New law requires Catholic diocese to cover contraception under employee insurance

The Catholic Diocese of Madison is one of three dioceses in Wisconsin required under a new state law to provide coverage for contraception in insurance plans for diocesan employees.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the new law which took effect in January requires all commercial insurance policies with drug benefits to cover prescription contraceptives, with self-insured policies  being exempt. When the law was passed, three of the five Wisconsin dioceses - Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay - were affected.

Because the law allows employers to honor their current insurance contracts until they expire, the Diocese of Madison had until Aug. 1 to make a decision. Brent King, spokesman for the Madison Diocese, said that a self-insured plan was not financially possible.

Although the diocese's commercial insurance policy now covers contraception, employees will be expected to act according to their consciences and not use it, King explained. "If someone were to misuse that freedom in this regard, it could be grounds for termination,” he told the Wisconsin State Journal.

However, he added, such action would only be taken after the employee refused to cooperate after the matter was discussed. "It wouldn't be the first thing we do," King said. 

Speaking to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, King noted that "Our employees know what church teaching is. And we trust them to use their conscience and do the right thing.”

"Conscience isn't what I want or think is best in a situation," he said. "It must always align with the will of God."

All Diocese of Madison employees are required to sign a document upon being hired to follow the laws of both Wisconsin and the Church. King said that employees would be given “strong pastoral recommendations against” using birth control coverage, but that the diocese will not monitor employees.

Due to medical privacy laws, the diocese would only know if an employee was using the contraception coverage if he or she made it apparent "in an overt and publicly defiant way."

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