California department nixes plan to exclude coverage in health care
THE SANTA CLARA
September 25, 2014
In August, the California Department of Managed Health Care, which regulates the state’s health plans, sent letters to seven insurance companies, including Kaiser, which covers Santa Clara faculty and staff, stating they cannot provide contracts that exclude elective abortion coverage.
An elective abortion is an abortion not carried out for medical reasons.
The letters said that those contracts violate the Knox Keene Health Care Service Plan Act, a California law enacted in 1975 that prevents health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy.
In October 2013, President Michael Engh, S. J., announced his plans to discontinue elective abortion coverage for faculty and staff.
Faculty members subsequently expressed their concerns that the decision was not in compliance with Santa Clara’s shared governance process, in which students, staff, faculty and university administration collaborate on issues pertaining to the Santa Clara community.
These changes were set to be implemented in January 2015.
In his convocation address on September 16, Engh said Santa Clara will comply with state law in regards to its health plans.
“Santa Clara University has consistently structured its health care plans to ensure full compliance with federal and state laws and regulations, and it will continue to do so, as it always has,” Engh said in his speech. “Apart from the law, providing quality, affordable health care plans for our faculty, staff and your families is a longstanding institutional commitment.”
Women and Gender Studies Professor Laura Ellingson said she supports the state’s decision, and hopes that Santa Clara will not dispute it in the future.
“I am really glad that the government and the Department of Managed Health care is not going to allow the slippery slope of erosion of women’s rights,” Ellingson said. “I really hope they do not decide to engage in a lawsuit. It has been very damaging on the morale of the university.”
Economics professor William Sundstrom said he “had a sigh of relief” when the decision was released because he said it was the right choice in terms of women’s rights at Santa Clara, as well as for the health of the university.
“I don’t think anybody was looking forward to another year of strife towards this institution,” Sundstrom said.
Sundstrom and Ellingson said they hope this decision will spur a recommitment to shared governance between faculty, staff and administration.
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