Catholic Health Association reverses course and rejects administration’s “accommodation”

The Catholic Health Association, whose president and CEO, Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, provided essential support necessary for the passage of Obamacare, and initially criticized the HHS mandate.  After the administration announced its so-called “accommodation,” Sr Keehan announced her support of the accommodation.  This has provided essential political cover for this administration’s aggressive assault on religious liberty.

However, the CHA and Sr Keehan have now reversed course, and in their letter in response to the HHS “advance notice of proposed rule making,” or ANPRM, they reject the accommodation as “unacceptable.”

The primary objection of the CHA is the narrow definition of “religious employer” now codified in federal law by the HHS mandate:

It is imperative for the Administration to abandon the narrow definition of “religious employer” and instead use an expanded definition to exempt from the contraceptive mandate not only churches, but also Catholic hospitals, health care organizations and other ministries of the Church.

The CHA also objects to the work-around proposed in the “accommodation,” that the insurance company or some unnamed third-party would pay for the morally objectionable services.

The more we learn, the more it appears that the ANPRM approaches for both insured and self-insured plans would be unduly cumbersome and would be unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns of all of our members and other Church ministries.

The CHA is arguing only from their narrow perspective, that of a large, faith-based health care organization.  Their letter addresses their own concerns, and the religious freedom protections that will not be provided to organizations such as their own.  They fail to see the bigger picture, that the HHS mandate strikes directly at the religious liberty of every American–faith-based service institutions, businesses, and individual citizens.

Nonetheless, the CHA’s rejection of the “accommodation” is a good start (from what was a very bad position) and will pose a thorny political problem for the administration.  The administration has just lost the support of their most reliable Catholic ally on this issue, and they will have great difficulty arguing that the Catholic health care establishment approves of the mandate and accommodation.

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