Catholic Health Association benefits financially from new health care bill, says critic

3 24 2010 keehan Sr. Carol Keehan

In a Catholic Advocate article on Wednesday, author Anne Hendershott criticized the Catholic Health Association's (CHA) support for the new health care bill and outlined the details of how she believes the group will benefit financially from the legislation.

Hendershott, who is chair of the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program at The King’s College in New York City, began her article recalling the words of Sr. Carol Keehan, CHA's director. On March 11, Sr. Keehan wrote a letter to the House of Representatives which urged the congressmen to “move quickly” to support the Senate-approved bill. According to Hendershott, the letter “was simply a confirmation of what many of us already knew – that Sr. Keehan’s organization has been supporting the President’s plans for health care reform from the earliest days.” 

“And,” Hendershott added, “although her support for health care reform always adds the qualifier that 'any health care reform package will provide no federal funding for abortion,' she must know, as the Bishops continue to point out, that unless a 'correction' is applied to the Senate bill, the bill she is defending will greatly expand public funding for abortion.”

Hendershott then pointed to a video released by CHA last June in which Sr. Keehan stated, “how important health reform is for our economy, not just for the poor, but for our middle class, and for our businesses.”

“When Sr. Keehan’s video statement cited the importance of health care reform 'to businesses,'” said Hendershott, “she may have been referring to the health care businesses she represents. As their representative, Sr. Keehan joins the more than 3,000 health care reform lobbyists on the Hill. And although Catholic hospitals and Catholic long-term care facilities were created to serve the poor, and most of them do a fine job of doing so, the Wall Street Journal revealed recently that some non-profit Catholic health care organizations have become very lucrative.”

“Some of the top executives at CHA’s member institutions – the Catholic hospital presidents and chief executive officers of Catholic health care organizations – are among the highest paid hospital administrators in the country, and some of them sit on CHA’s board,” said Hendershott, who also claimed that these leaders' “hospitals have much to gain by helping to pass President Obama’s health care reform.”

Hendershott cited the example of Lloyd Dean, CEO of Catholic Healthcare West, who began a multi-faceted campaign last September that contributed significant resources to President Obama's health care reform. According to Hendershott, Dean, who received a salary of $5.3 million in 2006, became a chair of CHA in 2008.

“Dean is not alone in receiving what most readers might conclude is a generous salary,” stated Hendershott. “According to the Wall Street Journal, Ascension Health paid its CEO an annual salary of $3.3 million. Like lobbyists on Capitol Hill, advocates representing Catholic hospitals in the health care reform debate are also paid well. Although Sr. Keehan’s $856,093 salary in 2006 (up from $654,915 in 2005) was paid directly to her religious order, according to the CHA’s 2007 IRS 990 report, several key employees at her organization received salaries of more than $300,000.”

“These health care reform advocates know that the single biggest variable for non-profit hospitals is how well insured the patient population is,” Hendershott asserted.

The author concluded her remarks on Wednesday by stating that “Faithful Catholics expect that advocates like Sr. Keehan remain faithful to the Church’s mission of protecting the unborn, the elderly, and those who cannot speak for themselves. Breaking with the Bishops in advocating passage of the Senate bill has created confusion for Catholics and has given lawmakers 'permission' to pass a bill that will greatly expand the rates of abortion.”

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