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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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received more than $400 million in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

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If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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