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Jack Sisson's Life Ethics Blog

We must find new ways through many ethical issues, especially regarding bioethics, medical ethics, and criminal justice. Jack Sisson's 'Life Ethics' blog focuses on numerous areas of concern, including the philosophical and ethical dilemmas surrounding stem-cell research, abortion, medical research, and health care.

The Colorado Independent 11/13/09

Is the Catholic Bishops' strong opposition to a healthcare reform bill that does not exclude abortion strictly a moral stance, or is it something more?
Pass the kind of national health reform that brings in the vast ranks of the uninsured and you increase the number of consumers in the health care industry.

Although the bishops’ stand against health reform can not be separated from theology, its ties to Church economics are also very real. The Catholic Church with its hundreds of hospitals and clinics and nursing facilities is in the health care business in a major way. In 2006, Americans spent $84.6 billion on Catholic-affiliated health care. Fact is, the bishops have more at stake in this debate than principle.

The Stupak Amendment, which is designed to cut abortion out of what would be the dominant health-care plan in the nation, may or may not be a moral victory. What it is, indisputably, is genius business strategy, the kind other industries dream of effecting on Capitol Hill.
According to Wendy Norris, a freelance reporter and editor in Denver,
The scale of the church's involvement in the rapidly growing $2.5 trillion dollar American health care industry is staggering.

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.
Norris further says that "one in six patients are cared for in 624 Catholic hospitals scattered throughout the U.S. in 2006, according to the Catholic Health Association. The church also operates more than 800 post-acute care, senior living and skilled nursing centers across the nation. All told, $84.6 billion was spent on Catholic church-affiliated care."

That's a lot of money, and if healthcare reform adds 36 million uninsured Americans to the ranks of insured, they will, according to Norris, add millions of dollars more to hospital coffers in the short term and have the potential for adding trillions in billable services over their lifetimes.

Looking at the Catholic Church's intense lobbying on the healthcare bill through a business lens shines a very different light on its motives, and should make a lot of people really angry. Let's hope some of them are our Representatives who will see through the Church's moral grandstanding and realize there's something more going on here. Then let's hope they have the guts to do something about it.

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