Calif. DOJ’s Conditional Approval of the Merger of Religiously Affiliated Health Care Providers: Statement from National Health Law Program

Calif. DOJ’s Conditional Approval of the Merger of Religiously Affiliated Health Care Providers: Statement from National Health Law Program

In a far-reaching action with national implications, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, after a public comment period, issued a conditional approval of a merger of two large Catholic health care systems — Dignity Health and Catholic Initiatives. The new merged entity, called “CommonSpirit Health,” will be the nation’s largest not-for-profit hospital system by revenue. The merger will affect private health insurance plans, as well as Californians who access health care through Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program.

The National Health Law Program, along with more than 20 public interest groups filed concerns regarding the merger with the California Department of Justice, provided the following comments on the Nov. 21 announcement of the merger:

“We were pleased to see that the Attorney General Becerra’s conditional approval includes many of our recommendations, such as maintaining reproductive health services beyond the five-year period recommended in the health impact statements, enforcing strong anti-discrimination policies with respect to LGBTQ patients receiving care at DH hospitals, and commitments to maintain charity care, community benefits, and Medi-Cal and Medicare contracts” Senior Attorney Amy Chen with the National Health Law Program said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the attorney general’s office to help ensure ongoing compliance and enforcement, in particular through the annual reports required from each DH hospital for six years post-merger.”

Staff Attorney Hayley Penan said, “This merger will require vigilant oversight by the Attorney General’s Office to ensure that CommonSpirit Health facilities adhere to the strong, but limited conditions, placed on the merger. This oversight is critical to making sure that Californians served by these hospitals and other health facilities are not denied the standard of care because religious or moral directives are put ahead of medical advice or patient choice.”

Please contact the National Health Law Program Communications Department at leaming@healthlaw.org or 202-552-5176 for further comment.

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