“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.