15 Nov

The Bishops’ Billion-Dollar Business Bonanza

As always, follow the money.

By: Teddy Partridge Saturday November 14, 2009 5:07 pm


Overlooked in the discussion of the Catholic Bishops’ heartfelt moral compulsion to intervene in the health care reform debate to ensure no woman assisted with federal dollars ever gets an abortion is the business assist the Bishops get from Stupak-Pitts.

What the Stupak-Pitts amendment does for the Catholic health care system is omit a competitive advantage secular and other religiously-affiliated hospitals without doctrinal restrictions can use to simultaneously market their services to both the expected influx of newly insured patients and the outpatient medical professionals who will treat them.

By restricting insurance coverage of women’s reproductive health care, the competitive barriers faced by Catholic institutions will be eliminated — provided the amendment is not stripped out of the final bill that emerges from House-Senate health care reform conference committee. Which is why pro-choice advocates should expect nothing short of a full-frontal attack by the Vatican on conservative Senators.

And in the case of an industry that accounts for 18 percent of the gross domestic product and is expected to double in less than 10 years, it’s absolutely critical to follow the money.

Eliminating a competitive advantage of their hospital competitors is not small change.

The Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives is now the largest of the church’s hospital systems in the country with 78 hospitals and 40 long-term care facilities in 20 states and operating revenues exceeding $9.6 billion ranking it sixth among all for-profit and charity health care networks.

Now consider that there are 60 some Catholic-affiliated hospital systems in all 50 states — representing 13 percent of the nation’s entire in-patient health care system. That’s easily tens of billions of dollars flowing through the business arm of the Catholic church that continues to grow through mergers with private and other religiously-affiliated hospitals.

Isn’t it wonderful when business interests coincide so completely with theology and its focus on the unborn?

For the business arm of the Catholic church it’s a theological and economic two-fer.

The bishops can extract abortion care from the private insurance benefits of millions of American women that are federally subsidized ten ways to Sunday (with the blessing of conservative lawmakers’ corporate welfare earmarks) and they level the competitive playing field without having to revise its medical doctrine to modern standards of care.

Analyzing the bishops’ lobbying efforts from a cold, calculating green eyeshade perspective adds a very different dimension to their motives that may help spur secular business interests to protect both a woman’s right to choose and their own bottom line.

Our lawmakers need to understand that the muscle the Bishops brought to bear on this amendment isn’t simply based in doctrine: their accountants and business planners surely laid out for them the business argument for eliminating a primary competitive distinction for non-Catholic hospitals.

As always, follow the money.

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