Health Association: HHS Accommodation Fine by Us
The Catholic Health Association, the largest trade group for American non-profit hospitals, announced Tuesday that the “accommodation” offered to religious employers in the Affordable Care Act was fine with them.
In a memo sent to members and to certain media outlets June 8th under the name of CHA’s President and CEO, Sr. Carol Keehan, the association broke with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have called the “accommodation” unacceptable.
“HHS has now established an accommodation that will allow our ministries to continue offering health insurance plans for their employees as they have always done,” the statement says.
“We are pleased that our members now have an accommodation that will not require them to contract, provide, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage.”
The memo is not available on the CHA website, but was published by the National Catholic Reporter, an independent newsweekly that frequently opposes the bishops on controversial issues.
Sr. Keehan was a vocal supporter of the Affordable Care Act, at times clashing with the US bishops over that support. The CHA expressed reservations about the HHS mandate last June but, according to the memo, changes in the mandate and comments from CHA members convinced the Board that the rule now accommodates the concerns of all its members.
“We also recognize that this resolution has not been what some organizations, including the Bishops’ Conference, asked for on behalf of a wider group,” the memo says. “Our contribution to the process has been to work for the protection of religious organizations, especially our members. We recognize the broader issues will continue to be debated and litigated by others.”
The memo cites two concerns the CHA identified last year: the definition of a religious institution, and the requirement for employers to provide contraception, sterilization, and “Plan B” pills to female employees and their female dependents.
The new Rule tightens the definition of “religious employers,” who are exempt from providing the coverage, identifying them as organizations that fit one tax filing status. All other “religious organizations” will be required to file yearly objections to the covered items in order to receive the “accommodation.” Most, if not all, Catholic healthcare organizations would have to file the annual objections.
The “accommodation” for religious organizations that object to the coverage is that they will be able to buy insurance that does not cover the drugs and procedures, and their employees will be given them anyway at (the government says) no cost to the organizations or the employees. While the CHA is satisfied with this arrangement many other Catholics are not, saying that payment for the coverage would simply be hidden in the general fees and that employers would still ultimately be responsible for the coverage, because it would hinge on their providing jobs in the first place.
The USCCB has not issued an official reaction to the CHA announcement but on July 3rd, in its last statement on the HHS mandate, said that the Rule needed to be fought in Congress and in court.
The CHA represents 600 hospitals and about 1,400 other health-related businesses, including specialty providers and nursing homes. Area hospitals and facilities that belong to CHA include: The Archbishop Leibold Home for the Aged, Bayley Place, Good Samaritan Hospital, Mercy Hospitals, St. Margaret Hall, Madonna Manor, St. Elizabeth Hospitals, and many others.
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