INDIANAPOLIS — Torie Tragardh is co-owner of a Texas-based energy company with 4,000 employees. But she doesn’t have the power to keep her company’s profits from paying for abortions and contraception through a health insurance plan.

She’s become familiar with ValuSure, a health insurance company designed to provide coverage based on Catholic moral teaching — but she can’t bring it to Texas. Its plan is currently available only in Indiana and Illinois.

She’s Catholic, she said, and “the plan goes with my moral values. It has just as good coverage as other policies I looked at, but this way I don’t have to pay for other people’s abortions or other people’s birth control.”

Tragardh’s dilemma is rather common, according to Tracy Williams, president of Verus Health, an Indianapolis-based company that administers insurance health plans in-line with Catholic teaching.

“We’ve got a free market economy and people should be able to buy what they want to buy,” he said. “That’s what a free market economy is all about.”

Twenty-nine states have passed mandated contraception coverage in health insurance plans that cover prescriptions. Others require that health insurance plans cover the homosexual sex partners of employees. Efforts in Congress — in 1998 and 2003 — have failed to bring that mandate to the federal level.

Catholic employers — including dioceses — can get around the mandates by dropping prescription coverage and offering employees health savings accounts for their prescription needs, according to Michael O’Dea, president of ValuSure.

 “No diocese is required to fund contraception in a health plan if they’re self-insured,” said O’Dea. “Even in a fully insured plan, they don’t have to cover it.”

The bottom line, according to O’Dea, is that Catholics need to know that they have options and the field for values-based plans needs to be widened.

In the last Congress, Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., introduced a bill that would allow for interstate commerce in health insurance plans while preserving states’ primary responsibility for the regulation of health insurance.

The bill would broaden and intensify competition among health plans and medical providers, encourage a review of existing health care regulation, and expand the choice of more affordable health insurance plans for millions of Americans, said Shadegg spokesman Ken Spain.

“Competition in the marketplace leads to lower prices and would make health insurance more affordable for everyone,” he said. “The legislation meets a person’s individual needs, not what is mandated by the state. For example, just because one state mandates acupuncture or chiropractic care for everybody doesn’t mean that everybody wants it or wants to pay for it.”

O’Dea likes the plan, saying it would allow his values-based plan to access more markets. But he doesn’t have much hope it will pass in the new, Democrat-controlled Congress.

Verus Health’s Williams said the real danger in the current market is the slippery slope begun with state mandates for contraception coverage.

“On the heels of that, you get a mandate for abortion coverage,” he explained. “Then on the heels of that you get coverage for domestic partners. More than half of the Fortune 500 companies cover domestic partners in their health insurance benefits.”

Many of the country’s health insurance giants fund abortion through their fully insured plans, O’Dea said.

“Right now, we are subsidizing the culture of death. If the people in the pew want to continue subsidizing the culture of death, how can they expect to ever have a culture of life?”

As for Tragardh, she’s waiting for O’Dea’s plan to spread. “I would never force my beliefs on anyone,” she said, “but once he is licensed to sell in Texas, we’ll give our employees the option to choose this product if they’d like.”

Patrick Novecosky

is based in Naples, Florida.