King’s could face crippling fine under Obamacare


Financial District, NEW YORK—The King’s College is protected by a temporary health care exemption and does not provide abortifacients to employees, but when the exemption expires in less than five months, King’s could face a possible $600,000 annual fine should it refuse to compromise. As required by President Obama’s adjustments to health care insurance law in 2012, institutions and businesses currently provide contraceptives to their employees. Since the Catholicism debate, President Obama’s administration has allowed religiously affiliated companies including King’s to offer contraception through their insurance companies. Since Feb. 1, these same religious organizations have also been allowed a temporary complete exemption from the requirement.

The reason the college finds issue with providing contraception via the insurance company is that the title “contraception” covers more than birth control; it also includes “emergency contraceptives,” including morning-after pills like Ella and Plan B.

Photo courtesy of starbooze/flickr.

The exemption will last until July 31, 2013. At that point, it is unclear whether King’s and other religious organizations will have to cover contraceptives, including Plan B, for their employees.

If no further exemptions are allowed and the courts have not adjusted the laws after July 31, and King’s refuses to provide abortifacients, Vice President of Finance Frank Torino calculated the consequences could amount to $600k in annual fines.

Torino tossed around speculative solutions as he considered that daunting outcome. “Would we be willing to ask one of our donors to cough up some money, or ask students to pay more in tuition?” he said. Without a ruling, “it’s impossible to play out.”

The process has been slow and arduous. Mostly, this is due to the courts, who have not agreed upon a specific definition of “religious institutions” and insist on ruling that contraceptives include abortions.

Although the Board of Trustees of the college have not discussed the issue since fall 2012, the “issues have been presented, the documents have been passed around,” said interim President Andy Mills, who continues to watch the debate alongside Torino and the Board of Trustees.

The coverage will not apply to students who use the school's health insurance since the care is outsourced to other insurance programs, and students are not considered employees. However, the mandate will apply to the approximately 75 faculty and staff members employed at the college.

Because the college aims to serve mostly Christian students, and each staff and faculty member  is required to sign a statement of faith at the time of employment, it categorizes as a “religious organization.”

Other Christian colleges have filed lawsuits, including Liberty University and Wheaton College. Many colleges like King’s are watching Wheaton’s case closely as it appears to progress toward a new and different ruling for itself and “those similarly situated.”

According to the finance office, there are only two current outcomes: either Obama permanently exempts religious organizations (and includes Christian colleges like King’s), or the college is forced to provide abortion services to the employees against the institution’s conscience.

“We don’t want to cover abortion—things that go against our beliefs,” Manager of Human Resources Melody Garcia said. “If we don’t fall under the exemption, that’s that, what can we do about it? We’re going to have to follow what the law states."

The only two ways that the college can respond in August if the courts do not change their minds are 1) disobey the mandate and pay the yearly six-figure fees, or 2) hope that employees follow their own convictions and not take advantage of the school’s abortion coverage should they offer it in accordance to state law. If employees did take advantage of these services, their decision would be completely private according to policy.

The Board is seemingly unified against the mandates. “[The Board members] are sharp, generous, but what makes them stand out is their desire to do God’s will,” Torino said.

Since Sept. 1, King’s subscribes to its own insurance plan under Aetna Insurance after parting with Campus Crusade, but they may look to Campus Crusade’s similar battle against the courts.

“All we could do, Melody and I, is understand the law and understand the landscape so that we’re ready on Aug. 1, 2013 to take whatever step is necessary. To one, exercise our belief as Christians and two, follow the law,” Torino said.

At the very least, President Mills says, the College will “tuck behind bigger organizations that have fought this battle already…I’ve got quite a bit of hope that there will be continued exemptions.”