Stupak amendment: A Catholic Church money maker

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. This is partly what the Colorado Independent was writing about last week in a blog post reporting that U.S. Catholic Bishops had instructed parish priests to distribute anti-health reform material and to preach against the reform bill introduced in the House by Speaker Pelosi.

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. Former Colorado Independent editor Wendy Norris developed the point today in a blog post for RH Reality Check.

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.



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.

Congressional health insurance reforms promise the prospect of 36 million uninsured Americans — who are currently self-rationing care, paying on sliding fee scales, or not paying at all — flowing into hospitals, clinics and outpatient facilities via subsidized insurance, mandated policies and more affordable options in the proposed insurance exchange.

Conservatively, those newly insured people will not only add millions of dollars more to hospital coffers in the short term but the potential for trillions in billable services over their lifetimes.

The Church’s stand on government health reform has been angry and rigid, its coordinated lobbying efforts unprecedented in the aisles of its churches and in the halls of Congress. It has never taken such a stand toward the private health insurance industry. No literature has ever been distributed in the pews against the Cigna or Humana insurance corporations. No bishop’s directive has ever come down instructing priests to demand parishioners boycott Aetna for subsidizing abortion. No priest has ever said members of the faith should quit work with any employer who provides a heath insurance plan that subsidizes abortions.

The theological case has always been the same. Nothing has changed. As the future of the heath care industry is being decided, however, whipping up God’s army is really good for business.

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