A recent report from MergerWatch and the American Civil Liberties Union shattered the myth of Catholic hospitals providing more charity care than other nonprofit hospitals. In so doing, it also completely shattered a key claim made earlier this year before Washington’s Supreme Court by Franciscan Health System, a Catholic-Church controlled system that operates several hospitals and medical clinics in Washington State.
In the brief filed in March of 2013 in the Ockletree v. Franciscan case, Franciscan’s lawyers argued that “Non profit facilities shift the costs away from public coffers to provide care to the uninsured because such activity is within their explicit religious mission.”
It went on to state, “In exempting religious nonprofit organizations from [Washington State Law’s] …definition of “employer,” the legislature could have reasoned that the State has a substantial interest in the well-being of religious nonprofit organizations that provide such important public services (emphasis added) and wanted to make sure that these organizations could continue to do so without the burden of potential liability….or increased costs of compliance…”
So what happens when a key assertion made before Washington’s Supreme Court is proven to be a lie?
Franciscan, which is part of Catholic Health Inititiatives, and therefore part of the Catholic Church, made other equally absurd arguments, but in describing Washington’s “religious nonprofit exemption” in the context of antidiscrimination law to be “just one example of a law that reflects the policy decision to foster the good works of religious nonprofit organizations,” they open up the entire question of whether Washington State should ever do anything to “foster the good works of religious nonprofit organizations” and give them special privileges over other nonprofits, especially when the data and evidence make clear that, contrary to myths promoted by the Catholic Church, health-care religious nonprofits don’t actually deliver greater charity care benefits to the community than other health care nonprofits.
As Mother Jones reported, “Catholic hospitals don’t do much for the poor,” and since they don’t do much for the poor and implement policies that clearly undermine women’s health and that result in higher costs (e.g., forcing a woman who undergoes a Cesarian delivery and wants a tubal ligation to undergo separate surgery in a different facility), why does our public policy encourage them to exist at all, much less give them special benefits?
The Washington State Association for Justice Foundation (formerly the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association) filed an amicus brief in the case arguing that the WA State Law which exempts religious nonprofits from Washington’s antidiscrimination laws violates the Washington State Constitution.
No one knows what Washington’s Supreme Court will do in the Ockletree case. But it’s clear now that a Catholic Church-sponsored entity misrepresented key facts in an important case now being considered by Washington’s Supreme Court. And the question is: Who and What should do something about that?