Boston College’s optional health insurance plan, Blue Care Elect Preferred (PPO), contains “Family Planning” under the list of services covered by the policy. A call by The Observer to Blue Cross Blue Shield confirmed that under these services include doctor’s visits related to family planning, contraception, and “in some instances birth control pills.” According to Koster Insurance Agency, INC, Boston College’s insurance agent, these services represent a “bundle,” or a group of benefits that the provider optionally selects to be part of a larger package.
In order to obtain birth control or contraceptives, a student would have to pay a $20 visit fee, and 20% of the cost of any prescribed contraception or birth control pills. The remaining 80% is picked up by the insurance company. Surgical abortions do not appear to be covered by the BC policy, but neither Blue Cross Blue Shield nor Koster Insurance Agency could rule out the possibility of surgical abortions being covered under the policy without a more thorough examination of its guidelines.
The Boston College Plan does meet the Minimum Creditable Coverage Standards (MCCS) for Massachusetts, but this minimum coverage standard does not require family planning services. Instead, it seeks to cover preventative visits, prescription drugs, emergency hospital visits, and a financial plan based upon the percentage of costs insured, not a plan that caps out after a certain dollar amount. According to the Koster Insurance Agency, covering contraceptives and birth control is “not required by the State of Massachusetts.”
University Spokesman Jack Dunn commented that “graduate students can purchase health insurance while studying at BC. The Blue Cross plan is a comprehensive health insurance plan that provides a wide range of services that the students are free to choose from or reject at their own discretion.”
The BC health insurance can be waived by students if they have adequate health insurance through their employment or families. Belmont Abbey, in North Carolina, recently made headlines for its lawsuit involving female employees demanding coverage for contraceptives. It is unclear whether or not the freedom of religion clause in the first amendment would disqualify religious institutions from being compelled by the state to offer services which conflict with their religious duties.
Boston College is one of only four Catholic universities that have been found to cover contraception and birth control in their health insurance policies for students. Fordham, DePaul, and Holy Cross are the other three, while other notable Catholic universities, such as Georgetown, Notre Dame, and Xavier University have health insurance programs which do not cover procedures that threaten life.
It is unclear what, if anything, BC will do in order to ensure that its health insurance policy conforms to its duties as a Jesuit institution. It is equally unclear which experts on Catholic ethics and Catechism were consulted about the insurance plan before it was implemented.
Research done at the Cardinal Newman Society, Jesse Naiman, and JP Bonner contributed to this report.