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The Price to Pay for Health Care Reform

By: Anne Hendershott

As the Obama administration continues to clamp down on executive salaries at financial firms receiving government aid, the real money for executive salaries remains in the non-profit health care world.  A 2008 Wall Street Journal study of tax exempt hospitals revealed that the average total compensation paid to top officials was $1.4 million.  Some health care executives—especially those at Catholic health associations—make much more.  But, we are seeing now that there is a price to pay.

Lloyd H. Dean, President/CEO of Catholic Healthcare West, a hospital system based in San Francisco, made more than 5.3 million in 2006—including the forgiveness of a $782,541 housing loan from his employer. Recognizing that hospitals stand to make even greater profits as more individuals are required to have medical insurance, Mr. Dean teamed with the Catholic Health Association’s Sr. Carol Keehan to lobby for Mr. Obama’s healthcare reform.  In fact, Dean brought the resources of one of America’s largest hospital systems to help to shape the national health care reform debate.  Their public campaign included a video highlighting the organization’s own town hall meetings, an advertising campaign which ran in major US media publications, as well as a Congressional outreach.

And, while the University of San Francisco thought so highly of Lloyd Dean’s efforts to pass health care reform that they honored him at last month’s Commencement, they might have looked more closely at how Dean’s Catholic hospital system is now handling the Church’s ethical and religious directives.

Drawing from an article in the Ventura County StarCalifornia Catholic Daily reported that Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted declared that a nun at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center—a Lloyd Dean led Catholic Healthcare West hospital—had automatically excommunicated herself for approving an abortion in order to treat a mother’s underlying medical condition.  The Star also reported that the excommunicated nun’s counterparts in Lloyd Dean run hospitals in Ventura County would make the same choice if confronted with a similar case.

On the website of the Phoenix Diocese, Bishop Olmsted writes, “I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this diocese.  I am further concerned by the hospital’s statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother’s underlying medical condition…While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother’s life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child.  The end does not justify the means.”

Faithful Catholics know that the unborn child’s life is just as sacred as the mother’s life and neither can be preferred over the other.  They also know that Catholic institutions are obliged to defend human life at all stages from conception to natural death. Perhaps someone should tell Lloyd Dean (and the University of San Francisco) exactly that.

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