Filed under: Catholic Healthcare, Health Policy Community
On March 26-27, Seton Hall Law will be home to a two day Symposium entitled “Is a For-Profit Structure a Viable Alternative for Catholic Health Care Ministry?” Funded through the generosity of a number of contributors, the Symposium is being hosted by Seton Hall Law’s Center for Religiously Affiliated Nonprofit Corporations and its Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law & Policy, in collaboration with the University of St. Thomas, John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought, the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy and the Veritas Institute.
In an April 2010 article, a reporter for The Boston Globe pondered whether “… for-profit Catholic health care is an oxymoron, or whether profitability and religious mission can be integrated.” This Symposium will examine whether a for-profit structure is a viable alternative for Catholic health care ministry.
The Program will provide a unique forum for dialogue among practitioners, academics and scholars in law, finance, theology and Catholic social teaching to “drill down” to specific legal, financial and operational issues relevant to an objective examination of the relationship of the for-profit legal and financial structure to the Catholic tradition of health care ministry. The Symposium will consist of a sequence of presentations intended to provide an objective overview of the relevant issues with opportunity for audience interaction. The first day, presenters will provide foundational descriptions of changes in law and finance that may occur when converting from a nonprofit legal structure to a for-profit structure. The second day, theologians, canonists and scholars in applied Catholic Social Thought will respond to the legal and financial descriptive presentations. The panelists will frame the conversation, in part, by referencing examples of for-profit models in Catholic health care.
In asking the Symposium’s question, “Is a For-Profit Structure a Viable Alternative for Catholic Health Care Ministry?” the proceedings are designed to engage scholars and practitioners from multiple disciplines to develop an objective framework for analyzing the following questions:
- Is the delivery of health care as a ministry compatible with providing that care through an investor-owned company publicly identified as Catholic?
- If not, why not?
- If yes, are there any management, governance or other structures or processes that may need to be developed to accommodate Catholic health care as a ministry?
The Symposium will not take a position on whether such conversions, in any of its forms, should or should not occur. The Symposium will provide the audience participants with the range of issues that may impact their specific decision.
An Examination of the Key Issues
The legal and financial differences between a non-profit and for-profit corporation will be analyzed from the perspective of Roman Catholic canon law, ethics and Catholic social teaching. The Symposium, focusing on these disciplines, will address questions such as the following:
- What is the relationship between the theological understanding of health care as a ministry and the legal definition of health care as a public good or a private commodity?
- Is Catholic identity in the legal purpose clause of a corporation subject to treatment as a trade or a service mark?
- Is Catholic identity an intangible asset subject to valuation?
- If the charter of the corporation is a contract between the investor and the corporation, what is the shareholder purchasing in terms of Catholic identity?
- If a corporate culture is rooted in values, is it necessary to use religious language to describe values rooted in the Catholic tradition to create a culture consistent with Catholic ministry? Or is it sufficient to describe Catholic identity in terms of objectively discernable proscriptions and prescriptions?
- If professional managers tend to be beyond effective shareholder control and shareholders cannot instruct the board of directors, each of whom cannot be removed without cause, by whom and how is Catholic identity determined or monitored?
- What is the relationship between corporate law and Catholic Social Thought on private property, labor and capital, subsidiary, the distribution of goods and services, and human rights to social goods such as health care?
- In states adopting corporate constituency statutes instructing directors that they either may, or must, take into account the interests of constituencies other than shareholders in exercising their powers, does Catholic identity create new, discreet constituents other than shareholders or those identified in statutes?
- Are new benchmarks necessary to determine Catholic corporate success? If so, do these new benchmarks differ or align with benchmarks for success for any corporation having no religious affiliation?
[Ed. note: I had the honor of meeting Tom Johnson a few years back, here at Seton Hall Law when I was still a student and he held a fundraiser through the school. AfricaSurgery, Inc. does God's work-- and I'm well pleased to publish his updates here on HRW. With the help of others, he does a lot-- with very little.]
October 27, 2011 – February 15, 2012
Umu Sesay was brought to us by a Catholic missionary priest in 2007. Her small, seven-year-old spine was so deformed by a tuberculosis infection that I could hardly believe she was still able to stand and to walk around. We had Umu complete a six-month medical regimen to cure her TB, and we sent her to Ghana in April of 2008 for surgery by a team from the Foundation of Orthopedics and Complex Spine (FOCOS). Unfortunately, Umu’s chest cavity was so compressed that she was unable to reach the minimum breathing required by the anesthesiologist before she could be cleared for surgery. But Umu held onto the small plastic device used to measure her inhalation capacity, and she practiced breathing through it after her return to Sierra Leone. By January, 2010 her persistence had paid off. She was finally able to make all four of the small plastic balls rise up to the top of a plastic tube, when she inhaled through the testing device. Umu was one of the four patients ASI sent from Sierra Leone to Ghana for spinal surgery by a FOCOS team in November, 2011. All four surgeries were successful, and Umu and her three “surgery-mates” are out of pain and the danger of paralysis. They all can now stand up quite straight.
Umu, whose parents are both deceased, is staying for one month at the ASI base in Freetown where she is receiving nutrient enriched food. She is being tutored by an ASI helper who is himself a college student and who is a former school teacher. Umu surprised us with how knowledgeable she is for an 11 year-old girl from a farming village. Umu will soon be placed with the Cluny Sisters (Catholic missionaries) where she will live at their boarding school for the hearing impaired. She will attend a primary school for hearing children, until the school year ends in July. We expect that her spine will have healed by then so that she can be returned to her aunt in their home village. Umu will no doubt be required to perform many chores, but hopefully she will be able to continue to attend school.
In November, a friend took me to a small village a couple of miles beyond his own to see a six-year-old boy with a “swelling and a sore in his mouth” which turned out to be a fast-growing tumor. We took little Alimamy Kamara, along with his father, to be seen by the German orthopedic surgeons who were visiting Sierra Leone at that time and who had a reconstructive-plastic surgeon on their team. The tumor was determined to be inoperable. The team supplied us with palliative pain medication in the form of suppositories and a liquid formulation that could still be swallowed by the boy whose throat was closing up. Alimamy died 13 days later. But our visit to his small village turned out to be a blessing for a young man who was also suffering with a painfully swollen face.
Alusine Kamara, age 20, had an abscess in his lower left jaw. At first reluctant to accept our offer of help, Alusine’s increasing pain eventually forced him to allow us to take him 100 miles down to Freetown. There the only oral surgeon in the country began what turned out to be a three-month-long process involving admission to the government hospital, heavy doses of intravenous and oral antibiotics and pain meds, and two surgeries. Two more men completed similar treatments for abscessed jaws while I was in-country, and another man and one woman are to be admitted for oral surgery before the end of this month (Feb. 2012). This will bring to 18 the number of persons for whom ASI has provided this rather expensive treatment. The average cost is about $450. Such abscess can be avoided by simply having decayed teeth pulled in time, saving much pain for the patient, and expense for us. ASI did have the rotten molars of 55 persons pulled, between March, 2011, and February, 2012, at a cost of about $3.00 each.
While I was in-country, one of my helpers, Foday Tarawalie, brought 38 new patients with eye problems and 21 old cases in need of follow-up medications to the Baptist Eye Hospital in Lunsar. Nine of the new cases received surgeries to regain their eyesight which was being obstructed by cataracts and/or pterygiums. The 29 other new cases were medically treated for a variety of conditions including glaucoma and potentially-blinding infections. ASI is continuing to fund Foday who is continuing to bring old and new patients to the hospital for sight-saving treatments.
Before I arrived in Sierra Leone, 48 surgeries to treat persons with hernias had already been done with funds provided by ASI since February, 2011. While I was in country 11 more hernia repair surgeries were arranged and funded by ASI, including one for a seven-year-old boy. Hernias remain a very prevalent health problem in Sierra Leone preventing thousands of men, boys and women from living productive lives.
New Jersey was well represented in Sierra Leone this year. Dr. Nina Seigelstein returned to the Holy Spirit Hospital with a team including another gynecological surgeon, a scrub nurse, and a midwife. They preformed 22 major surgeries on women brought to them by ASI, as well as for others who came on their own. A detailed account can be found at the website: www.oneworldwomenshealth.org.
A member of the ASI board of directors, Sergio Burani, made a nine-day visit to Sierra Leone for the purpose of making a photo documentary of our work. Sergio fell into stride with the ASI team. At one point Sergio asked a vendor in an open-air market in the capital city, Freetown, if he could photograph him and his produce. The man refused but was overheard by the market head-man who, after we explained our mission, insisted that Sergio “snap” away with his camera as much as he wanted to. All the fuss caught the attention of a passerby who told us of his mother who was in the main government hospital. Her family could not afford to pay for the medications needed to treat her badly-infected foot which had suffered a wound when a large mortis fell on it. The young man explained that the entire congregation of their church had decided to pray for his mother to be healed as the only solution at hand. We paid a visit to the hospital where we heard that the foot might have to be amputated. We ended up transporting the woman and her daughter 100 miles up-country to our base near the Holy Spirit Hospital. The woman is being treated as an out-patient for the infection and for a low hemoglobin blood count. She is scheduled to receive a skin graft by the next reconstructive plastic surgery team that will visit the hospital in early March. She will not have to lose her foot.
While there, Sergio also instructed six disabled students, three with severe hearing loss, and three post-operative spinal surgery secondary school boys, in the principles of photography and the use of six non-automatic, non-digital cameras which he donated. One of the hearing-impaired students has already set off on his own, photographing students at their graduation ceremony. He now is trying to scrape together the money to have his film developed in the hope that he will be able to reap a small profit selling his prints.
On behalf of all of the many Sierra Leoneans whom your generosity is allowing ASI to help, I want to thank you for your support and for your prayers. I wish to extend special thanks to the Knights of Columbus George Washington Council 359, which gave ASI $3,000 last year. This more than covered my personal travel and living expenses, enabling all of your donations to go directly to providing medical, surgical, and health care. We at ASI will continue our work in Sierra Leone to the extent that our funds will allow. If you are able to join us in this effort, checks can be made out to Africa Surgery, Inc., or to ASI, and mailed to:
Africa Surgery, Inc.
70 Macculloch Ave.
Morristown, NJ 07960
You can also donate on line at our website: www.africasurgery.org
Filed under: Catholic Healthcare, Health Policy Community, Health Reform
President Obama has begun the process for healthcare reform by improving access through insurance reform, but achievement of his aspirations will require reform of our healthcare delivery system as well. Changing where and how healthcare is delivered and paid for is of particular importance given the emerging and generally non-acute needs of the aging baby-boomers, and the lack of sufficient primary care to serve the many who will become insured as health insurance reforms are implemented. Healthcare providers realize this, and the market is indeed adjusting as we speak.
Three examples of these changes to the delivery system include, first, moving much of the delivery of services out of hospitals and into the community. Healthcare systems are rapidly affiliating with or employing physicians to facilitate this change, in the hopes of enabling the various parts of the health care system to work more collaboratively, efficiently and cost-effectively. In many parts of the country, hospitals have been too cash-strapped to invest in necessary updating to their hospital facilities. Now that we are thinking differently about how to use the physical plant that hospitals occupy, and investing in new technology, these investments need to happen. As a third example, President Obama is infusing money into hospitals and physician offices to enable the United States to catch up to other developed nations in the digitizing of its medical records. The benefits of this change are numerous, but it is a very expensive transformation.
In order to provide quality service and compete in the fast-changing healthcare market, hospitals and the systems of which they are a part, need money to pay for these changes. A February 21, 2012 New York Times article on the expansion of Catholic hospitals provides a glimpse of this phenomenon of market reform. Cash-poor hospitals unable to access capital to invest in the new initiatives necessary to keep them competitive are looking for financially stronger partners with this investment ability. There are currently 56 Catholic healthcare systems in the country, ranging from the financially successful to the distressed. Thus it is unsurprising that a potential partner for some hospitals might be found among Catholic systems.
But there are some Catholic providers who are struggling and require an affiliation to survive; other Catholic providers are simply considering alternative business models which might provide more market flexibility as well as increased options for access to capital. The former Catholic Healthcare West is an example of the latter situation. CHW was sponsored by six religious orders and operated 25 Catholic and 15 non-Catholic hospitals; just weeks ago, it announced changes to its name — it is now Dignity Health — and its corporate and governance structures. The parent holding company for Dignity Health is no longer Catholic, and is no longer sponsored by the religious orders — those orders now sponsor directly the Catholic hospitals that are part of Dignity Health. These Catholic hospitals adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services, of which each hospital’s local bishop is the ultimate arbiter. The non-Catholic hospitals adhere to a Statement of Common Values, which preclude assisted suicide and euthanasia, as well as pregnancy terminations and assisted reproductive procedures that deviate from Catholic teaching; the Statement of Common Values does allow the performance of direct sterilizations, which is something precluded at Catholic hospitals. I would venture to say that many, whether Catholic or not, likely embrace the content of this Statement of Common Values. I would also suggest that many secular hospitals operate according to similar policies, but it just doesn’t get talked about.
The religious orders hope to perpetuate their evangelical influence on the culture of Dignity Health and its constituent non-Catholic hospitals — if successful, I would suggest that this will be an important and significant contribution to those providers who are the beneficiaries of the Catholic ethos of healthcare delivery, because it can be transformational. The change from CHW to Dignity also sought to clarify the confusion among patients about which hospitals are Catholic, and provide market flexibility with respect to future affiliations with service providers. A statement by San Francisco Archbishop Niederauer provides a helpful description of the reasons for Catholic Health West’s transformation to Dignity Health, and the process by which deliberations occurred.
Other Catholic hospitals are engaging in even more “radical” transformations in order to put themselves in a position to survive and/or thrive in the emerging healthcare market. After years of unsuccessful attempts to prop up the six Boston-area hospitals that comprised Caritas Christi Health Care, Cardinal Sean O’Malley surprised many when he agreed to sell the system to Cerberus Capital Management, which is a private equity firm. The system was burdened with debt, its pension was underfunded, and its physical plant was in desperate need of significant upgrades. The sale to Cerberus transformed this Catholic health care system, now named Steward Health Care System, to a for-profit Catholic health care system. Cerberus agreed to ensure that the Steward hospitals adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives, subject to the authority of the Cardinal who has the power to strip a hospital of its Catholic status, as happened to a Phoenix Catholic Healthcare West hospital, St. Joseph’s, in 2010, over a disagreement regarding an interpretation of the Ethical and Religious Directives regarding abortion.
Cardinal O’Malley was not the first person to find salvation for financially distressed hospitals in the private equity world. St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts is owned by for-profit Vanguard Health Systems of Nashville, which owns both Catholic and Baptist hospitals, primarily in the south and west. And Ascension Health, the nation’s third largest health system with a 2010 net income of $1.2 billion has teamed up with Oak Hill Capital Partners to build a new for-profit enterprise with an eye towards “offer[ing] a lifeline to capital-starved Catholic hospitals.”
Myriad questions arise from this new mechanism for infusing capital into Catholic healthcare. No precedent exists for a Catholic for-profit healthcare ministry. In terms of the issue about access to services raised by the February 21 New York Times article, “Catholic Hospitals Expand, Religious Strings Attached,” it is likely that the public will become even more confused about what rules govern hospitals as for-profit systems include both Catholic and non-Catholic entities. While the interpretation and application of Catholic teaching will vary by diocese and the deal reached by the parties, it is certainly possible that, as was the case with Catholic Healthcare West (now Dignity Health), some or all of the Ethical and Religious Directives will be extended to the secular hospitals which are part of any system that includes Catholic facilities. This makes sense, as Catholic teaching encourages Catholics to distance themselves from acts which are deemed immoral. Sometimes, the act in question, such as abortion or euthanasia, is held to be so fundamentally immoral that Catholics can have no association with the situation, which would be the case if a Catholic hospital belonged to a healthcare system in which affiliates offered these services. As such, even though a hospital may itself be non-Catholic, if it participates in a system which includes Catholic hospitals, its services may necessarily be circumscribed. Again, most of these proscriptions are ones with which many Americans likely agree. Transparency should prevail nonetheless. As I discussed in my February 22, 2012 blog post, there are significant benefits from affiliating with a Catholic entity, including commitment to the care of all segments of society and an ethos of care that attends not only to the physical, but to the mental and spiritual as well. Catholic healthcare is also an important voice in public debates about reforming our healthcare system and the dignity of every person. These attributes of Catholic healthcare should be given significant weight in assessing collaborative arrangements.
While I believe that there is much that is wonderful about the culture, ethics and ethos of Catholic health care, there may be some other consequences of affiliation that some would fine unappealing. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops opposes the health care reform mandate that would require employers to offer health insurance to employees that includes contraception as a covered benefit. In addition, some bishops have refused to comply with laws requiring equal treatment of spouses and gay partners with regard to eligibility for employer-sponsored health insurance. While it is unclear to what extent Catholic hospitals have followed these policy positions (the Catholic Health Association has announced that it is pleased with President Obama’s contraception compromise), the obvious question is whether they will be extended to secular affiliates as well.
Most of the questions that arise from the transition to for-profit status must obviously be resolved by the religious congregations and others that sponsor Catholic healthcare. What makes a service or entity essentially Catholic, and whether that can be preserved in a for-profit context is likely unanswerable without experimentation. For-profit providers ultimately exist to make money for investors. Non-profit providers must operate in fidelity to their mission. If a hospital is truly unable to survive, which was apparently the case with the six Boston hospitals that comprised Caritas, then for-profit conversion was the only means to continue its mission. Even less dire situations may call for serious consideration of this alternative: a provider unable to access the resources to provide quality care irrespective of patients’ ability to pay is not in a position to actualize its mission.
The biggest question for stakeholders, presumably, is how long the private equity firms that are acquiring Catholic hospitals will hold on to them, especially if they are losing money. The co-head of Cerberus was quoted in the Boston Globe as saying that Cerberus would own the Steward hospitals for at least three years; the article also suggested that it would not close any hospital for the first three years of its ownership, and would extend that time for an additional two years unless a hospital operated at a loss for two consecutive years. So, one risk of these arrangements might be that they are simply stop-gap measures. What happens if the private equity firms and their shareholders aren’t making enough money?
Another question is whether the for-profit model will result in the discontinuation of unprofitable yet essential services, which some empirical evidence suggests occurs more frequently with for-profit as opposed to not-for-profit providers, although it is important not to generalize.
This conversation will continue for some years, as we assess the on-going experiment that is for-profit Catholic healthcare. This month, Seton Hall Law School is looking at some of the issues raised from the Catholic sponsors’ perspective, at a Symposium entitled Is a For-Profit Structure a Viable Alternative for Catholic Health Care Ministry? Return to Health Reform Watch for future discussion of this fascinating issue.
Filed under: Catholic Healthcare, Health Policy Community, Health Reform
A February 21, 2012 New York Times article entitled “Catholic Hospitals Expand, Religious Strings Attached” addresses the challenges that arise when Catholic healthcare systems acquire healthcare providers and extend religious proscriptions to the newly acquired facilities and practitioners. Specifically, the article raises concerns about women’s access to reproductive health services, particularly in communities where Catholic ownership of hospitals and other providers dominates. Much of this same kind of market activity occurred in the early 90′s in anticipation of market reforms associated with Clinton healthcare reform. So, while these are not new issues, they are no less difficult to resolve, perhaps in part because we have all become more politicized in our approach to problem solving, which almost seems impossible to imagine, but there it is. In a 1995 Houston Law Review article entitled DECIDING THE FATE OF RELIGIOUS HOSPITALS IN THE EMERGING HEALTH CARE MARKET I attempted to propose a middle ground of accommodation that would facilitate access to care while providing Catholic healthcare providers with the space required to continue to be true to their religious beliefs. I believe that the prescription remains as valid today as it was when written over a decade ago.
Catholic healthcare comprises a ministry, whereby the sisters or diocese that provide the health services are committed to ensure that they act in way that is true to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Catholic healthcare providers are living the gospel, which is replete with instances of Jesus ministering to the sick — he attended to healing the mind, body and spirit. This holistic healing mission began when various religious orders first established their hospitals, and continues today, albeit with fewer religious and more laypersons continuing the legacy of the Catholic healthcare mission. Catholic healthcare has served an essential role in the United States since the nation’s inception, frequently being the only provider of care to the poor in numerous communities. That dedication to the vulnerable segments of society continues today. Catholic healthcare providers were the first in many communities to treat compassionately, without judgment and without discriminating, those with HIV/AIDS. Mission statements for Catholic providers focus on ensuring care to the homeless, to immigrants, whether documented or not, and to the underserved and uninsured. According to statistics available on the Catholic Health Association web page, Catholic healthcare is a national leader in its provision of birthing rooms and breast cancer treatment, geriatric services, nutrition programs, social work services and pain management programs. The disappearance of Catholic hospitals would decimate access to care in rural communities. Catholic hospitals have long been on the forefront of the call for healthcare reform that provides access to all, and support President Obama’s health reform efforts.
Catholic hospitals’ delivery of healthcare is informed by Catholic Social Teaching broadly and specifically by what are called The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which are promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Catholic Social Teaching rests on centuries of philosophical and theological learning to guide not only the Church but society in general on such questions as the relationship between labor and capital, the respectful treatment of employees and the importance of unions to workers, distribution of goods and services, and human rights to social goods such as health care. The Ethical and Religious Directives, which are informed by Catholic teaching, are moral guidelines specific to healthcare, to aid in resolving such ethical issues as pregnancy termination, contraception, and euthanasia. Obviously, the clinical situations in which these guidelines are implicated can be extremely complex, and sometimes require nuanced analysis by those with a deep understanding of Catholic moral theology and medicine. Like any intellectual discipline, theologians, bishops, and healthcare providers sometimes disagree among themselves as to the appropriate application of these guidelines to a specific situation. So, yes, it is true that Catholic healthcare providers are committed by their religious beliefs to operate in ways that may be different than secular providers, but these differences extend far beyond the moral limitations on the kinds of reproductive and end-of-life care they provide. This moral framework serves to unleash the kind of compassionate care that has been a hallmark of Catholic healthcare since its inception. Even in the face of severe budget cuts, Catholic hospitals continue to provide pastoral care to their patients, caregivers, and families; engage in constant assessment of fidelity to mission; and have been leaders of all hospitals with regard to measuring tax-exempt facilities’ provision of community benefits.
My ultimate point is two-fold. First, Catholic healthcare is too important to the country’s healthcare system to be reduced in our assessment of its value to religious proscriptions that may interfere with access to a limited universe of services, albeit what are sometimes characterized as essential healthcare services. While some may dissent from application of Catholic teaching in particular instances, the continued and pervasive presence of health providers committed to the dignity of every person whom they treat is an ultimate societal good. Where disagreement persists, it is important that the Church engage in sincere dialogue with all segments of society, with a willingness to be informed from medical, ethical, and sociological perspectives.
As Catholic providers partner, merge or otherwise collaborate with secular healthcare providers, community stakeholders, including licensing agencies, should demand and receive a clear understanding of the implications for healthcare access of the proposed alliance. Each bishop acts as the ultimate arbiter of the Ethical and Religious Directives, which means that interpretations can vary by diocese. For example, a minority of bishops have raised questions about the kind of emergency care administered by hospital emergency departments to rape survivors, out of an over-abundance of medical and moral caution, in my view, that the treatment might interfere with a pregnancy. Thus, it is essential that regulators understand the implications of Catholic teachings for healthcare access, so that patients clearly understand the limitations of Catholic providers and, where appropriate, have alternatives to access services. Our healthcare system has and will likely always be extremely pluralistic. We have, and should continue to make every effort, to accommodate the religious beliefs of providers, while ensuring access to care to which patients are legally entitled.
Further, the public debate about what kind of care should be legally available should take seriously the perspective of those whose viewpoints are informed by moral concerns, whether those concerns arise from religious or philosophical principles. Finally, both The United States Catholic Conference and individual bishops should ensure that they receive a robust analysis of ethical issues related to healthcare from the Church’s best theologians with relevant expertise before promulgating guidance to those engaged in healthcare ministry. Importantly, bishops should also hear from those who are involved daily in caring for and ministering to patients.
The ultimate goal of reform is one upon which both Catholic healthcare providers and proponents of women’s health agree — increased access to healthcare for all. Collaboration on the pursuit of this unified goal should enable us to identify means by which the plural interests of the stakeholders can be accomplished. Transparency and conversation are key to achieving these ends. In my conversations with those concerned about changes in the healthcare delivery system, I have always found them to be very respectful of religious freedom, appreciative of the role religious providers play in society, and desirous of finding a common way forward. While the number of religious sisters is shrinking in the United States, women remain a significant presence in the leadership of Catholic healthcare. A cursory review of the areas where Catholic healthcare predominates reveals a strong commitment to women’s health and wellness. For these reasons, I feel confident that common ground exists to ensure access to health care for all, while carving out space for Catholic fidelity to the demands of their religion.