Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Given the uproar the Catholic Church has initiated over FOCA, and its ominous warnings of hospital closures, a little reminder is in order. Hospitals affiliated with the Catholic Church serve the public, and they rely heavily on public dollars to do so. Often, they are the exclusive health care provider in a community. Do we really want to support such hospitals with our tax dollars and still allow them to pick and choose what services to provide based on religious objections their patients may not share? MergerWatch released an important study in 2002 on religiously affiliated hospitals, funding, and limitations on services. Here is an excerpt from the Executive Summary:
Religiously-sponsored hospitals in the United States bill the government more than $40 billion a year, while using religious doctrine to restrict medical care, especially reproductive services.
A new national study from the MergerWatch project finds that religiously-sponsored hospitals report more than $40 billion a year in gross patient revenues from Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs.
Reproductive services — including contraception, emergency contraception for rape survivors, sterilization, abortion and infertility services — are frequently banned at religiously-sponsored hospitals, along with “safer sex” counseling to prevent HIV/AIDS. End- of-life choices, such as the option to refuse or remove feeding tubes, are sometimes restricted. Treatments derived from embryonic stem cells are likely to be the next category of banned services.
Religious sponsors operate 13 percent of all community hospitals in the United States and nearly one in every five hospital beds. In an increasing number of communities, patients have no other accessible or affordable choice of a hospital. The study, “No Strings Attached: Public Funding of Religious Hospitals in the United States,” concludes that in the rush to enact laws (known as “refusal clauses”) protecting the religious practices of these hospitals, Congress and state Legislatures have ignored the needs of patients whose tax dollars help support those hospitals.
“Religiously-sponsored hospitals serve and employ people from a wide variety of faiths and — as this study has demonstrated — rely heavily on public funding,” said Lois Uttley, Director of the MergerWatch Project and co-author, with Ronnie Pawelko, of the new study. “Yet these hospitals refuse to provide basic health care services needed in the communities they are licensed to serve.”
Download the full report: No Strings Attached.