(NCR) The extinction of Catholic hospitals due to the Obama administration’s contraception mandate would result in a loss of almost $100 billion, warned one columnist and talk-show host.
In a March 1 column in The Fiscal Times, political analyst Edward Morrissey said that if the mandate succeeds in shutting down Catholic hospitals and health-care institutions, it will “create a disaster for the delivery of health care in the country and rapidly escalate the public costs of health care.”
“Thanks to the economic models of these hospitals, no one will rush to buy them,” he explained. “Over 120,000 beds would disappear from an already-stressed system.”
The U.S. bishops have remained united and steadfast in their opposition to a mandate that was recently introduced by the Obama administration to require employers to offer health-care plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago recently warned that the archdiocese would shut down its institutions, including schools, hospitals and charitable organizations, rather than violating its core principles.
Morrissey observed that the Catholic Church runs “perhaps the most extensive private health-care delivery system in the nation.”
According to the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the Church operates 12.6% of U.S. hospitals and accounts for 15.6% of hospital admissions and 14.5% of all hospital expenses. In 2010, these expenses added up to $98.6 billion. Additionally, more than 400 health centers and 1,500 specialized homes are operated by the Catholic Church.
If Catholic hospitals cease to exist, Morrissey explained, many patients would have to turn to institutions run by state and federal governments, which operate less efficiently, in order to receive important services. Wait times would increase significantly, and patients may not receive the same care they currently do.
The change would affect a myriad of individuals across the country, including Karen Hales, an occupational therapist whose children, Rachel, Sarah, Daniel and Monica, were born at Catholic hospitals in Texas and Arkansas.
Hales has also received outpatient services at Catholic hospitals throughout the course of her life.
“The medical care provided was excellent,” she told EWTN News, adding that she was “able to receive the holy Eucharist daily.”
She said that she was “particularly grateful” for the care she received upon suffering a miscarriage, including counseling that helped her understand “how miraculous” each child is.
Hales and her husband, David, have also worked for both Catholic and public hospitals and health-care companies.
“The thing that sets the Catholic hospitals apart is a concern for the soul of the patient, the employees and family members,” she observed. “Many hospitals can provide good medical care for a person’s body, but a Catholic hospital can provide care for the physical and spiritual needs of the person.”
Morrissey said that a loss of Catholic hospitals would likely be felt most strongly by the poor and vulnerable.
He noted that Catholic hospitals serve a significant number of seniors, disabled patients and low-income individuals, treating more than one in six Medicare discharges and more than one in eight Medicaid discharges.
Furthermore, Catholic hospitals often help cover the costs for patients who cannot afford to pay for their care, he said.
Catholic hospitals “take a leading role” in offering less-profitable services, he added, explaining that they lead the way in providing breast-cancer screenings, geriatric services, nutrition programs and social work.
Although some other nonprofit institutions come close in the coverage they offer, government-run hospitals “fall significantly off the pace,” Morrissey said.
In addition, he explained, nearly a third of Catholic hospitals are located in rural areas, and if they were to close, many rural patients would have to travel farther to receive health care.
He added that more than half a million people currently employed by Catholic hospitals would lose their jobs in a very short time span, causing a huge strain on the economy.
Morrissey warned that the Catholic Church is serious in its intent to uphold its teachings.
If the bishops feel that they cannot run Catholic institutions without violating their deeply held beliefs, they “will simply stop employing people in these religious organizations,” he said, adding that “once those doors close, they may never reopen.”
Meanwhile, an expert in bioethics refuted claims that the Obama administration’s mandate does not include coverage of drugs that induce early abortions.
Dr. Edward Furton, director of publications for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said that a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter used a medically false premise in her attempt “to show that abortifacient drugs do not have abortifacient effects.” In a Feb. 24 article, Furton responded to the claims of Jamie L. Manson in a Reporter column published four days prior.
The column commented on the ongoing controversy over the recent mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Among the abortifacients included in the mandated coverage are the IUD, Plan B and “ella.” However, according to Manson, none of these drugs actually cause abortions.
Manson asserted in her article that “just because an egg is fertilized doesn’t necessarily mean that it will develop into an embryo.”
“For that to happen,” she argued, “the fertilized egg must be implanted into the endometrium that lines the uterus.”
But Furton refuted this claim, pointing to standard medical dictionaries, which state that fertilization creates a zygote, “which is the earliest stage of the human embryo.”
He further observed that even the National Institutes of Health, an agency that falls under the HHS Department, disagrees with Manson.
The agency offers a definition of “embryo” on its website, stating, “Embryo: In humans, the developing organism from the time of fertilization until the end of the eighth week of gestation, when it is called a fetus.”
Furton also noted that fertilized eggs sometimes fail to implant in the uterus lining, implanting instead on the fallopian tube, creating what is known as “an ectopic pregnancy.” “What are we to make of these?” he asked. “Are they human or just implanted balls of tissue?”
“Manson’s science cannot provide an answer,” he said, because it relies upon a “magical transformation” in which a human suddenly comes into existence once the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterus wall.
Furton explained that the rest of Manson’s argument is based upon the faulty premise that an embryo does not exist until it has implanted successfully.
Because she changes the medical definition of “embryo,” she is able to make the claim in her piece that “so far, there is no scientific evidence that any FDA-approved contraception is capable of destroying an embryo.”
Manson also asserts that “overwhelming scientific evidence” indicates that drugs such as the IUD and Plan B “work only as contraceptives.”
However, Furton pointed out, HHS admits on one of its own webpages that if “fertilization does occur, the IUD keeps the fertilized egg from implanting in the lining of the uterus.” In addition, both the external packet and the insert leaflet of Plan B explain that one of the ways in which the drug functions is to prevent the “attachment of a fertilized egg to the uterus.”
Furton questioned where Manson had found the “scientific evidence” that she used in her article, speculating that it may have come from the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization with former ties to Planned Parenthood.
He suggested that her article was “not intended” to provide a “scientifically based argument,” but, rather, to help the “current administration be successful” in its efforts to implement its controversial mandate.
The mandate is concerning more religious orders too.
The Little Sisters of the Poor say the HHS mandate threatens their continued ministry to the impoverished elderly. They are “strongly objecting” to the federal rule and say it should be repealed as soon as possible.
“Because the Little Sisters of the Poor cannot in conscience directly provide or collaborate in the provision of services that conflict with Church teaching, we find ourselves in the irreconcilable situation of being forced to either stop serving and employing people of all faiths in our ministry, so that we will fall under the narrow exemption, or to stop providing health-care coverage to our employees,” the order said on March 1.
“Either path threatens to end our service to the elderly in America. The Little Sisters are fervently praying that this issue will be resolved before we are forced to take concrete action in response to this unjust mandate.”
Their order serves 13,000 needy elderly of all faiths in 31 countries around the world. In the U.S., it has 30 homes for the elderly, accommodating 2,500 low-income seniors.
The Little Sisters of the Poor said that even the indirect subsidizing of such benefits is “unconscionable to us.” Their long-standing health insurance has always explicitly excluded sterilization, contraception and abortion from covered services, and this policy has “never been a matter of controversy in our homes.”
The sisters warned that the successful implementation of the federal rule could set a precedent for “further intrusion of government into health care.”
They have done their best to comply with all applicable government regulations and are not prone to making statements on politics or public policy, but they “cannot refrain from speaking out” about the mandate, the sisters said.
“If the federal government succeeds in enforcing this rule, what is to stop it from rationing health care to seniors or including euthanizing procedures on the list of required ‘preventive services’ as a way of eliminating the costs associated with caring for our aging population?” they asked.
“Would health-care providers like the Little Sisters of the Poor then be forced to cooperate in such practices?”
“We wish to affirm that the HHS mandate is an unjust and dangerous infringement upon the natural and constitutional rights of Americans and that the only just solution is to rescind it. The Little Sisters of the Poor call upon Congress and the executive branch to reverse this decision as soon as possible, and we pledge our prayers and sacrifices for the true good of our beloved country,” the order said.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said in a March 2 letter to all U.S. bishops that mandate negotiations with the White House appear stalled and that administration officials have said revising the mandate or broadening the exemption is “off the table.”
He urged his fellow bishops to “prepare for tough times.”