My daughter was born in Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital.  St. E’s was the best hospital in Youngstown, Ohio at the time and her mother had had difficulties in the past.  Excellent doctor.  Acceptable facilities.  And on the wall in front of each bed was a wooden cross complete with the depiction of the guy nailed to it.  I found it more than a little disconcerting.  But, it was their building, so we put a towel over the artwork and tried to ignore it.

There are Jewish hospitals, Catholic hospitals, Methodist hospitals, etc…  Are these institutions gifts from a particular faith community for the general good?  Are the hospitals designed as a way to increase cash flow?  Do some religions view the hospitals they create as a way to spread their faith and proselytize for new members?

Hospitals provide needed services for the general public.  The funding may come, in part, from the faith community, but private insurance and the government are the principal sources of revenue.  There are tax breaks, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Does the faith, the name on the door, affect the type of care provided inside?  I am concerned when the religion sponsoring a medical facility chooses to do more than decorate the rooms.

Catholic Health Partners is Ohio’s largest hospital system.  This is a big business.  CHP has two dozen hospitals and over $5 billion in assets.  CHP recently purchased Kaiser Permanente’s Ohio operation.  They also committed $250 million to purchase a minority interest in Akron’s SUMMA Health System.

Everything was proceeding smartly until our local Bishop attempted to kill the deal.  According to published reports, Bishop Lennon stopped the SUMMA deal because “SUMMA publicly stated plans to continue providing sterilization, contraceptives and abortions on a limited basis when medically necessary.” (emphasis mine)

Catholic Health Partners restructured the deal by running it through their auxiliary organization, HealthSpan Partners.  HealthSpan Partners is tax-exempt, secular, and beyond the Bishop’s reach.  I think this raises some real concerns.

What is and isn’t beyond the Bishop’s reach?  What happens when your doctor determines that you NEED a particular procedure, but the Bishop forbids it?

I have a vested interest in this discussion.  The Ohio Kaiser program was lining up to work well with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  The doctors work for the plan.  Kaiser has added new, state-of-the-art facilities.  The patient records system is excellent.  Adding a solid connection to SUMMA is really positive.  I have recommended Kaiser to many of my clients.

But before I recommend Kaiser to anyone else, ever, I need to know who is the final arbiter of what is and isn’t medically necessary.  We are about to enter a long national discussion concerning our government’s involvement with health care funding and care choices.  But for good or bad, we elected the government and we have a role in the creation of our rules and regulations.  I don’t have a say as to who serves as our local Bishop, nor do I care, as long as he doesn’t endanger my clients.

Not paying attention to this would be malpractice.