Reproductive care in question in hospital merger

October 17, 2011 

LOUISVILLE — Critics of a proposed merger between two Louisville hospitals and Catholic Health Initiatives are worried that the deal could limit reproductive care for employees at the two hospitals.

Employees at Jewish and University of Louisville hospitals have health plans that cover birth control and sterilization. But workers at Lexington's St. Joseph Health System don't because its parent company, Catholic Health Initiatives, believes the care conflicts with Catholic health rules.

"Ninety percent of women at some point use contraception," said state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, a Louisville Democrat and retired nurse. "Why make women pay more? Why let religion dictate whether or not someone who works for them gets these services covered?"

As merger plans move ahead, it is not yet known if employees will be forced to pay out-of-pocket for things like birth control pills and tubal ligations, The Courier-Journal reported. Officials for the merging Kentucky hospital systems haven't given any specifics on health insurance, saying they haven't finalized the health plan for the new company.

The Catholic health directives prohibit abortion, contraceptives, sterilizations and surrogate motherhood.

There are about 15,000 employees at Jewish and University hospitals in Louisville.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is looking into potential changes to insurance for employees affected by the merger, along with many other issues, as he conducts a thorough review of the plan, spokeswoman Allison Martin said.

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