If you’ve seen me talk about Catholic health care in the U.S. before, you know that there are a number of things that piss me off. You also know that one of the top items on this list is that Catholic health services prevent patients from making informed choices about their health or giving informed consent to their health care providers.
Not only do these facilities maintain a list of directives where they will substitute their “moral” judgment for evidence-based standards of care, but they won’t tell you that they do so. They won’t disclose all your treatment options, and they won’t tell you when a safer option than the one they’re recommending exists. They have decided in all their heavenly wisdom that it is better to keep you in the dark than run the risk that you’ll seek these treatments elsewhere.
American Atheists has just made me very happy by announcing a plan to change that.
“This is about disclosure, not about forcing providers to do anything they have a religious objection to. If a religiously affiliated hospital or health care provider has some objection to providing birth control, access to cancer therapies that could result in sterilization, mental health services, or hormone replacement therapy, they can continue to opt out of providing those services. What they can’t do is pull a bait and switch on patients and potential patients,” added Knief.
The proposed legislation would require health care providers to simply provide a list of services they will not perform for religious reason to patients, potential patients, health insurers, and state and federal grant or subsidy programs. The health care providers and insurance issuers would then be required to make that information available online for potential patients.
American Atheists will work with its 170+ local affiliates and coalition partners to build support for this legislation in both Congress and the 50 states.
This is the kind of thing I was hoping for when Amanda Knief moved into a policy position in the American Atheists reorganization, and I’m fiercely happy to see it. The proposed legislation (pdf), which she drafted after consulting with stakeholders across the country contains five provisions to ensure that people interested in receiving or funding the best health care will be presented with a list of religious limitations on health care in a timely fashion.
- Patients or their proxies will be informed as soon as they can agree to be treated.
- Those shopping for a doctor or health care system online will see the list prominently displayed.
- Employers and health insurance companies will provide the lists to their enrolleees.
- Government licensing agencies and agencies that fund health care will be informed.
- Governmental grant-making agencies that fund specific health care initiatives will be informed.
This is in the early stages yet. I’ll try to make sure I see and pass along any requests from American Atheists that will help make this a reality. You can also talk to your local group if they’re an American Atheists affiliate (like Minnesota Atheists) and let them know you want to help on this.
In the meantime, you can work on educating people around you about the problem, which lots of folks still don’t know exists. This is an issue that affects far more than atheists, making it a great opportunity for people who enjoy partnering with progressive religious groups. It’s also something feminist organizations should be interested in. There will be plenty of opportunities to bring people together over this.
This bill won’t solve this problem all by itself, but it will help create demand for solutions. I hope to see it pass and soon.