I understand President Obama is going to announce an “accommodation” to the demands of the Catholic Church and media regarding US health care. I’ll wait and see what he says, and if I have time today I’ll try to figure out how this accommodation might affect me and mine. I don’t know that I’ll be around at 11 for the announcement.
I’m not really surprised he’s compromising. The church planned the political campaign 7 months in advance of the (alleged) “firestorm”, so there was always an end game here.
I am grateful to him for making the public health argument on my behalf. As far as I’m concerned, he was the only person operating out of a genuine concern for women’s health, rather than treating women’s health as a political football or proxy for some other, unrelated, larger moral or political crusade.
He did his job, and he acted in good faith, which is more than I can say for the bishops and their multi-millionaire media mouthpieces. On that, I have to say, I haven’t seen the multi-millionaire cable tv stars and media personalities this incensed in years, back since they were selling the invasion of Iraq. Who knew they were so vitally concerned with limiting access to contraception? Eye-opening, to say the least. Do you think we get them on board to lobby this hard to help working people? They’re impressive when they join together and link arms in a campaign like this. I see a lot of potential for good there.
Here are some facts that might be useful if you are not a bishop or multi-millionare pundit or media personality, and rely on employer-provided health insurance for prescription drugs. Despite misty-eyed and nostalgiac notions of priests toiling in storefront clinics , the Catholic Church plays a huge and growing role in the mulit-billion dollar industry that is US health care. They are the very definition of a large employer that the health care law was intended to regulate.
Catholic Healthcare West, one of the nation’s largest hospital systems, is ending its governing board’s affiliation with the Catholic Church and changing its name, two steps intended to help the system expand throughout the states in which it operates — California, Arizona and Nevada — and beyond.
The changes, which executives announced today, underscore the unique challenges facing Catholic hospitals in the marketplace, where there are tremendous financial pressures for hospitals to merge or form formal alliances with other health care providers in order to survive and thrive. The change will have no effect on any patients or the medical care provided at the 25 Catholic and 15 secular hospitals in the system. But executives hope it will make it easier to merge or affiliate with other hospitals, doctors’ practices and other health care providers.
In the past few years, proposed mergers between Catholic and secular hospitals in Louisville, Ky., and Sierra Vista, Ariz., have collapsed in part because of concerns about the church’s bans on abortions, in-vitro fertilizations and sterilizations. Other mergers have succeeded only with the help of unusual contortions, such in Troy, N.Y., where a separately licensed maternity ward free from Catholic doctrine was created on the second floor of a secular hospital taken over by a Catholic system. In Seattle, Swedish Medical Center last fall agreed to fund a Planned Parenthood office next door to quell objections about its planned affiliation with a Catholic system
The San Francisco-based system, which has $11 billion in revenues, making it the fifth largest in the country, is seeking to triple in size and build a national footprint. It treated 6.2 million patients last year.
Catholic Healthcare West leaders said the change has been in development since 2009, when it was raised by the sisters. They said they consulted with Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco and he determined the governance change was consistent with the church’s teachings and that it could proceed. Future secular hospitals added to the system will be required to adhere to the “Statement of Common Values” that apply to Catholic Healthcare West’s secular hospitals. In addition to elective abortions, those rules prohibit in-vitro fertilizations but not sterilizations such as tubal ligations.
The system’s Catholic hospitals will continue to adhere to Catholic directives and have relationships with the religious orders of nuns that governed the system. Those orders will retain final authority should Dignity want to sell a hospital, change its name or make other substantial alterations. In addition, the secular hospitals will continue to adhere to some rules based on church doctrine, such as a ban on abortions except when a mother’s life is in danger.
“It’s more like two families under one roof as opposed to ‘you have to join our family,’” said Martin Arrick, a managing director at the rating agency Standard & Poor’s. “If this proves to be successful—and I have no reason to think it won’t be—I think you’re going to see a wave of Catholic and non-Catholic partnerships.”
How big is this regulatory exception church leaders and pundits are demanding? How many working people will it involve? When a multi-billion dollar Catholic health care business merges with a multi-billion dollar secular health care business, are all of the people employed there now subject to the restrictions on access to contraceptives?
If the church and their media allies blow a hole in the regulatory scheme of the PPACA can we expect other large employers to demand waivers? The church’s lawyer said yesterday that he was lobbying to remove contraception from the list completely. If he succeeds at that, what other provisions related to women’s health might he succeed in removing? Any other anti-regulatory campaigns they’re cooking up? People out here in the cheap seats might need this information.
None of these questions were even asked. Ordinary working women had no role, at all, in a debate that was just conducted on their health care, but we did have the President of the United States and his HHS director working on our behalf, and that’s heartening.