Catholic university drops student health insurance, cites ObamaCare

A Catholic university in Ohio said Tuesday it is being forced to end a student health insurance program over the Obama administration's contraception mandate and costs associated with other provisions of the health care overhaul.

Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, said it has so far excluded contraceptive services and products from its health insurance policy for students and will not participate in a plan that “requires us to violate the consistent teachings of the Catholic Church on the sacredness of human life.”

In its decision to drop coverage, the school cited the contraception mandate, but also a requirement that the maximum coverage amount be increased to $100,000 for policyholders -- claiming that would have made premiums skyrocket. A university official told Fox News Radio the students’ basic $600 policy was going to double in cost in the fall and triple next year and that the school’s insurance provider said the increases were the result of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"This is putting people in a position where they are having to choose between their faith and their morality, and now an unjust cost," said Mike Hernon, the school’s vice president of advancement. "These sorts of regulations from the government are forcing our hand in a way that's really wrong."

Hernon also told Fox News on Wednesday that the changes represented a "moral and economic injustice."

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"This is unconscionable," he said.

Another consequence is full-time Franciscan undergraduates will no longer be required to carry health insurance, starting in the fall 2012 semester. However, the employee health insurance program will remain unchanged.

“We encourage you to decide how you are going to provide for accidents or illnesses requiring visits to physicians, health clinics or the hospital emergency room while you are a student here,” the school said on its website.

Students now will likely have to be covered through their parents’ policy, though the school says fewer than 200 of its students had been buying insurance from the university.

Existing student plans expire Aug. 15, and the changes begin in the fall 2012 semester.

The school said students playing intercollegiate sports and studying for a semester in Austria will be covered under different plans.

The Obama administration continues to face a standoff by Catholic organizations opposed to its mandate that religious-based institutions like hospitals and universities provide birth control coverage in their insurance policies, though the administration said the cost could be shifted to the insurance companies for organizations with religious objections.

The Catholic Church views use of contraceptives as morally wrong. Churches themselves already are exempt from the contraceptive coverage mandate.

Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes contributed to this report.