Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

Managed Care Bills Amended: Conscience Protections Added

Viewpoint: Newsletter of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference
Volume 14; Issue 3, Summer 1998
Reproduced with permission

Pennsylvania Catholic Conference

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association have been working with legislators to ensure the continuation of Catholic health care in Pennsylvania through conscience protection amendments to two managed care bills currently in the state Senate.

Managed care plans typically contract with health care facilities to provide services to their plan subscribers. The PCC and PCHA have advocated conscience clause protection for health care facilities to protect them from being discriminated against in contracting because they do not provide a "full range of services." The "full service" that managed care organizations may seek can include abortions, sterilizations, family planning services, and other activities religious institutions would find ethically objectionable.

The conscience clause, as amended into Senate Bill 100, the Quality Healthcare Protection Act, and House Bill 977, the Managed Care Accountability Act, would protect the rights of hospitals, nursing homes, or managed care organizations that refuse to provide, arrange, or pay for health care services that violate religious or moral beliefs.

Without conscience protection, Catholic health care providers could be marginalized, and due to patient population loss, be forced to curtail or discontinue services, according to Sister Clare Christi Schiefer, OSF, president of the PCHA. Both Sister Schiefer and PCC legal counsel Richard Connell, Esq. have been working to protect the interests of PA's Catholic health care facilities, which served more than 3.6 million people in 1996.

Representative Tom Tangretti (D-Westmoreland) was instrumental in having the conscience protection language amended to both bills. "We're grateful to Rep. Tangretti for his commitment to protecting the continuation of Catholic health care," said PCC Executive Director Robert O'Hara. The amended conscience clauses clearly require managed care plans to disclose any coverage limitations, and permit direct access for those services not provided because of moral or religious reasons. Rep. Tangretti's amendment assures that a plan will not be over-compensated when, for reasons of conscience, it does not provide all services.

Because of the broad support for managed care reform legislation in the House, Senate, and governor's office, some type of managed care legislation may likely become law this session.