Sr. Carol urges ministry to stay active in promoting insurance expansion

July 1, 2013


Sr. Carol Urges MinistryPhoto by Michael Katada

ANAHEIM, Calif. — CHA President and Chief Executive Officer Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, told Catholic health care leaders gathered for the 2013 Catholic Health Assembly at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel that she'd like to be able to tell them "job well done" on health care reform and encourage them to take a breather. Instead, she called on them to redouble their efforts to advocate for all states to accept Medicaid expansion and to enroll people in health insurance exchanges, two important components of efforts to insure more than 30 million Americans under the Affordable Care Act. "It is a task worthy of our best efforts," she said, addressing the assembly on the morning of June 4.

Sr. Carol said, "CHA is working with many groups, as well as our members, to get this right. We will continue to share solutions, tools and opportunities to do this well."

She said the on-going transformation of health care delivery, where CHA members are focusing on value, transparency and keeping people well, has also resulted in organizational changes. Those include the conversion of some nonprofit hospitals into for-profit, Catholic companies, and mergers and affiliations between Catholic and other-than-Catholic health systems and hospitals. Traditionally, CHA membership was limited to Catholic, nonprofit health systems and hospitals; but, in 2012, in light of the changing structures in the membership, CHA members approved a temporary bylaw change that grandfathers in members whose taxable status and/or Catholic identity had changed. At that time CHA embarked on a three-year study of how it defines membership. Sr. Carol told the assembly that the involvement of hospital systems and care providers in that ongoing study demonstrates their commitment and desire to strengthen Catholic health care for the future.

Many CHA members have inquired about the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate for contraceptive services, she said. While awaiting the final rule, Sr. Carol said HHS has made some important changes CHA had sought, including dropping the "problematic definition of what constitutes a religious organization." CHA and others objected to three conditions proposed by HHS: that such organizations had to have evangelization as the priority and that they had to hire and serve primarily Catholics. "These are gone," she noted.

She said Catholic health ministries will not have an exemption from the mandate but they will have an accommodation that will protect them from having to buy, refer for, negotiate for or arrange coverage for contraceptive services. The federal government will have to arrange for these services separately if the government wants to make them available, she said. "CHA and many of you continue to encourage a simple exemption as the best solution," she said, noting that the CHA has made other suggestions that would make the proposed accommodation more workable. She said input from members on the issue has been very helpful.

Sr. Carol said throughout the process CHA has been in close contact with the leadership of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA and the leadership of Catholic universities. "Let me assure you that we remain committed to dialoguing this to resolution," Sr. Carol said. She said it appears some of the broader issues involving for-profit, consumer product companies with concerns related to the mandate will be decided by the courts.

Sr. Carol highlighted the continuing efforts of CHA, the Catholic Church in Haiti and Catholic Relief Services to build a new St. Francis de Sales Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The old hospital, the only Catholic hospital in the capital city, was destroyed by the 2010 earthquake. CHA members pledged $10 million in a campaign headed by past association chair Robert V. Stanek to fund the construction. The replacement hospital's foundation was poured earlier this year and concrete block walls are being erected.

"At a time when you have more than you can say grace over, you are giving the people of this impoverished nation the opportunity to have a state-of-the-art hospital and health system that they never dreamed was possible," Sr. Carol said. "That is truly living the mission in changing times. And on behalf of the people of Haiti, I thank you."


Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.