Recently the Seattle Times reported that nineteen groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, had signed a letter asking questions about a new deal under which Providence Health Systems would provide health services in Walgreen clinics.
What was not included in that report is the fact that Walgreens recently announced that it is taking over Rite-Aid in an all-cash deal worth more than $17 billion, a deal which would make it the largest pharmacy in the country.
So now we have the largest pharmacy chain in the country linking up with a Catholic health care ministry that systematically deprives patients of medically appropriate services, including contraception.
What could go wrong?
There are more than 130 Rite-Aid stores in Washington State, which is also home to the highest percentage of health systems under Catholic ownership/control.
A linkage between the hundreds of Walgreen/Rite-Aid pharmacies in Washington State and Providence Health, which follows the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care, has potential to dramatically limit access to legal, medically appropriate care.
Who will stand up to protect patients and physicians from the increasing power of religiously-directed health care ministries and their expansion into pharmacy-based services?