Caritas discussing changes to healthcare agreement, reaffirms commitment to Catholic teaching

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese of Boston released the following statement to The Pilot at press time June 10 in relation to the agreement between Caritas Christi and the Centene Corporation to partner in the Massachusetts Commonwealth Care Health Insurance Program starting July 1.

During the last two months there has been widespread discussion of whether participation of Caritas Christi in a joint venture with Celtic Group, Inc. and CeltiCare Health Plan Holdings, LLC (‘‘CeltiCare”) that would allow Caritas Christi Healthcare System to participate in the Massachusetts Commonwealth Care Health Insurance Program (the “Connector”), is consistent with Catholic identity. As a result of those discussions, and to ensure full compliance with Catholic moral teaching as well as social justice, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, submitted this arrangement for analysis to the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), a nationally known institution that provides guidance for Catholic health systems across the country. Caritas is in active discussions with Celtic Group and CeltiCare with a view to making acceptable modifications to their arrangement.

In the meantime, questions continue to arise with respect to whether Caritas Christi will participate in the Connector in a manner which is inconsistent with Catholic identity. Responding to such inquiries, Cardinal O’Malley reaffirmed today that “it has always been clear to me that Caritas Christi has been consistently faithful in its commitment to comply with Catholic moral teaching. In any revised agreement among Celtic Group, CeltiCare and Caritas Christi, under no circumstances will Caritas either perform procedures prohibited by the Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services or refer any patient to other providers who perform or procure such procedures. Ministry to the poor and those in need, as with care for the unborn, are central tenets of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services and at the very heart of Catholicism.”

Dr. Ralph de la Torre, President of Caritas Christi, stated that “when a patient seeks such a procedure, Caritas health care professionals will be clear that (a) the hospital does not perform them and (b) the patient must turn to his or her insurer for further guidance. This, in fact, is the practice currently in place in the Caritas system as we work with other insurance companies under state laws that mandate access to procedures not provided within the Caritas system. It is the path that Caritas has always followed and will follow in its engagement with CeltiCare. Caritas Christi is dedicated to providing quality health care to the citizens of the Commonwealth, especially the poor, in a way that expresses our unwavering commitment to Catholic teaching. Now more than ever it is important that Catholic health care be at the forefront of ensuring care for all people. Many of our communities are expressing an unprecedented need with unemployment approaching 18 percent. It is our time to be there for our communities.”