Catholic hospitals should be expected to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees, and should not be given a religious employer exemption from the new coverage requirement, MergerWatch said in comments submitted this week to the Department of Health and Human Services. The Catholic Health Association, reversing an early position, is demanding that the Obama administration exempt Catholic hospitals, arguing that these hospitals are ministries of the Catholic Church.
Our comments pointed out that Catholic hospitals, while affiliated with the Catholic Church, “do not occupy the same private religious space as do seminaries or diocesan offices. Instead, Catholic hospitals have affirmatively chosen to enter the public sphere and assume a role unlike those church entities that have as their primary purpose the inculcation of religious values.” Catholic hospitals employ more than 750,000 full and part-time employees, many of whom are not Catholic or, if Catholic, do not follow the official church teachings against contraception, we said. Moreover, Catholic hospitals rely on billions of dollars in public funding through Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, and receive little or no church funding, we noted. Our research on the public funding of religious hospitals was cited in Emily Douglas’ coverage of the Catholic Health Association’s position in the on-line edition of The Nation this week:
Drawing on MergerWatch’s 15 years of experience protecting reproductive health care from religious health care restrictions, we suggested Catholic hospitals could find creative ways to comply with the contraceptive coverage requirement through use of third-party administrators or other means. See our full comments here.