A message from Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM
Dear CHA Members,
This past year has been incredibly challenging. Staggering financial losses, the ongoing workforce crisis, and the mental and emotional distress that many of our colleagues are experiencing are testing our ministry like never before. In addition, we’ve seen an increase in negative media coverage about Catholic health care, especially in the months following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
We expect that detractors of Catholic health care will continue their efforts to encourage media outlets to publish and broadcast biased news articles that seek to portray Catholic health as either not living up to our mission and/or not providing quality care to certain patients.
Please know that my CHA colleagues and I take these media attacks on Catholic health care very seriously and are working with the CHA board, CEOs, Advocacy and Communications leaders from the ministry, consultants, and other thought leaders from health care, academia and the Church to not only amplify the positive contributions we make to our nation’s health care system, but also bring to light the motivations of those working to tarnish our reputation.
This work will need to be a collective effort where we are coordinated and consistent as a ministry in telling our story to our stakeholders, our communities, and the media. To support this work, we need to redouble our efforts to be a trusted source of truth. We can do this by continuing to build strong relationships with local reporters and editors, sharing our Community Benefit reports, writing op-eds about our policy priorities and keeping our community partners informed. Such efforts are more important than ever as the reality and facts around the care we provide have too often been ignored (perhaps even intentionally) in recent national media coverage.
Here are some examples of the misleading information advanced by our detractors and the actual facts:
Myth: Catholic hospitals endanger the lives of pregnant women because they do not perform abortions.
Fact: It is true that Catholic hospitals do not offer elective abortions. This position is consistent with our deep commitment to caring for women and children and is rooted in our reverence for life, from conception to natural death. In tragic situations when the mother suffers from an urgent, life-threatening condition during pregnancy, Catholic health clinicians do provide medically indicated treatment, even if it poses a threat to the unborn child or may result in the unintended death of the child. Such treatments are both clinically and ethically required. We value the provider-patient relationship and informed consent and respect patients' preferences and beliefs and work with them to discuss their treatment options.
Myth: Catholic hospitals provide less charity care than other non-profit hospitals.
Fact: Catholic health care has a long history of attending to the needs of their communities and are leaders in addressing the social and environmental issues that impact health. While detractors of Catholic health care will often selectively choose a specific data point to support this narrative, analyses of IRS 990 forms over the past decade show that Catholic hospitals consistently invest the same percentage or more as other non-profit hospitals on overall Community Benefit activities. The IRS 990 forms also show that Catholic hospitals provide on average free and discounted care to individuals and families with incomes up to 230 % of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and 380% of the FPL respectively, which is higher than other non-profit hospitals. Collectively, Catholic hospitals in the U.S. spend more than $13.6 billion on Community Benefit, which includes not only charity care but also programs that address chronic illness, poverty, health disparities, human trafficking, environmental sustainability, housing support, food insecurity and other social determinants of health.
Myth: Catholic hospitals close facilities and services in vulnerable communities.
Fact: Our members have a long history of providing care regardless of patients’ ability to pay or whether they have health insurance, including in places with limited access to health services such as rural communities. Examples of publicly reported data that confirm this include the following:
- When analyzing Social Vulnerability Index data from the CDC, Catholic hospitals care for a higher percentage of patients who are uninsured and who live in zip codes with higher Medicaid utilization when compared to other non-profit and for-profit hospitals.
- According to the AHA Annual Survey, Catholic hospitals provide a higher percentage of psychiatric, substance use disorder, indigent care, and palliative care services.
- Between 2012 and 2018, the number of rural Catholic hospitals has increased slightly by .6%, while the number of investor-owned rural hospitals has declined by 3.4%.
Myth: Catholic hospitals discriminate against LGBTQ+ patients.
Fact: Catholic health care in the U.S. has been a leader in advocating for a health care system that welcomes and provides the same level and quality of care for everyone. We welcome and treat all patients without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other category or status. While we don’t perform certain surgical procedures related to gender transition, we remain committed to making sure all LGBTQ+ patients who seek our care feel respected and accepted.
It's important to remember that Catholic hospitals and providers are accredited and held to the exact same clinical and quality standards as every other hospital and clinician licensed in the U.S. What sets us apart is our unwavering commitment to care for the whole person that is consistent with the Gospel teachings and Jesus’ call to love one another. You need only read the latest issue of Health Progress or Catholic Health World to see examples of that commitment lived out by our members. I also invite you to view our “This is Catholic Health Care” video series which highlights examples of the innovative and transformative care we are providing to our patients and communities.
Throughout our long history, Catholic health care has never shied away from challenges, and that resolve is as strong today as it was in the past. Let me assure you that the mission of Catholic health care has never been stronger.