The Catholic Role in Health Care
CINCINNATI—The numbers are shocking: Forty-six million Americans are without health insurance.
Eighty percent of those uninsured are working one or two jobs and still can’t get health insurance.
A study four years ago by the Institute of Medicine showed there are 18,000 unnecessary deaths every
year because people lack insurance. That’s 49 people a day. And the majority of those uninsured
are natural-born American citizens.
Those facts and the people they
represent are the everyday reality of Sister Carol Keehan, D.C., president and chief executive officer
of the Catholic Health Association, (CHA). The work of Sister Carol and the challenges she faces
in an ever-changing industry are the basis for a June article in St. Anthony Messenger entitled, “The
Catholic Role in Health Care,” written by Assistant Editor Susan Hines-Brigger. The article
also includes a sidebar that features Cherie Sammis, a clinical administrator at a health center
in Washington, D.C., who works with uninsured patients. After May 21, the article will be posted
Based in Washington, D.C., Sister Carol, the ninth president of the CHA, has devoted 35 years to
health-care issues. She now travels across the country, speaking of the need for better health care
for all Americans. Sister Carol says there are other issues that she and the association are addressing,
among them, the complexities of insurance and a decline in health-care personnel.
For Sister Carol, who started her job at the CHA in 2005, the role of Catholics in the health-care
industry is a response to the gospel. “The Church has a long history of being with people when
they’re needed and some of those key times are around health-care issues. It’s critical
to the Church’s faithfulness to the gospel that we are in the works of mercy and in them in
a competent and compassionate way,” she says.
CHA’s members comprise the nation’s largest group of not-for-profit health-care sponsors,
systems and facilities. The ministry exerts itself through advocacy and by establishing clinics and
other resources for those living in poverty. According to CHA’s Web site, one in six patients
in the United States is cared for in a Catholic hospital each year. There are 615 Catholic hospitals
and 62 Catholic health-care systems in the United States. Catholic health-care organizations are
present in 49 states.
“It is always our goal to be a healing ministry in the name of Jesus, following gospel precepts,” says
Sister Carol, who has spoken on this issue to Congress, the White House, Catholic bishops in the
United States and the Vatican.
Sister Carol is fully aware of the importance of her job. In a speech last year at the Catholic
Media Convocation in Nashville, Sister Carol lamented the fact that people die unnecessarily every
day, not from incurable illnesses, but “because when they have a little blood in the urine
they can’t get checked by a urologist or an internist. These are families who have to wait
till they have tried over-the-counter remedies and their children become much sicker before they
risk going to the emergency department.”
Sister Carol says there’s much more work to be done. “Advancing the agenda of health
care—affordable, quality health care for all Americans—is critically important to me.
We are the only First-World country, the only industrialized country that doesn’t cover all
our citizens. I believe that we can and will find a solution to this that is worthy of the dignity
of the American people.”
granted to reprint this release.