Atheists Demand ‘Right to Know Act’ for Patients in America’s Religious Health Care System

Cranford, NJ—American Atheists today announced a campaign to enact legislation that would require health care providers to inform patients, insurance companies, and government agencies about any medical procedures and services the provider chooses not to perform because of the provider’s religious beliefs.disclose

“Patients must be able to make fully informed decisions about their health care,” said Amanda Knief, National Legal and Public Policy Director for American Atheists, and author of the bill. “This legislation would help patients get the information they need to navigate the increasingly complicated—and increasingly religious—health care marketplace.”

There are no state or federal laws or regulations that require health care providers to inform patients of services or treatments a provider will not provide because of the provider’s religious beliefs. Religious hospitals account for more than 17 percent of all hospital beds in the United States, and religiously based hospitals, physicians, and other health care entities treat more than 1 in 6 Americans each year.

“This is about disclosure, not about forcing providers to do anything they have a religious objection to. If a religiously affiliated hospital or health care provider has some objection to providing birth control, access to cancer therapies that could result in sterilization, mental health services, or hormone replacement therapy, they can continue to opt out of providing those services. What they can’t do is pull a bait and switch on patients and potential patients,” added Knief.

The proposed legislation would require health care providers to simply provide a list of services they will not perform for religious reason to patients, potential patients, health insurers, and state and federal grant or subsidy programs. The health care providers and insurance issuers would then be required to make that information available online for potential patients.

American Atheists will work with its 170+ local affiliates and coalition partners to build support for this legislation in both Congress and the 50 states.

The full text of the proposed legislation is available here.

  • David C.

    Excellent. If healthcare providers want religious exemptions, then they must be honest. They don’t get to hide behind a lie of omission when withholding care.

  • MisanthropicScott

    One issue with this is that when someone is seriously injured and brought to the nearest hospital, they often don’t get to choose the hospital or may not be conscious to do so. People should have a reasonable expectation that any hospital to which they are transported will provide whatever medical procedures are necessary. And, people who are near the ends of their lives and have made their wishes known should have those wishes respected.

    Catholic hospitals do neither.

    Rape victims do not get proper treatment or counseling. People’s DNR orders are routinely ignored. This is not OK.

    Such hospitals should actually lose their licenses to provide medical care. If providing medical care is against someone’s religion, they are free to not do so. If the Catholic Church opposes modern medicine, and in too many cases they do, then they should get out of the business.

    It is that simple. No one is forcing the Catholic Church to buy up hospitals.

    • spookiewon

      It’s worse than that. Where I live there are no hospitals that are not catholic owned for more than 50 miles. Every one in two metropolitan areas has been bought up. Even for non-emergent care, I have no choice.

      What’s worse, they also own nearly 90% of medical practices.

      • MisanthropicScott

        Holy shit! (Almost literally.) I’m sorry you’re stuck in that situation. Are you in a position of being able to move to a less godinfested area?

        • Lynn Bradway

          Even here in secular upstate NY, half the hospitals are religious. Mergers lead to some pretty convoluted care plans.

          • Diana Lynn Langton

            Where in Upstate NY?

          • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

            I’m aware of that being so everywhere from the Capitol Region (Albany/Schenectady/Troy) to NYC, and since the people in this State don’t get any smarter as you head West and North, I doubt that the hospital beds aren’t at least 50% Catholic-owned.

    • Seth

      That’s completely orthogonal to this issue.

      Politically, I suspect it’s a lot easier to require doctors and hospitals to merely tell the truth about what they aren’t willing to provide, than to force them to provide anything. Yes, this bill doesn’t do everything we want; it’s still a lot better than the existing situation.

      As a side-effect, it might destroy the anti-abortion fraudulent providers.

      • MisanthropicScott

        I don’t see it as orthogonal to the issue. Though, you’re certainly correct about requiring doctors to tell the truth. Interestingly, many doctors working at Catholic hospitals would be thrilled to be able to provide comprehensive care. Some have even knowingly gotten themselves into trouble for doing so.

        I agree the bill is a huge step in the right direction.

        I also hadn’t considered the side-effect of killing the fraudulent crisis pregnancy centers. Excellent point. We can only hope it would be enforced well enough to do so.

        • leigh-anne christensen

          crisis pregnancy centers are not medical facilities and therefore would not be affected in any way by the proposed legislation.

        • groversyck

          Seth and Misanthropid.
          from the definition of “orthogonial” below, what relationship does the word have to do with the discussion.

          1 a : intersecting or lying at right angles b : having perpendicular slopes or tangents at the point of intersection

          2 : having a sum of products or an integral that is zero or sometimes one under specified conditions: as a of real-valued functions : having the integral of the product of each pair of functions over a specific interval equal to zero b of vectors : having the scalar product equal to zero c of a square matrix :
          having the sum of products of corresponding elements in any two rows or
          any two columns equal to one if the rows or columns are the same and
          equal to zero otherwise : having a transpose with which the product equals the identity matrix

      • leigh-anne christensen

        Nope. The anti-abortion fraudulent providers are merely counsel centers, not medical in any way so the proposed legislation would have no impact

    • LongtimeDetroitdriver

      Hospitals that ignore patients’ DNR and other end-of-life decisions should be prohibited from billing the patient’s insurance or estate for the unwanted “services.” If the hospital is paid for these “services,” it gives the impression that the hospital’s decisions may be driven by a PROFIT MOTIVE rather than a purely religious motive.

      • skeptical_inquirer

        I’m reminded of a corpse used as an incubator against both her husband AND her parents’ wishes and the fetus turned out to be unviable. I really hope they didn’t have to pay the bill.

    • VeggieTart

      I agree that religious directives should not even come into consideration when it comes to patient care. A religious person or group running a secular business–such as a restaurant, retail outlet, or health care provider–should be required to follow secular laws and not push their religious beliefs on their customers/patients, especially when most of the patients are not,say, Catholic. It should be up to the doctor to determine the best course of care for his/her patients, and this includes reproductive health care.

      But since we live in a country where people scream religious freedom at the drop of a hat, requiring them to make clear on all their outlets and websites that their religious directives prohibit them from providing certain services is a start. It won’t do much good for folks who have no options, but as Seth points out, it might spell the end of those fraudulent crisis pregnancy centers.

      • leigh-anne christensen

        crisis pregnancy centers are not medical facilities. They would not fall into a category that any of this legislation would impact

        • VeggieTart

          Yes, but they are masquerading as such.

  • As a Christian, this makes a lot of sense – and am surprised this isn’t already a thing.

  • Anglokraut

    I was going to ask “Why don’t we just cut the crap, and adopt a good single-payer system?” but then I remembered that until religion is removed from politics, an American single-payer system would have the same religious exemptions that are addressed in the article. In the meantime, America just continues to look like kid-who-eats-paint-chips of the world’s powers.

    • Kerry Collier

      No thanks. I’ve seen government run healthcare in the VA System. It’s shit.

      • MisanthropicScott

        First, there are multiple issues in what you bring up. Single payer is not socialized medicine. VA hospitals are. But, so are all of the hospitals in the U.K. and France, both of which do a better job of caring for their populations than the U.S.

        The U.S. has numerous problems in its health care system.

        VA, medicaid, and medicare are three completely separate systems. Actually, since medicaid is from the state, it’s at least 52 separate systems. I’m not sure what medicaid looks like in DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, so am ignoring them due to my own ignorance not their lack of importance.

        Having one system, such as medicare for all, would remove the amazing amount of redundancy.

        For profit insurance is just that. There is a profit incentive for these companies to deny coverage. They make more when they pay less. It’s that simple. Deny. Deny. Deny.

        Fee for service is another one of our problems. In the U.K. they have managed to create a fee for quality of service system. That’s fundamentally different. A doctor in the U.K. who can keep you healthy with less care, say by recommending quitting smoking or losing weight or treating you correctly the first time, makes more money. Here, doctors make more if you have to come back more and get more treatment.

        And, all of that without even addressing the issue of Big Pharma.

        So, there are numerous problems with both our current government programs and with our current private institutions. These are all unlikely to be fixed as long as we have as many different systems as we do. Hell, in my state, I can’t even cross the international border between New York and New Jersey to go to a doctor just across the river. That should be a violation of FTC laws, but somehow isn’t.

        None of the health insurance companies available to me will allow me to take that 10 minute train ride. Sometimes, I must drive for 45 minutes instead.

        • Cousin Ricky

          In the U.S. Virgin Islands, Medicaid is essentially non-existent. Individual health insurance is also non-existent. Yes, you read that right. The number of insurance corporations that sell individual policies in this territory is literally zero. And if you get laid off, there is no COBRA. If you don’t work for a massive employer with a group plan, and are not eligible for Medicare, you damn well better not get sick in paradise. In addition, there is no ACA exchange here.

          This is the problem with a health care system that relies on the whims of the free market. The ACA is a much needed step in the right direction, but it’s still a piece of shit.

          • MisanthropicScott

            I agree about the ACA, even for places where we actually have it. I want that radical left-wing plan … proposed by that uber-liberal Richard Nixon in 1974 … where people would be able to buy into medicare on a sliding scale based on income. I want my medicare. And, I don’t want to wait another 13 years to get it.

          • Clay Richard

            Not whims, greed.

        • lorimakesquilts

          The active duty medical system might be a better comparison than the VA. Its priorities, patients, and services are more like civilian medical services. I haven’t utilized it since I was a kid so I have no idea how it functions now, but then, aside from some long waits at walk-in clinics, I received good care and extraordinary care when it really mattered.

      • Lynn Bradway

        My husband gets excellent servce. Maybe it depends on region.

        • Anglokraut

          It really does. My brother’s care was abominable in Ohio, but in Phoenix (which is odd, as it is the Phoenix VA that is the center of the VA Scandal) he got the referrals he needed to get a re-evaluation, PTSD treatment, and he is much better now.

          It shouldn’t be that way, but at least the fact that care–and the access to care–is unequal, can no longer be denied.

      • Your regrettable experience in the VA is abominable, but not representative at all of a single payer, or even a nationalized health system. Vets get shafted, simply because Americans don’t care to think who they worked for: the corporations in the defense industry, even though your pay and benefits comes from the government. That needs to be fixed, soldiers and vets need to be paid by both taxes AND the companies you fought to make profits for. BUT the fact is that on a national civilian level, countries with socialized health care have a better standard than ours, across the board. Even if it isn’t the perfect option, it is the far superior one to privatized health care.

        • Clay Richard

          I use the VA. It was great until the republicans shorted it financially
          so they could yell about “poor care for vets” as a pretense for
          privatization. They got it too..It’s called “Veteran’s Choice.” It’s
          just one more piece “war for profit”pie called the Iraq war, or the war
          on terror. First you come up with a bullshit reason to invade a
          country, destroy it, create a for profit army to kill civilians
          (Blackwater) give billion dollar contracts to rebuild everything
          destroyed, then last but not least, sell out the warriors for profit
          too. Then theirs the all so profitable middle eastern conflict. In case
          you don’t know, a large part of the aid we give Israel MUST be spent on
          weapons, so the military industrial complex profits from Israels war
          crimes. Then they hypocritically criticize Russia and Syria

          • You, sir, are a man after my own heart. Heartily agree!

      • lfaatsnat

        I guess it depends on the VA facility. My father got excellent and comprehensive care at one, to the point that I stopped seeking out private doctors, the VA was better. And this was in a large metro area.

      • Dick Springer


      • Charles McEntire

        Kerry – you have government run healthcare that is funded (or lack of) by Republicans that think it should be privatized. There is an agenda to make the VA fail and it’s been very successful. Lesser known though – the most popular health INSURANCE in this country is TriCare – the government funded one. It’s amazing, and oh yeah – lots of politicians are on it.

      • Clay Richard

        I use the VA. It was great until the republicans shorted it financially so they could yell about “poor care for vets” as a pretense for privatization. They got it too..It’s called “Veteran’s Choice.” It’s just one more piece “war for profit”pie called the Iraq war, or the war on terror. First you come up with a bullshit reason to invade a country, destroy it, create a for profit army to kill civilians (Blackwater) give billion dollar contracts to rebuild everything destroyed, then last but not least, sell out the warriors for profit too. Then theirs the all so profitable middle eastern conflict. In case you don’t know, a large part of the aid we give Israel MUST be spent on weapons, so the military industrial complex profits from Israels war crimes. Then they hypocritically criticize Russia and Syria

      • leigh-anne christensen

        So, you would rather have your healthcare decisions made by “for profit” insurance companies whose #1 priority is not YOU? Whose #1 priority is share holders profits? That’s what we have. Companies more interested in obscene multi millions in bonus’s to their CEO’s than whether you’re going to die without care.

  • MisanthropicScott

    It really is just not at all about actually caring for one’s patients, is it? Catholic hospitals (and possibly other religious hospitals as well, but I tend to hear about if from Catholic hospitals) really just don’t give even one rat buttock about the health of their patients if there’s the slightest bit of conflict between keeping someone alive and going against some old guy in a pink kippah.

  • Daelda

    I recommend that everyone go and get this:

    Page 5 is a form that states:

    I understand that circumstances beyond my control may cause me to be admitted to a healthcare institution whose policy is to decline to follow Advance Directive instructions that conflict with certain religious or moral teaching.

    If I am an inpatient in such a religious – affiliated healthcare institution when this Advance Directive comes into effect, I direct that my consent to admission shall not constitute implied consent to procedures or courses of treatment mandated by ethical, religious or other policies of the institution, if those procedures or courses of treatment conflict with this Advance Directive.

    Furthermore, I direct that if the healthcare institution in which I am a patient declines to follow my wishes as set out in this Advance Directive, I am to be transferred in a timely manner to a hospital, nursing home, or other institution which will agree to honor the instructions set forth in this Advance Directive.

    I hereby incorporate this provision into my durable power of attorney for health care, living will, and any other previously executed advance directive for health care decisions.z


    Granted, this may still be ignored, but it at least gets your wishes onto paper, and might give whomever has the Power of Attorney more leverage when it comes to getting you the healthcare you desire, as opposed to the healthcare a religious hospital allows you to have. Just a suggestion to assist in freedom from religious healthcare shackles.

    • Cousin Ricky

      In Catholic institutions, it is against policy to transfer you to an institution that gives you options that are against their religion, and also against policy to inform you that you even have options. They are Kim Davis/Hobby Lobby writ large.

      • Daelda

        Which is why I plan to make sure that I am transferred from any Catholic hospital as soon as possible, by my spouse, or whomever has Power of Attorney – no matter what! Even if they have to go to court over it! I *refuse* to stay in a Catholic hospital for any length of time, if at all possible!

  • Albert Cousins

    As a Transhumanist, I agree with this. I feel that the modern Christian church is too focused upon being “holy” to show the love and compassion needed to actually help as much as they should.

  • Dick Springer

    Absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, we need some “respectable” (i.e. religious) allies. National Council of Churches, Unitarian-Universalists, Reform Jews, etc.

  • XaurreauX

    That bill is LONG overdue!

  • Cousin Ricky

    The bill refers to the “religious beliefs of the entity.” Would this language include secular institutions purchased by the Catholic Church, which do not themselves claim religious beliefs, but are forced by contract to abide by the religious beliefs of their corporate owner?

  • Patrick E

    I can’t see any legitimate reason for this to be opposed but you know it will be.

  • Deb Shaw

    I think this is a fantastic idea!

  • PigManFan
  • leigh-anne christensen

    Someone that does not get the care that they need, that meets their needs, or flies in the face of their own religious beliefs needs to sue one of these hospitals for not accommodating them as a patient and on the basis of their own religious beliefs. Maybe turning the tables and going to the supreme court with it is the answer

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