Oregon Will Protect Reproductive Health Care When Hospitals Merge

Pope Francis emerged onto a hospital balcony in Rome where he is recovering from colon surgery on Sunday and declared that he had “experienced once again how important good health care is—accessible to all, as it is in Italy and in other countries.”

Yet, here in the United States, multibillion-dollar health systems affiliated with the Catholic Church are at the center of a trend in rampant consolidation that threatens to drive up patient costs and restrict reproductive and gender-affirming services, making health care even more inaccessible for many. During Covid, the nation’s largest health systems benefited from billions of dollars in federal relief intended for struggling hospitals. Systems like Providence Health Services that boast their own venture capital funds, sit on billions of dollars in cash, pay their CEOs millions, and yet are nonprofits exempt from taxes managed to survive or get even richer even as a record number of rural hospitals closed. Meanwhile, patients, especially people of color already facing the deadliest impacts of Covid, faced soaring medical debt.

Providence, the lead example in a New York Times investigation that revealed how wealthy systems benefited from Covid bailouts, is affiliated with the Catholic Church, with a mission of serving the poor “as expressions of God’s healing love.” Such hospitals follow directives that restrict abortion, contraception, sterilization, in vitro fertilization, and physician aid-in-dying, and have denied hysterectomies to transgender patients and delayed care to miscarrying women who have almost died as a result. In recent years, as consolidation has forced many hospitals to close, Catholic health systems have expanded their reach to control one in six acute-care beds. Ample research has shown that such mergers lead to rising costs for patients.

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