Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA)

February 10, 2012

* CHA represents the largest non-profit health care provider in America.
* Promotes “social justice”
* Campaign contributions to Democratic politicians have been a subject of controversy.
* Has supported a Democratic Senate health care bill that would provide taxpayer funding for abortions.

The Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) describes itself as “the national leadership organization of the Catholic health ministry,” and identifies the Catholic Church as “the largest not-for-profit provider of health care services in the nation.” Says CHA:

1 in 6 patients in the United States is cared for in a Catholic hospital each year.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia are served by Catholic health care organizations.
More than 1,200 sponsors, systems, facilities and related organizations serve the full continuum of health care.
More than 800,000 individuals are employed in Catholic hospitals.
CHA’s advocacy agenda supports provisions that “maintain its Catholic identity” and also promotes what it terms “social justice.”

Sister Carol Keehan, DC, is the ninth President and Chief Executive Officer of the CHA, a position she has held since 2005. Keehan has been the subject of controversy in Catholic circles beginning with her support of two pro-abortion health care selections by President Barack Obama: Tom Daschle as Health Secretary and Jeanne Lambrew as Deputy Health Care Director. Despite CHA’s claim that the “Catholic Church’s teachings on the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death” inform its “ethical standards in health care,” Keehan has a history of supporting legislation opposed to the group’s mandate. “It is really hard to be pro-life when we don’t give many, many mothers who are pregnant care, or we don’t give pediatric care,” she told U.S. Catholic Managing Editor Bryan Cones in an interview.

CHA has been criticized for numerous “campaign contributions of [its] governing board members” to pro-abortion Democratic politicians directly involved in health care reform. The controversy over CHA within the Catholic community became particularly inflamed in 2010. On March 17 of that year, Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Nauman chided Sister Keehan and CHA for being either “incredibly naïve or disingenuous” in their support of health care reform that funds abortion. “The Catholic Health Association’s position, in effect, provides cover for any member of the House who chooses to buckle under the pressure of the President and the Democratic leadership to accept government funding of abortion,” Naumann stated. “They can now defend themselves by pointing out that Catholic Health Care leaders recommended they vote for the bill.”

Deal Hudson, Director of the Morley Institute, called Sister Keehan “a master of doublespeak” and went on to criticize CHA’s support of the Senate health care bill as a result of an “apparent vested interest in seeing the bill passed,” since “CHA would receive federal money for its hospitals” to perform abortions. Jack Smithat of The Catholic Key Blog has long argued that critics of CHA misunderstand the nature of the organization’s advocacy. He claims that CHA is not a charity, but a “trade organization” that has “a vested financial interest in the outcome of the health care debate.” He points out, further, that while CHA is an organization “whose expenses are only $17,660,797,” Sister Keehan’s compensation is $856,093 and that “three other employees each make more than $300,000.”

On the board of CHA are a number of the most powerful non-profit health care executives in the United States. Lloyd Dean, the Speaker of Membership Assembly on CHA’s board of trustees and President/CEO of Catholic Health Care West, earned $4,001,892 in 2008 and has been called the second-highest paid non-profit executive in the United States. He firmly believes in “universal health care in this country.” Like Dean, Anthony Tersigni, Vice-Chairman of CHA’s board and President/CEO of Ascension Health, is a well-compensated executive and was listed as “one of Modern Healthcare’s 100 Most Powerful People in Healthcare in 2006, 2007 and 2008.”

CHA also accepts the notion that “global warming” is caused by human industrial activity. Says CHA:

“The escalating problem of global warming is an issue for Catholic health care because: We are people of faith and believe ‘the earth is the Lord’s and all it holds’ (Ps 24:1); [w]e understand there is substantial body of scientific knowledge showing warming of the climate is unequivocal; [a]s health providers, we are concerned that many diseases will surge as the atmosphere heats up; [and] we can help address the problem because, as one of the largest users of energy, hospitals are major contributors to climate change.”


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