Caritas Christi Backs Out Of Joint Insurance Venture

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The Boston Archdiocese and it's hospital network, Caritas Christi, have decided that participating in a joint health insurance venture would violate the church's mission. Caritas Christi, in partnership with a for-profit health insurer, was set to begin providing state subsidized coverage on Wednesday. But tonight, the Archdiocese announced Caritas is pulling out. Cardinal Sean O'Malley, in consultation with the National Catholic Bioethics Center, decided that having an ownership stake in a venture that provides abortions and other reproductive procedures is inconsistent with Catholic moral teaching.

The insurance plan, CeltiCare, will go ahead and enroll new members. Those members will be able to use Caritas hospitals...but Caritas may not see the same increase in patients or revenues it expected through the joint venture. This is the second setback for Celticare this week. On Tuesday, the state decided to stop automatically assigning low income residents who don't chose a plan to the lowest price option...which was Celticare.

Martha Bebinger

Here's the full statement from the Archdiocese...

Braintree, MA - Based on the decision of the Caritas Christi Executive Committee of the Board of Governor's to relinquish its membership and equity interest in the previously established joint venture, CeltiCare Health Plan Holdings, LLC (formerly known as Commonwealth Family Health Plan Holdings, LLC) but maintain its important role as a provider of health care to many enrolled in the state's Connector Program, the Archdiocese of Boston today expressed support for the new arrangement.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley said, "I am pleased that Caritas Christi was able to achieve this outcome. Throughout this process, our singular goal has been to provide for the needs of the poor and underserved in a manner that is fully and completely in accord with Catholic moral teaching. By withdrawing from the joint venture and serving the poor as a provider in the Connector, upholding Catholic moral teaching at all times, they are able to carry forward the critical mission of Catholic health care."

Caritas Christi CEO Dr. Ralph de la Torre said, "The opportunity for Caritas Christi to participate in the Connector program will allow Caritas to serve the low income and underserved population's desperate need for quality health care. We are committed to fulfilling our mission, as we always have, rooted in the principles established by Catholic teaching, of providing the highest quality healthcare to patients across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."

Expansion of Caritas' care for the poor and the uninsured was the original motivating force in entering the agreement with Celtic Group, Inc. (a subsidiary of Centene Corporation). Catholic health care in the United States has two principal goals: providing health care for all, a basic requirement of social justice; and protecting the sacredness of human life from conception until natural death. The protection of human life and dignity demands that Catholic institutions never contribute to procedures which are inconsistent with Catholic moral teaching, such as abortion and sterilization. These procedures and others are prohibited by the Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Having withdrawn from the original joint venture, the provider agreement will allow Caritas Christi to fulfill its mission of serving the poor without participation or cooperation in procedures forbidden by the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.
The decision to withdraw from the joint venture follows several weeks of discussions between Caritas and Centene and an extensive analysis by the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) which was undertaken at the request of the Cardinal. Over that time, subsequent discussions involving Caritas Christi, the NCBC and the Archdiocese were held and the Cardinal made his final determination. The Cardinal's role in reviewing and seeking additional guidance on this proposal is rooted in his responsibility to ensure the Catholic identity and moral character of institutions affiliated with the Archdiocese of Boston, including Caritas Christi.

"The goal of this review was to ensure that Caritas Christi could serve the poor through a plan for participation in the Connector that is in complete accordance with Catholic moral teaching," said Cardinal O'Malley. "I want to thank Dr. Ralph de la Torre and his team at Caritas Christi and the NCBC for their thoughtful collaboration. I also want to extend my sincere gratitude to Dr. John Haas and the staff at the National Catholic Bioethics Center for their diligent and comprehensive review of the proposal. I am pleased that they were able to provide a recommendation whereby Caritas can go forward in fulfilling its mission of Catholic healthcare."

This program aired on June 26, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.