Catholic Health Association members approved a change in their membership guidelines to allow private for-profit physician practices and HMOs to join the CHA for the first time.
The CHA did so last week at its annual meeting in New Orleans.
Although group practice and HMO membership in the CHA carries no voting rights, the change marks the first time the group has opened itself up to non-Catholic groups affiliated with Catholic systems or facilities.
The change, previously approved by the CHA's 25-member board in April, was aimed at better reflecting the changing healthcare environment (May 18, p. 6).
Membership in the CHA still is not open to investor-owned companies.
The St. Louis-based CHA represents about 1,200 members, including systems, freestanding hospitals and sponsors.
The group held its annual meeting June 7-10 at the New Orleans Marriott. About 1,500 people attended the gathering with its theme "Mission in the Marketplace."
At the meeting, CHA members also approved revamping the association's dues structure, further recognizing the evolution of systems and integrated delivery networks.
Under the new structure, the responsibility for dues payment will lie with a system's headquarters rather than its individual facilities. The single-rate dues structure also is meant to even out variations in the amount of dues CHA members pay.
According to the CHA's 1996 federal tax filing, its total revenues were almost $15.2 million, and membership dues and assessments were about $11 million.
Last week's meeting was the first for the Rev. Michael Place as the CHA's new president and chief executive officer.
"I am acutely aware of how much I need your prayerful support," said Place during his presidential address.
Place, who took the helm earlier this year, succeeded John Curley Jr., a layman who led the CHA for 18 years.
The four-day event had participants attending a variety of seminars on topics from corporate compliance to partnering with non-Catholic organizations to managed care.
But abortion was among the hottest topics.
A grass-roots advocacy campaign was started because Catholic providers are worried that they could get shut out of the Medicare managed-care business for not performing abortions (See story, p. 2).
CHA members also talked about the opposition they often face in consummating mergers between Catholic and non-Catholic providers because of issues over reproductive and abortion services.