Group Criticizes Catholic Hospitals’ Uninsured Policies
Catholic not-for-profit hospitals are reaping high profits while charging uninsured patients up to seven times as much as those covered by Medicare, according to a report by Consejo de Latinos Unidos, the Denver Post reports. The report, which is based on annual tax returns filed by seven large Catholic health systems, found that net income at the hospitals doubled between 2003 and 2004.
The hospital systems also have amassed $20 billion in cash and investments. For example, Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives reported revenues of $5.9 billion during the first nine months of fiscal year 2005, an increase of 5.6% from the same period in FY 2004. In addition, CHI's investment income increased to $203.4 million, compared with an $80 million loss in 2003. Revenues increased 10.5% to $7.4 billion in FY 2004.
Catholic Healthcare West, which has $3 billion in nontaxable assets, made $249 million in tax-free profits in 2004, according to the report.
Sister Carol Keehan, a spokesperson for the Catholic Health Association, said the nation's "turbulent health care system" requires Catholic hospitals to "maintain large financial reserves" to ensure continuous operation.
Consejo de Latinos Unidos is urging the Roman Catholic Church to intervene on behalf of uninsured patients.
K.B. Forbes, executive director of the group, said, "Rather than defending their congregation, the Catholic Church continues to let their nonprofit Catholic hospitals price-gouge."
According to CHA, the Catholic Church does not receive payments from the hospitals, which are independently run. The Post notes that Forbes' group in 2003 put pressure on Tenet Healthcare over its policy for charging uninsured patients, which the hospital chain revised by providing discounts for uninsured patients and refraining from aggressive collection practices.
Forbes said Catholic churches should take similar steps (Austin, Denver Post, 11/24).