California investigates Providence after physicians' complaint of religious limits on care at Hoag

Listen

Renton, Wash.-based Providence is being investigated by California's attorney general, Xavier Becerra, over allegations that it inappropriately applied religious care restrictions at Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach, Calif., the Los Angeles Times reported March 3. 

Several women's health specialists from Hoag submitted a confidential complaint to the attorney general's office in October, prompting the investigation. The physicians claim Heritage Healthcare, Providence's physician management division, refused to pay for contraceptive services for HMO patients at Hoag and delayed miscarriage treatment authorizations, among other allegations, according to the complaint referenced by the news outlet. 

The physicians also reported Heritage specifically referenced the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which are put forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in at least one instance when it declined to pay for a patient's intrauterine device insertion.   

Applying the directives would be in violation of conditions set by now-Vice President Kamala Harris, who approved an affiliation between Hoag and Irvine, Calif.-based St. Joseph Health, a Catholic healthcare system, when she was California's attorney general in 2014. In 2016, St. Joseph merged with Providence, which required Providence to maintain the pre-merger conditions related to women's health services at Hoag. The only service for which Hoag was subjected to a ban was "direct abortions," according to the Los Angeles Times report. 

In a letter sent to the involved institutions March 2, Mr. Becerra requested Providence provide documents related to the issues by March 23. 

"This office is monitoring whether the Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives are or have been applied to any aspect of a service, procedure, or other activity associated with a medical billing code, with the exception of direct abortions, performed by Hoag obstetrician/gynecologists," the letter reads. 

"Under the affiliation, Hoag has never been prevented from taking any action or decision that it wished to take," a spokesperson for Providence said in a statement sent to Becker's. "Hoag is not bound by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare, and therefore they have no impact on Hoag's ability to provide services it chooses to offier. This is a requirement that is contained in the affiliation agreement. Providence welcomes the Attorney General's request for further information, and is confident that the review will demonstrate that Providence has always complied with all requirements under the merger conditions." 

The statement added that women's health services at Hoag have improved under the affiliation, citing that it's been the recipient of the Women's Choice Award for Heart Care and Obstetrics for the past several years. 

In May, Hoag filed a lawsuit seeking to end its affiliation with Providence. 

To read the full Los Angeles Times report, click here. 

© Copyright ASC COMMUNICATIONS 2021. Interested in LINKING to or REPRINTING this content? View our policies by clicking here.

 

Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars