A proposed rule in Washington state would change hospital disclosure laws, which currently do not require public disclosure of policies concerning reproductive health and end-of-life care. Under the proposed rule, they would be required to publicly disclose these policies.
Bart Eggen, an official with the state health department, told Rewire that Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the department to examine recent transactions in which hospitals were being acquired and purchased by other hospital associations. Eggen also said that as part of the review process the department should look at the services being provided by the hospitals to the community.
Under the proposed rule, hospitals would be required to post their policies for reproductive health and end-of-life care on their website, and submit those policies to the Department of Health, which would also post them online. According to the Seattle Times, hospitals claim creating a list of reproductive health-care and end-of-life services would be too complex and potentially misleading.
“We specifically wanted to make available to the public end-of-life policies and any reproductive health policies,” said Eggen. However, Eggen said that the breadth of end-of-life care and reproductive health services is so large that hospitals may disclose any barriers to those services rather than a list of individual services provided.
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Around the country, religious, predominantly Catholic, hospital systems have been merging with secular hospitals. According to Rachel Berkson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, this rapid increase is in part due to the Affordable Care Act and other market forces as smaller hospitals are being forced to merge with the larger hospital systems.
Behind the push for disclosure requirements are concerns about the ethical religious directives of religiously affiliated hospitals. “These directives are set by Catholic Bishops,” said Berkson. “These policies prevent access to contraception, reproductive health care, end-of-life care, and there are issues surrounding the treatment of LGBT families.”
Berkson told Rewire that there was a coalition of organizations pushing for the rule changes that included Planned Parenthood, Legal Voice, and the American Civil Liberties Union. “We actually wanted to put a complete halt to hospital mergers,” said Berkson. “But the governor’s office did not think they could do that.”
A public hearing on the new rules is set for November 26, which Eggen expects to be attended by members of the general public, interest groups, and hospital associations concerned with the proposals.