Recent stories discussing concerns expressed by Catholic healthcare providers miss the point. According to your coverage, Catholic providers are worried that managed-care reforms might require plans to include abortion services. However, the needs of women who seek reproductive healthcare are conspicuously absent from this analysis.
Your recent story "Bill addresses abortion payment" (July 20, p. 20) notes that Medicare provider-sponsored organizations that provide abortion services will receive higher monthly payments than Catholic PSOs, which may not be required to include abortion coverage. But the money HCFA will save cannot come close to equaling the loss suffered by women who rely on Medicare for their healthcare needs.
Proposed legislation funding HHS for federal fiscal 1999 permits Catholic hospitals to avoid referring women for abortions covered by Medicare. These women will be denied the opportunity to make fully informed decisions about their reproductive health. Even in cases of rape, incest or danger to the woman's life (the only abortions covered by Medicare under the Hyde amendment), a woman enrolled in a Catholic-sponsored PSO will not hear from her doctor that abortion is an option available under Medicare. In fact, she runs a high risk of never being informed about the reproductive health services Medicare offers.
The reproductive health needs of women also got short shrift in your article "Joining the fray-CHA, AHA warm up to GOP managed-care reforms" (July 20, p. 16). The story reports that Catholic providers do not want managed-care reforms that require health plans to cover, provide and/or refer for abortions. What the article does not say is that Catholic plans object to a range of vital services. Catholic directives do not just prohibit Catholic plans from providing services the article calls "morally questionable"; they also prohibit coverage for almost all family-planning services.
Center for Reproductive Law