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UP Center criticizes OSF Healthcare over discriminatory benefits policy

The OSF Healthcare St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria. Photo from OSF Healthcare.

The Uniting Pride Center of Champaign County on Monday criticized OSF Healthcare’s policy barring LGBTQ employees from access fertility care.

In July, Bloomberg Law reported that Peoria-based OSF would only cover fertility treatments for opposite-sex married couples. The Catholic health care organization employs 24,000 people with hospitals and clinic through out Central, Northern and Western Illinois. According to the legal news service, the policy reflects one of the first instances of an employer explicitly excluding workers from coverage not because of objections to the treatment they are seeking but because of their sexual orientation. Similar policies have been the subject of lawsuits and could violate federal policy.

Bloomberg Law reported that no employees had yet challenged the policy. Although Illinois law bars discrimination on the basis of orientation, states can’t regulate self-funded plans like OSF’s.

The UP Center board of directors called the policy “blatant and explicit discrimination against LGBTQIA+ employees and their families.”

OSF, which is owned and run by Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, has claimed its policy is protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Uniting Pride will continue to call out instances of discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation within our community and hold those entities responsible for those actions accountable,” the board said in a Facebook post. “We implore OSF Healthcare System to reconsider these discriminatory policies and would like to offer the provision of free trainings for staff and administration to help provide understanding on how to make policies and practices more inclusive for employees and patients.”

The Champaign-based center called for those affected by the policy to reach out to Uniting Pride for support and being connected with resources.