Governor Inslee: Health Care Policies Must be Transparent – Implications for Employers

“To further improve transparency for consumers, DOH will collect and make available relevant hospital policies related to end of life, reproductive services, and patient non-discrimination.”

With these words in a letter released today, Governor Inslee is helping Washington move forward toward a world where consumers and employers will have better information to make informed decisions about our health care.

For too long, Catholic health care organizations have deliberately misled regulators and health care purchasers about the reproductive and end-of-life services they provide and about the antidiscrimination policies they follow.  On San Juan Island, for example, the ob-gyn who works out of the newly opened PeaceIsland hospital under a lease arrangement with PeaceHealth, is prohibited by contract from providing important reproductive services that conflict with Catholic doctrine.   At Swedish, which touts its maternity care services and now operates as a brand/division of Catholic Providence, patients expecting secular, evidence-based care are increasingly finding out too late that important and vitally needed abortion services (especially for women with high risk pregnancies) are now prohibited by religious doctrine.  And at Franciscan, officials have claimed before the Washington Supreme Court that because they are a religious institution they are not bound by Washington State’s antidiscrimination laws.

The consequences of greater accountability and disclosure around reproductive and end-of-life services and antidiscrimination policies are going to be felt by institutions that so far have benefitted from stealth and deception and who so far have gotten away with it.  What reproductive health services are available at PeaceIsland Hospital?  Soon, you’ll know.   Will Providence Hospital honor your end-of-life directives?  Soon, you’ll know.  Does your hospital consider itself bound by Washington State’s antidiscrimination policies?  Soon, you’ll know.

For private employers and other major purchasers of health care services, transparency regarding important services and antidiscimination policies will make it easier to match employee needs and values with hospital provider policies and values.

If you run a global company in the Seattle area, do you want to contract with a provider that reserves the right to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation?  Do you want to contract with a provider that considers contraception immoral and a tubal ligation after childbirth delivery an intrinsic evil?

Hopefully, soon, employee benefits departments will have the information they need to make better purchasing decisions on behalf of their employees.  Here’s betting the same companies whose brands were highly visible at Seattle’s recent Pride Parade (Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft, Expedia, among many others) will give thoughtful attention as to whether a preferred provider should include a health care entity that officially subscribes to the belief that sex without a procreative purpose is immoral.

Today was an important step forward for Washington patients.  There’s still a long road ahead, and Washington policy makers, regulators, and health care purchasers need to make sure important health care services are available where people need them, but people should feel good that we have a Governor who knows that the health care needs and values of patients must be the priority.

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4 thoughts on “Governor Inslee: Health Care Policies Must be Transparent – Implications for Employers

  1. Bert

    I can’t find a URL with that quote from Governor Inslee. I ask because I quoted it and now have a soft challenge on my desktop. Help?

    1. catholicwatcher Post author

      Hi, it was in a letter sent to the ACLU. Because I’ve been active on these issues in the San Juan area, I was sent an electronic copy of the letter….am checking to see if the letter is available online yet on their site. I will link to it once it’s available.

  2. Keith Comess

    Yet another nice summary! Your points re: presence of high-profile companies (e.g. Starbucks) at a gay event is worth emphasizing. Pressure exerted on these companies against theologically driven medical care might help dissuade the UW from proceeding with their “affiliation” with PH.

    Skeptical as I am, careful attention should be given to the exact wording of Inslee’s statement. The “liberal” interpretation of previously precise terms such as “immediate” by the Obama administration is but one example of how the mandate for acting in a certain way can be made almost infinitely elastic. In short, celebration is probably premature.

  3. San Olson

    Transparency as opposed to secrecy, obfuscation, or even deliberate forgetfulness is much to be desired and particularly vital to healthcare consumers. However, as much as we all should celebrate this policy, it may not help the public that much because there are fewer and fewer large healthcare organizations in our state that are not under the influence or control of the Catholic Church. To begin to break down this monopolistic accumulation by the church it will take lawsuits, possibly many lawsuits, perhaps as many suits as it has taken to begin to discourage the church from permitting child molestation by priests.


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