Established in 1915 as the Catholic Hospital Association, the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) seeks to “advance [America’s] Catholic health ministry”—consisting of more than 600 hospitals and 1,400 long-term care and other health facilities in all 50 states—“in caring for people and communities” nationwide. CHA’s major areas of focus include the following:
* Advocacy and the Affordable Care Act: Collaborating with advocates from Catholic health systems and facilities across the United States, CHA strives to create “a more just and compassionate health care system” by shaping the content of federal legislation and policies. In particular, the Association has been working for decades on behalf of health care reform that “protects life and expands coverage to the greatest possible number of people in our country.” Notably, CHA believes that the key to achieving this goal is to expand the role of government—rather than the free market—in the health care industry. Thus, by CHA’s reckoning, the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act of 2010—i.e., Obamacare—is “not perfect” but “represents a good start toward providing access to everyone.”
* Diversity & Health Disparities: CHA’s Special Committee on Diversity and Health Disparities advises the Association’s board and staff on how to “ensure that traditionally underrepresented groups have meaningful opportunities for leadership positions.” Moreover, the Committee aims to eliminate “the existence of racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes, access to care, and receipt of quality health care.”
* Environment: Citing a “substantial body of scientific knowledge” indicating “unequivocal[ly]” that human industrial activity contributes heavily to “the escalating problem of global warming,” CHA seeks to “reduce the environmental burden of the health care” that its member institutions provide. Hospitals are especially culpable, says the Association, because their high levels of energy usage makes them “major contributors to climate change.” Further, CHA warns that the incidence of “many diseases will surge as the atmosphere heats up.”
Catholics in industrialized nations such as the U.S. also have a moral obligation to see themselves as “responsible for the fate of the world’s poor,” says CHA, urging “global solidarity” in aiding the impoverished by means of service and wealth redistribution.
For an overview of additional issues upon which CHA’s work is focused, click here.
Though CHA is formally opposed to abortion, over the years a number of its governing board members have made campaign contributions to pro-abortion Democratic politicians directly involved in the healthcare-reform effort—all of whom have received 100% ratings from abortion-rights organizations like NARAL and Planned Parenthood. A December 2009 report by Newsmax.com, for instance, revealed that CHA Board of Trustees’ members Lloyd Dean, Lindsey Artola, Roslyn Brock, and Alan Yordy had made such financial donations, as had CHA Advocacy & Public Policy Committee officials Joseph Swedish and David Benfer. The beneficiaries of their contributions included such pro-abortion Members of the U.S. House and Senate as Maria Cantwell, Chris Dodd, Peter DeFazio, Rosa DeLauro, Richard Durbin, Gabrielle Giffords, Debbie Halvorson, Joe Lieberman, Patty Murray, Barack Obama, Debbie Stabenow, and Ron Wyden.
When Obamacare was passed in 2010, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and every major pro-life group in America warned that the new law clearly left open the possibility that abortions could be funded by federal dollars. (They were correct, as is explained here.) By contrast, CHA, under the leadership of its president and CEO, Sister Carol Keehan, enthusiastically supported the statute and denied that it would permit such funding.
On March 17, 2010, Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Nauman chided Sister Keehan and CHA for being either “incredibly naive or disingenuous” in claiming that Obamacare expressly forbade the use of government funds for abortions. According to Nauman, the position staked out by Keehan and CHA “provides cover for any member of the House who chooses to buckle under the pressure of the President and the Democratic leadership to accept government funding of abortion,” and would allow such legislators to “defend themselves by pointing out that Catholic Health Care leaders recommended they vote for the bill.”
Deal Hudson, director of the Morley Institute, attributed CHA’s support for Obamacare to an “apparent vested interest in seeing the bill passed,” since the Association “would receive federal money for its hospitals” to perform abortions. Along the same lines, Jack Smithat of The Catholic Key Blog characterized CHA as a “trade organization” with “a vested financial interest in the outcome of the health care debate.”
In 2012 the Obama administration announced that the Affordable Care Act would not exempt religious organizations from its mandate that all employee health care policies must cover the cost of contraceptives and abortifacients. Initially, CHA joined the Catholic Bishops in condemning the mandate. But eventually the Association negotiated with the Obama administration to achieve a so-called “accommodation” whereby religious organizations would not have to offer insurance plans that included contraceptive/abortifacient coverage. Instead, insurers would be required to provide such coverage free-of-charge, and separate from their health care policies, to any female enrollees who wanted it. The Bishops noted that this bargain was meaningless, given that the hidden cost of the “free” items would obviously be passed on to consumers. Nevertheless, Sister Keehan announced that CHA was “very pleased with the … resolution … that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions.”