Saturday, February 11, 2012

Catholic Healthcare Logic

Catholic bishops have decided that Department of Health and Human Services rule for women's preventative care just isn't good enough. The US Conference of Bishops led a fierce fight against the rule because it required Catholic hospitals and other non-church institutions to provide contraceptives to their employees. On Friday, the Obama administration announced a tweak to the rule to accomodate institutions with overriding religious blocks:
The new policy announced today ensures that if a woman works for other types of religious employers with objections to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the religious employer will not be required to provide, pay for or refer for contraception coverage.

Instead her insurance company will be required to directly offer her contraceptive care at no additional charge.
If a religious institution wants to avoid the rule requiring them to provide free preventative healthcare for female employees, the burden of providing contraceptives is shifted to the insurance companies, who will have to reach out to the employees to provide preventative care. An institution that feels bound by dogma to neglect their employees' health can arrange for this extraordinary service from the insurance company.

The US Conference of Bishops, however, were not satisfied, stating to the New York Times:
“In the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer’s plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This, too, raises serious moral concerns.”
As long as any Catholic institution has a hand in providing preventative medical care, it's too much for the Bishops' conscience. As long as Catholic non-church institutions contribute to their employees' health care, however, it seems that they are in the same bind. The bind can be summarized in three bullet points:
  1. Insurance companies cover contraceptives in whole or in part.
  2. Insurance coverage is a typical benefit of employment, and one that Catholic hospitals, schools, etc... are economically coerced into providing to employees to compete in the labor market.
  3. The US Conference of Bishops is dissatisfied if Catholic institutions are financially or logistically connected with providing contraceptives.
The conflict with the president's plan is that there is a link between employer and health care. If you agree with the vast majority of Americans that women should have safe, effective, and affordable contraceptives, and you also agree that religious institutions shouldn't have to be involved in paying for, arranging, or managing access to contraceptives, the only way to avoid the Catholic church's logic is to ditch employer-centric health care. Single-payer, Medicare-for-all, or a predominately individual market would be the obvious ways to remove the burden of managing healthcare from religious institutions' shoulders. Of course, then again, wages that Catholic hospitals or schools pay their employees might still go towards contraceptives; the US Conference of Bishops might only support fully socialized health care.

Could someone please ask the Catholic church to describe their preferred health care model?

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