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Catholic HMOs Provide Contraception, Tubal Ligations, But Fall Short on Reproductive Healthcare

September 15, 2000

Washington, DC–The first ever survey of the nation’s Catholic HMOs, conducted by Catholics for a Free Choice, has found that despite protestations by many Catholic hospitals and employers that it would violate church teaching to provide coverage for contraceptive services, many Catholic managed care plans cover contraception and other reproductive health services.  A total of 25 Catholic managed care plans—52% of the plans CFFC surveyed—are covering a least one form of contraception, while 23 plans—or 48%—are covering tubal ligations. 

“This study clearly demonstrates that Catholic institutions do not need exemptions from providing contraceptive coverage or other services such as tubal ligations in order to be true to Catholic teachings,” said CFFC President Frances Kissling.  “It provides concrete evidence that there is room within the legitimate interpretation of Catholic teaching for church institutions to provide contraceptives.  Many Catholic HMOs throughout the country have found a way to include contraceptive coverage in their plans and contracts.  In Missouri, Mercy Health Plans covers contraception for its enrollees through a third-party contractor, Med Plans 2000, that handles billing for these services.  In Texas, Seton Health Plan works with Planned Parenthood to provide contraceptive coverage for enrollees in its Medicaid HMO.”   

The study identifies a total of 48 Catholic managed care plans serving nearly 2.5 million Americans.  While approximately half the plans are making some reproductive health services available, overall Catholic plans’ rate of reproductive healthcare provision is substantially below that of other managed care plans.

“The failure of Catholic HMOs to provide reproductive healthcare is worrisome, particularly for women and girls enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” said Kissling, who noted that the denial of basic reproductive health services to enrollees in federally and state-funded healthcare programs raises questions about the suitability of these plans to participate in such programs.  “A recent survey conducted for CFFC shows that women believe that health plans have an obligation to cover contraceptives.  Clearly, many Catholic plans are not living up to that obligation,” said Kissling.