The tax man cometh: How will church institutions pay for health reform?
Published: July 27, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the head of a small evangelical college serving 2,400 undergraduates and 600 graduate students, the Rev. Philip Graham Ryken has no quarrel with contraception on religious grounds but doesn't want any part of a health insurance plan that offers certain drugs that can cause abortions. So the president of Wheaton College in Illinois has vowed to resist requirements under the new health care law to provide all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration -- including two that can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg -- free of charge to its employees. If the school is unable to offer health coverage which complies with its moral and religious beliefs, that position could put him in line for taxes and penalties totaling $1.4 million a year for faculty and staff alone, Rev. Ryken said at a recent teleconference announcing a lawsuit against the contraceptive mandate. "This is a time to be cutting costs, not adding costs to university budgets," he said. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, employers with 50 or more full-time employees that do not offer health insurance will be subject to a fine of $2,000 per employee, excluding the first 30 employees, if any employee receives a premium tax credit. Those tax credits will be available to individuals and families with income between 133 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. In 2012, the federal poverty level was $11,170 for an individual and $23,050 for a family of four, meaning that tax credits could go to families of four with income as high as $92,200. With more than 107,000 faculty and staff members at more than 200 U.S. Catholic colleges and universities, the total potential tax liability in Catholic higher education could be staggering if they feel compelled to drop their insurance. Add to that the nation's 629 Catholic hospitals employing more than 640,000 people, and the 381,000 people who work in 3,300 local Catholic Charities offices around the country, and the costs could swamp an already financially beleaguered U.S. Catholic Church.
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