.- The University of San Francisco (USF) continues to react to the revelation that its mandatory student health insurance plan covers abortions. Insisting that the coverage is being removed from the student plan, a USF official reports that the school is also working to remove abortion coverage from its employee plans.
However, the official says contraceptive coverage for students and employees is mandated by California law.
Last week, the blog of the Catholic Key, the newspaper for the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph in Missouri, reported that USF students were required to enroll in the USF health insurance plan if they did not have comparable coverage of their own.
The University of San Francisco (USF) Student Health Insurance Plan, underwritten by Aetna Life Insurance Company, is described in a university brochure as covering "voluntary termination of pregnancy."
Gary McDonald, assistant vice president of communications and public affairs at USF, spoke about the issue in a recent interview with Our Sunday Visitor.
"As stated on Dec. 12, it was not the university's intention to offer coverage for the voluntary termination of pregnancy, and we are removing this provision from our student health plan, he stated. "We regret this mistake, and we take full responsibility for not adequately reviewing the contract. We are grateful to those who brought this issue to our attention."
"Coverage for the voluntary termination of pregnancy in the student health plan was a mistake, and that provision is being removed. However, health insurance is still mandatory for all USF students."
McDonald clarified earlier reports which claimed that the USF student clinic at St. Maryâs Medical Center referred students to Planned Parenthood or Aetna providers for contraceptives and abortions.
"Students are not referred to Planned Parenthood, but are referred to Aetna providers for prescriptions," he told Our Sunday Visitor. "Under California law, prescription plans must pay for all FDA approved medications, including contraception."
"Prescriptions for contraception are never provided at the USF Clinic, nor are referrals to Planned Parenthood for abortions," he added.
He continued to discuss the student health clinic: "In light of recent inquiries, we are now aware that our protocol needs improvement. We are taking immediate steps to remedy this, and are in the process of developing a protocol to ensure that counseling and pro-life options are always provided at the USF clinic."
McDonald responded to reports that USF employee insurance covered abortion and contraception.
"USF offers two options for employee health insurance, Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente. Our Blue Cross claims procedure excludes coverage for surgical abortion. When USF negotiated its contract with Kaiser, we were unable to opt out of the plan's provision for termination of pregnancy. USF decided to offer the Kaiser plan because Kaiser is widely considered to be the highest-quality HMO in Northern California."
He told Our Sunday Visitor that USF is trying to determine if the contract can be renegotiated and the provision covering abortion eliminated.
Though asked about claims that, as early as 2005, the USF plan apparently covered the abortion pill RU-486, McDonald did not address the issue.