Some in Illinois Pick Catholic Health Plan

Monday, November 8th 2004, 9:47 am
By: News On 6

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) _ Federal employees in part of Illinois now have the option of enrolling in a Catholic-run health insurance plan that does not cover abortion, contraceptives or fertility treatment.

Enrollment opened Monday for the plan, which officials said was the first of its kind to be offered to federal workers.

``I see it as allowing the individual government employee to exercise their moral judgment and to follow their moral conscience in terms of how they want their benefit dollars spent,'' Philip Karst, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Health Association, told the Chicago Tribune.

The insurance is offered by Peoria-based OSF HealthPlans to 4,000 eligible residents of 27 counties of central and northern Illinois, not including Chicago. It is administered by a company owned and operated by an order of Roman Catholic nuns, the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis.

Karst and other proponents of the plan, which offers low-cost, high deductible coverage, say it allows subscribers to select coverage that is in keeping with the moral position of their faith.

Opponents see it as a move to extend religious influence.

``It's inappropriate for federal dollars to subsidize a plan that is blatantly designed to foster one religious point of view,'' said Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. ``This is just another part of the Bush administration's attacks on access to family planning and birth control.''

Abby Block, an official with the office, said the OSF plan is only one of 249 plans available to the 4.2 million people entitled to federal employees' health insurance. Block said at least 13 national and nine local plans are available in the same counties covered by OSF.

``Nobody has to enroll in this plan,'' Block said.