Bishops Eye Changes to Ethics Guide in Age of Obamacare


The shifting health care landscape may prompt a review of guidelines on forming new partnerships.

So, as Bishop Murphy pointed out, health systems — including Catholic ones  are now buying up physician practices. Brehany said that this happened back in the 1990’s as well, but then the hospitals noticed that doctors weren’t working as hard as they used to since they were now employees. For a while, the group practices got bought back by the physicians, but now it’s going back the other way again as regulatory compliance costs soar.

Then there’s insurance. Mayo Health System, which owns Franciscan Health System in La Crosse, Wis., has started offering their own insurance plan in Wisconsin. This move of a health care system offering its own insurance is another result of Obamacare, Brehany said, and Mayo isn’t alone in this. According to the National Catholic Reporter, a Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) subsidiary in Arkansas has bought an insurance company to start offering its own. But because of the HHS mandate requiring the coverage of contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacient drugs, that acquisition has run into issues with Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock, who had to send the question to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

But, Brehany said, “in order to stay in business, they have to buy up insurance companies and physician practices.” And that’s where issues will arise.

Unfortunately, there will probably end up being compromises that have happened at places like the old (now closed) St. Mary’s Hospital in Minneapolis where a patient would be admitted to St. Mary’s, but then wheeled down a corridor, across a skyway to the connected Riverside Medical Center, where she would have the abortion or sterilization done, and then wheeled back to St. Mary’s. Or, as ProPublica reports is being done in Troy, NY, building a hospital within the hospital where these procedures are done. Or as is being done in La Crosse, a completely separate facility a few miles from the main campus is now being used by physicians to do sterilizations and dispense contraception.

But this is what happens when, as Brehany said, “the federal government is saying, ‘We’re going to dictate how health care is done.’”

Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz writes from Minnesota.

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