At the annual meeting of the Catholic Health Association last week, CHA officials urged U.S. policymakers to help the uninsured.
"We have the combined strength to take the lead in the restructuring of healthcare in the U.S.," Sister Doris Gottemoeller, outgoing chairwoman of the CHA board, told attendees at the Marriott World Center in Orlando, Fla. "Our present system is failing too many people to be tolerated."
The St. Louis-based CHA represents 1,200 Catholic healthcare providers.
Attendees voted electronically during an interactive session of the meeting, and 89% said they believed the healthcare system is flawed.
During the three-day meeting, at least 500 people signed a petition supporting healthcare reform and urging presidential hopefuls to do the same.
Last month, the association sent pledges to 13 would-be presidential candidates asking them to make affordable and accessible healthcare a priority if they are elected.
Among the most notable signers of the CHA's petition encouraging commitments from candidates were the conference's headliners, Jack Kemp, former U.S. representative and vice presidential candidate, and Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Republican presidential candidate Rep. John Kasich of Ohio is expected to be the first to sign the pledge.
Kasich was scheduled to travel late last week to 555-bed Mercy Hospital Medical Center, Des Moines, Iowa, to meet the Rev. Michael Place, the CHA's president and chief executive officer, and to sign the pledge.
Also at the annual meeting, the CHA installed new officers on its 25-member board.
Michael Connelly, president and CEO at Catholic Healthcare Partners in Cincinnati, became the new CHA board chairman. He replaces Gottemoeller.
Sister Phyllis Hughes, vice president at Healthy Communities Initiatives for Mercy Housing in San Francisco, was elected vice chairwoman of the board and chairwoman-elect. She will lead the CHA board in 2000.