere - to the difficult but prestigious see of Chicago, but rather demoted to the pompous - but ecclesiastically very modest - title of ‘cardinal patron’ of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, replacing the current head, Paolo Sardi, who recently turned 80.”

At 66, Cardinal Burke is still in his Episcopal prime.

The prominent traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli goes as far as to say, “It would be the greatest humiliation of a Curial Cardinal in living memory, truly unprecedented in modern times: considering the reasonably young age of the Cardinal, such a move would be, in terms of the modern Church, nothing short than a complete degradation and a clear punishment.”

On Tuesday, American traditionalist priest-blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf also hinted he had heard the move was underway. “I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now,” he wrote. “The optimist in me was saying that the official announcement would not be made until after the Synod of Bishops, or at least the beginning of the Synod. Or at all.”

“It’s not good news,” he added.

Both Magister and Zuhlsdorf predicted that the controversial move would unleash a wave of simultaneous jubilation from dissident Catholics and criticism from faithful Catholics. The decision to remove Cardinal Burke from his position on the Congregation for Bishops last December caused a public outpouring of concern and dismay from Catholic and pro-life leaders across the globe.

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Both men speculated on the reasons for the ouster. 

Magister pointed out that Burke is the latest in a line of ‘Ratzingerian’ prelates to undergo the axe.

“In his first months as bishop of Rome, pope Bergoglio immediately provided for the transfer to lower-ranking positions of three prominent curial figures: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, considered for their theological and liturgical sensibilities among the most ‘Ratzingerian’ of the Roman curia,” said Magister.

He added: “Another whose fate appears to be sealed is the Spanish archbishop of Opus Dei Celso Morga Iruzubieta.”

Fr. Zuhlsdorf observed that Pope Francis may also be shrinking the Curial offices and thus reducing the number of Cardinals needed to fill those posts. He adds however, “It would be naïve in the extreme to think that there are lacking near Francis’s elbows those who have been sharpening their knives for Card. Burke and for anyone else associated closely with Pope Benedict.” 

“This is millennial, clerical blood sport.”

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