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What 7 Healthcare Execs Said About the HHS Freedom of Conscience Proposal

By Steven Porter  
   April 03, 2018

These comments were among tens of thousands submitted in response to the HHS Office for Civil Rights proposal to enhance protections for healthcare workers with conscientious objections.

A proposal to enhance legal protections for healthcare workers who decline to help provide medical services that contradict their religious or moral beliefs garnered more than 72,000 public comments online, all of which have now been released publicly.

The comments represent a diverse cross-section of stakeholders, from patients to providers, advocates, special interest groups, and others.

Some commenters—including at least one healthcare executive—offered full-throated endorsements of what the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) plans to do with its newly created Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. Others offered qualified support, outlining tweaks they hope to see in the final rule.

Others, meanwhile, urged HHS OCR to back away entirely from the plan, arguing that the proposal would contradict the office’s mission to expand healthcare access.

Here are seven of the comments submitted by healthcare executives:

1. OSF HealthCare

Chris Manson, vice president of government relations for OSF HealthCare, a Catholic system headquartered in Peoria, Illinois, wrote that OSF “strongly commends” HHS for the proposal.

“For over four decades, through enactments such as the Church Amendment and other pieces of Federal Legislation, Congress has sought to ensure that health care institutions and medical professionals will not have to choose between abandoning medicine and violating their conscience, particularly with respect to abortion and sterilization,” Manson wrote.

Related: HHS Policy Pendulum Swinging Back Toward Providers’ Rights of Conscience

“Unfortunately, in recent years this enforcement has been practically nonexistent. As we have seen in States like California and New York, lack of commitment on the Federal level can result in discrimination and instances where faith based providers are forced to violate their deeply held beliefs or be prevented from providing services all together. This is an unacceptable choice that needs to be corrected. These proposed regulations will do just that.”

2. Ascension

Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM, executive vice president and chief operations officer for St. Louis-based Ascension, the largest nonprofit system in the U.S. and the largest Catholic system in the world, signed a comment on behalf of his organization.


Steven Porter is editor at HealthLeaders.

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