Four thousand US government employees in Illinois will soon have the option of joining a Catholic health insurance plan.
Following the re-election of President George W Bush, OSF HealthPlans – owned by an order of Roman Catholic nuns – has created an insurance policy that does not cover abortion, contraception or fertility treatment. It is the first of its kind to be offered to federal employees.
The plan is administered by a company owned and operated by the Sisters of the Third Order of St Francis.
Lobby group Planned Parent-hood of America condemned the use of federal dollars to subsidise a plan that is “blatantly designed to foster one religious point of view”. Federal officials maintain that no employee is obliged to join, and that there are ample options for coverage in the state.
Religion-based health insurance follows a growing trend among US healthcare professionals – specifically pharmacists – refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control, fertility drugs and the morning-after pill.
Opponents of the health insurance plan believe it is just an effort by religious movements, emboldened by the re-election of George W Bush, to infiltrate the workplace and all aspects of modern life with religion-based policy and practices.