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for a Healthcare Culture of Life: An Interview with Mike ODea, founder
of Christus Medicus Foundation | Valerie Schmalz | August 8, 2005
Californians this fall will have a chance to vote on whether parents should
be notified if their minor daughter seeks an abortion. Florida just implemented
such a law and across the country there are more than thirty states with
some form of parental notification in effect.
But what about contraception and children? Would a health insurance company,
the federal government, or a state government pay for contraception for
a minor without a parent ever knowing? And would parents know if their private
insurance carrier paid for their daughter to have an abortion?
Mike ODea is a national leader in bringing faith-based health care
back to Americans. He is attempting to reform health insurance coverage
by finding ways to provide Americans, particularly Catholics, with health
insurance coverage that does not violate Church teachings.
ODea founded Christus
Medicus Foundation, and he serves as its executive director as well
as senior health consultant of ValuSure Corporation. The organizations
mission statement is: Reclaim Christ-centered health care by reforming corporate
and public policy to allow God's people a "conscientious choice"
in selecting health insurance. Its websites home page features this
verse: "Walk as children of light
Take no part in the unfruitful
works of darkness" (Eph 5:8, 10, 11).
IgnatiusInsight.com recently spoke with ODea about faith-based healthcare,
recent legislation, and related issues:
IgnatiusInsight: Can my child have an abortion, receive contraception, be
sterilized or treated for anything else without my knowledge? Is there a
difference depending on the state where I live?
Mike ODea: Many states allow surgical abortion for any reason
to be provided children of any age without parental consent. A judicial
bypass is required
by the U.S. Supreme Court for all state parental consent or parental notification
laws. Whether or not a parent will be notified depends on whether parental
notification laws are in effect. At last count, they were in effect in a
little more than 30 states.
Contraception is available to children of any age in all 50 states, without
parental consent. Contraception includes all FDA approved chemicals
(e.g., the morning after pill), and Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) that
induce abortion. Contraception also includes diaphragms, Norplant, and injectable
contraceptive drugs (such as Depo-Provera).
RU 486 has been defined in Michigan law as causing an abortion. Therefore
in Michigan RU 486 should not be given to children, without parental consent. In
the states that have mandated contraception in health plans that provide
prescription coverage, RU 486 is considered a FDA approved drug and could
be given to children, without parental consent. Contraceptive drugs and
devices that are available to adults in health plans are also available
to children at any age, without parental consent.
Sterilization is an area that needs to be investigated state by state. In
the Michigan Medicaid program, it is against state law to cover sterilization.
However, when the Michigan State Children Health Plan (S-CHIP), known as
MIChild, was first made available in 1997, sterilization was offered. When
I discovered this to be the case, I formed a group of concerned Michigan
parents that successfully challenged the Gov. Engler Administration and
removed sterilization coverage from MIChild in December 1998.
It is not a requirement of the federal government or most states that abortion
for any reason be covered in S-CHIP, private employer sponsored, individual
health plans or HMOs.
IgnatiusInsight: What about private health insurance, paid by a company,
or an HMO, or insurance bought by an individual? Would a parent know if
one of their children was receiving insured services such as abortion, contraception,
ODea: Yes, they could receive contraception in most plans and
no, a parent would not be informed. In the case of abortion, it depends
on state parental notification law or lack of it.
If you are in an HMO or traditional health plan in the private sector, most
likely you are paying for abortion and contraception for children. The reason
most people do not know that abortion for children is covered in their health
plan is because either they have not asked or they have been told their
insurance plan does not pay for "elective", "voluntary"
or "medically unnecessary" abortion.
Heres the catch: "elective", "voluntary", "medically
unnecessary" are terms that do not have any definition. What these
terms mean in a health plan are that if an adult woman or pregnant teenager
can find a doctor who will agree to perform an abortion, it will be paid
for by the health plan, without parental consent. For a plan to exclude
abortion, the health plan has to clearly define what these terms mean in
the plan design filed by the insurance company with the state or federal
The reason most people do not know that contraception for children is covered
in health plans is that contraception has only recently become popular coverage
in most private health plans.
IgnatiusInsight: There are three ways that children can receive subsidized
or free health care--through public health clinics, through the State Children's
Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), Medicaid, Medicare. How are contraception
and abortion covered under those programs?
ODea: During the Clinton Administration, the federal government
made it a requirement to include abortion in Medicare and Medicaid
for rape, incest and life of the mother exceptions. In addition, beginning
in the late 1990's until the present, twenty-two (22) state governments
have mandated that all FDA approved contraceptive chemicals and devices that
induce abortion be included in all health insurance plans that include prescription
Although the Hyde Amendment bars using federal funds for abortion, it does
allow funding abortion for rape, incest and life of the mother. The government
routinely funds chemicals and devices that induce abortion in Medicaid,
Medicare and S-CHIP.
IgnatiusInsight: What is the State Children's Health Insurance Program?
Do all states receive the federal funds for this?
ODea: The State Childrens Health Insurance Program expands
health insurance for five million children under 19 years of age, at or
below 200% of the federal poverty level in working families, who do not
have creditable health insurance. This program is run by the states, but
is heavily funded by the federal government under Title XXI of the Social
Security Act. S-CHIP receives both federal and state funds. For every one
dollar the state contributes, the federal government contributes two dollars.
Unfortunately, the Clinton Administration and government bureaucrats used
this as a way to slip in many provisions that provide abortion, contraception
and sterilization even to young children without parental involvement.
IgnatiusInsight: What are the federal requirements regarding abortion, contraception
and other treatments under S-CHIP?
ODea: Although contraception, sterilization and abortion for any
reason are not required by Congress in S-CHIP, it appears most state plans
cover contraception, sterilization and abortion for rape, incest and life
of the mother. The states had three options in determining the program.
They could elect to: a) expand Medicaid, b) design their own plan, or c)
establish some type of combined plan. The only known exception to not covering
family planning services, from its inception, was the state of Pennsylvania.
Presently, Michigan is the only other state that I know of that does not
cover sterilization and only covers abortion when the mothers life
is in immediate danger.
IgnatiusInsight: Can you explain what happened with state health insurance
requirements and provisions for HMOs and other insurance planswhy
are they allowing contraception and abortion for children?
ODea: The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Private sector policy
leaders and plan designers listened when the Alan Guttmacher Institute,
Planned Parenthood, National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice
America, healthcare consultants and other "reproductive rights"
groups quietly, subtly and incrementally pushed confidential abortion, contraception
and sterilization in all health plans.
Attorneys and health care consultants advised employers to take the path
of least resistance and include this coverage in health plans. Whenever
questioned about conscience, these plan designers would say "they can
opt out of this coverage, so what's the big deal?" The problem with
this thinking is that we are deprived of our parental right to be the primary
educators of our children and our right to have the freedom to exercise
our right of conscience.
To opt out means, parents and their children can decide not to use this
coverage. They are however still paying for these procedures in their
health plan. And, even if parents opt outtheir children have access
to them without parental consent because of the way the plans are filed
with the state and federal insurance agencies. By our absence in this debate,
the enemies of life, liberty and justice for all have imposed their agenda
IgnatiusInsight: What is the history on this loss of parental rights and
general coverage of abortion and contraception under federal, state and
private insurance plans?
ODea: Insurance coverage for contraception without parental consent
was spearheaded by the U.S Supreme Court, in the 1980-81 term, when the
Supreme Court upheld an appeals court ruling in Michigan that the parents
had no right to be notified before a county-run health center gave contraception
to their teenage children. This is why it is so important to let all Americans
know the serious consequences of contraception in health plans.
The Health Insurance & Accountability Act (HIPAA) under the Clinton
Administration required parents to get permission from their children for
access to their children's medical information. Christus Medicus provided
the leadership in 2001-2002 to get President Bush to reverse this position
at the federal level.
Since President Bush's policy did not overrule the states requiring children's
permission before parents can get their children's medical information,
we must fight for parental rights legislation at the state level or for
federal legislation requiring it nationwide.
The recent Parents Right to Know Act introduced by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)
and Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) is a great place for parents to start demanding
their right to know what is available to their children in health plans
and in public health clinics. This legislation will not just affect public
clinics, but it could have an immediate impact on protecting parents
rights over their children in CHIP, Medicare, Medicaid and eventually private
Until now, pro-lifers and faith-based organizations have not
been involved in the fight for a healthcare "culture of life".
I think many Americans are finally waking up to the realization that to
win the war that's waging between a "Culture of Life " and "Culture
of Death", we must aggressively be in the fight to create a new healthcare
"Culture of Life".
IgnatiusInsight: Some states have parental notification laws for abortion.
Floridas just took effect this summer and California voters will have
an opportunity to enact a parental notification law in November. Does that
mean that in those states, parents will know if their child seeks an abortion?
What about emergency contraception or RU-486?
ODea: The parental notification laws for abortion that I have
seen up to this point have included a judicial bypass (required by the U.S.
Supreme Court). But if the child does not seek a judicial bypass, then her
parents are to be informed.
In general, parental notification laws do not affect contraception but the
jury is still out on RU 486 and depends on the state law's phrasing.
The morning after pill and the IUD are viewed as FDA approved drugs that
qualify in the contraceptive state mandates. In Medicaid, Medicare and
CHIP, the morning after pill and the IUD are also viewed as contraceptives.
Since RU 486 is viewed as a FDA approved drug for the contraceptive mandate,
the jury is still out on whether it is included in CHIP, Medicare and
I think it is critical that all state pro-life leaders demand to see the
number of times the morning after pill, the IUD and RU 486 have been provided
under CHIP, Medicare and Medicaid.
IgnatiusInsight: Anything else you want to add?
ODea: Finally, I must bring to your attention that the Christus
Medicus Foundation will be aggressively educating all Michigan citizens
on our Catholic Governor Granholm and our supposedly pro-life State Senator
Beverly Hammerstrom's support for Michigan Senate Bills 431 and 432,
which would force all health insurance prescription drug coverage plans
in Michigan to include coverage for all FDA approved contraceptives. This
legislation could be used to cover the so-called morning after pill, which
can sometimes cause abortions, without parental consent. It could also be
used to eventually cover the dangerous abortion drug RU 486.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com link: Can
Your Daughter Get An Abortion Without You Knowing? The Battle Over California's
Proposition 73 | Valerie Schmalz | August 8, 2005
Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight.
She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print
and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University
of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service
at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San
Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.
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