Hospitals in state may face new disclosure rules
Proposed state rules seeking to address religious control of health services would require hospitals to post online their policies on end-of-life and reproductive-health services.
Seattle Times health reporter
Proposed new rules for hospitals in Washington, prompted by concerns about religious restrictions on medical services, would require them to post online their policies on end-of-life care and reproductive-health services.
In addition to displaying the policies on their own websites, hospitals would have to submit them to the state Department of Health, which also would post them.
In its analysis, the state said the requirement would help consumers make decisions about where to get health care.
The proposed rules are open for comment until a public hearing on Nov. 26.
A spate of “affiliations” in Washington between secular hospitals and Catholic health-care organizations has prompted concern, particularly in communities in which all hospitals, including some that are partially tax-supported, are tied to religious organizations that restrict certain reproductive and end-of-life health-care services.
Some critics of religious restrictions on health care told state officials in a workshop this year that hospitals should be required to provide legal, medically appropriate services.
Others said hospitals should be required to post a full list of reproductive and end-of-life services they offer.
Hospitals, however, said developing a meaningful list of services would be too complex and potentially misleading.
Monica Harrington, a San Juan Island resident and activist, said “specifics are what’s needed because these institutions thrive on secrecy and stealth.”
A checklist for the 20 most common reproductive health-care services should be an addendum to any written policy, she said.
In addition, the state has proposed changing rules governing sales or expansions of hospitals that would broaden the current scope — which covers only “sale, purchase or lease” of a hospital. Under the proposed change, any instance in which direct or indirect control of all or part of a hospital changes hands would be included.
The rule changes were requested by Gov. Jay Inslee, who directed the Department of Health to increase transparency for health-care consumers and to find ways to apply state rules based on the effect of such transactions, rather than the terminology used or the representations in preliminary documents.
In a progress report Inslee made public Monday, Secretary of Health John Wiesman said the department intends to adopt final rules Dec. 10.
The hearing Nov. 26 will begin at 1 p.m. at the Department of Health, Point Plaza East Rooms 152-153, 310 Israel Road S.E., Tumwater.
Public comments can be submitted until then at: http://1.usa.gov/Kiay94 (look for “Governor’s Directive”).
Carol M. Ostrom: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-2249. On Twitter @costrom