Monday, August 17, 2009

Take a "Tablet" and call me in the morning: British Catholic magazine backs Obama health care reform

While the American bishops are expending their energies and a large quantity of PR dollars fighting President Obama on health care reform, the British Catholic periodical, The Tablet, is suggesting that they are on the wrong side of history. I, personally, would find the USCCB's Web site a little more persuasive if it would include some truth in advertising, i.e. not just the number of Catholic health care institutions and their patient admissions, but perhaps some annual revenue figures and CEO compensation data (see below). Read: This is just the Catholic wing of the broader health care industry campaign against reform. For a different Catholic perspective on health care reform, in addition to this editorial,visit

Editorial: U.S. bishops must back Obama

President Barack Obama’s health-care reforms are in deep trouble. All over the United States rival lobby groups have argued and sometimes clashed as opponents of the reforms sense they may be on the verge of victory. There may be sufficient votes in Congress from an awkward alliance of Republicans and conservative Democrats to ensure that whatever legislation emerges from the hullabaloo is a pale shadow of what Mr Obama intended, and indeed promised, during his election campaign. It is unfortunate that the one body that could turn out to be a decisive strategic force in his favour, the US Catholic bishops, have so far concentrated on a specifically Catholic issue – making sure state-funded health care does not include abortion – rather than the more general principle of the common good. Through the national network of Catholic hospitals, delivering nearly 20 per cent of all hospital care, and through the influence they wield as leaders of America’s largest Christian denomination, they could play a central role in salvaging Mr Obama’s health-care programme.

This is indeed a Catholic matter. Few government proposals have had “preferential option for the poor” stamped over them more clearly. Nearly 50 million Americans do not have health-care coverage, which means they cannot afford to go to their doctor when they have symptoms that ought to be investigated, nor can they buy simple and effective remedies such as antibiotics. The Church’s teaching is clear: health care is a basic right, derived from the right to life itself. Of course abortion is important, but the Catholic bishops have not put anything like equal stress on these other social justice dimensions of the health-care debate. Though some grass-roots Catholic lobby groups have mobilised to support the Obama reforms, without episcopal support they will remain marginal to the debate.

The opponents of change are largely funded by the operators of the health insurance industry, which, as in the early 1990s, sense a threat to their profits. They are the robber barons of their age. All the dark arts of media misrepresentation have been deployed to turn public opinion against Mr Obama’s policy. Through their greed and inefficiency, America spends something like double per head on health care compared with a country such as France, whose state-run health system is acknowledged as one of the world’s best. Even at the level of spin and sound bites, the bishops could make a difference. They could refute the constant slur of “socialised medicine” that opponents throw mindlessly around, simply by saying that health care for all is in fact “Catholic medicine”. Once they began to introduce reason and truth into the debate, they could also point out that what Mr Obama is proposing is in principle no different from extending Medicare – which brings affordable medical treatment to America’s elderly – to everyone.

When Britain’s National Health Service was set up in 1948, the Catholic hierarchy led by Cardinal Griffin was also preoccupied with its own Catholic agenda, not abortion but winning an opt-out for Catholic hospitals. So the birth of the National Health Service, one of the great forward strides for social justice, had no Catholic blessing. The bishops failed to put the promotion of social justice above their churchly priorities. It is a mistake the American bishops may be about to repeat.


We decided to run the list of major Catholic health care entities supplied on the Bishops' Conference special Web site on health care reform through Guidestar just to see what would turn up. Here are the latest annual revenue figures reported on Guidestar, plus names, titles, and total compensation of all executives who made in excess of $1 million -- something for those of us who know what it's like to work minimum wage jobs with no health insurance and who are wondering how to pay our medical bills to ponder. Trust me when I tell you that we are not worrying about whether or not the proposed health care reform legislation explicitly prohibits federal funding for abortions.

Ascension Health
Total Revenue: $406,169,886 (FY ending 6/30/2007)
Executive Compensation:
Anthony Tersigni, CEO: $1,765,790
Anthony Speranzo, CFO: $1,190,023
Robert Henkel, COO: $1,079,719

Catholic Health Initiatives
Total Revenue: $617,193,529 (FY ending 6/30/2007)
Executive Compensation:
Kevin E. Lofton, CEO/President: $1,507,778
Michael T. Rowan, Chief Operations Officer: $1,084,030

Catholic Healthcare West
Total Revenue: $6,540,819,217 (FY ending 6/30/2007)
Executive Compensation:
Lloyd H Dean, Director, President, Chief Executive Officer: $3,684,764
Michael Erne, EVP, Chief Operating Officer: $2,179,162
Michael D Blaszyk, EVP, Chief Financial Officer: $1,761,583
George W Bo-Linn, SVP, Chief Medical Officer: $1,400,709
Elizabeth Shih, SVP, Chief Administrative Officer: $1,360,849
Charlie P Francis, SVP, Chief Strategy Officer: $1,319,312
Ernie Urquhart, SVP, Chief Human Resources Officer: $1,250,954
Derek F Covert, SVP, Legal Services/General Counsel: $1,227,568
Bernita McTernan, SVP, Sponsorship Mission Integration and Community Benefits: $1,044,632
Jeff Winter, President Group Operations: $1,025,536
John Wray, SVP Managed Care: $1,013,687
Bill Hunt, President Group Operations: $1,009,177
Bill Fuchs, President Group Operations: $1,002,415

Catholic Health East
Total Revenue: $78,736,000 (FY ending 12/31/2007)
Executive Compensation:
Robert V. Stanek, Pres. & CEO: $1,185,000

Providence Health & Services
Total Revenue: $1,511,976,637 (FY ending 12/31/2007)
Executive Compensation:
John F Koster MD, President/CEO: $2,100,154
Gregory Van Pelt, Exec Vice President: $1,121,137

Trinity Health
Total Revenue: $565,908,980 (FY ending 6/30/2007)
Executive Compensation:
Joseph Swedish, President & CEO: $1,696,407
Michael Slubowski, Pres. Hospital & Health Networks: $1,062,340

Catholic Healthcare Partners
Total Revenue: $155,199,562 (FY ending 12/31/2007)
Executive Compensation:
Michael Connelly, President & CEO: $1,516,534
Jane D. Crowley, Chief Administrative Officer: $1,057,747

Sisters of Mercy Health System
Guidestar: "This organization is not required to file an annual return with the IRS because it is a church."

Total Revenue: $391,321,196 (FY ending 6/30/2007)
Executive Compensation:
Thomas C Royer MD, President and CEO: $1,875,653

Bon Secours Health System
Total Revenue: $144,776,343 (FY ending 8/31/2007)
Executive Compensation:
Richard Statuto, CEO: $1,018,307

SSM Health Care
Total Revenue: $157,791,641 (FY ending 12/31/2007)
Executive Compensation:
William C. Schoenhard, Vice President: $1,039,199

1 comment:

  1. I live in the UK and The Tablet is a dis-loyal, worldly and in my opinion poisonous publication which does not deserve the label Catholic.

    There is a segment of society worse off than those who work minimum wage jobs with no health insurance, they are who Mother Teresa called "the poorest of the poor", the unborn.

    May God bless your country and protect the poor without health-cover AND the poor in the womb.