New Arizona bill would require providers to disclose religious care restrictions

Democratic members of the Arizona House pre-filed a bill this week that would require health care entities to produce a complete list of services they will not provide to patients based on the entity’s religious beliefs. 

H.B. 2068, or the Patient’s Right to Know Act, was pre-filed yesterday by Representatives Pamela Hannley, Isela Blanc, and Charlene Fernandez. Under the bill, health care entities that do not provide certain services based on their religious beliefs would be required to produce a list of those services to patients before initiating treatment.

In the case of an emergency, as soon as the patient is capable or a representative for the patient is available, health care entities would be required to provide them with a written notice that includes the list of excluded health care services. 

 

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Along with hospitals, facilities, and institutions licensed to provide health care services in the state, the bill’s language specifies that it would apply to health professionals who provide reproductive health care services.

This is a buyer beware issue. I believe that people should know upfront if healthcare providers or institutions have any deeply held religious beliefs that would preclude them from offering any legal drugs or services that are within their scope of practice. For example, if a woman has an emergency situation with a pregnancy, she should know upfront if she will be offered all medical options available to treat her condition or only the options that the provider or institution deem appropriate,” said Rep. Hannley.  

On top of providing a list of excluded services to patients, the entities would be required to inform state or federal regulators of the services they will not provide. Additionally, the application process for enrolling health care entities into state or federal reimbursement programs would be amended by state agencies to include a requirement that entities produce and disclose the aforementioned list. 

Health care entities would be required to produce the list when applying for any state grant that is related to providing a health care service.

But the bill does not stop at service providers. All group health plans and individual health insurers would be required to provide their enrollees with a list of each entity within their network that will not provide certain services due to religious beliefs. They would also be required to provide a list of the specific services the entities in their network don’t provide and post the information on their website. 

The entity’s would be responsible for reporting their list of excluded services to the group plans and insurers from whom they seek payment.

2019 research from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that only 28% of 646 Catholic hospitals listed in the Catholic Health Association’s directory specified how their religious affiliation might influence patient treatment. 

As Modern Healthcare reported, the operations of Catholic hospitals are governed under directives set out by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Procedures which the USCCB calls “intrinsically immoral,” such as such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and direct sterilization are prohibited.

Regarding what she hopes the bill will accomplish, Rep. Hannley underscored the bill’s aim to protect patient choice. 

I want to ensure that patients know all the treatment options that are available to them — not just the ones an individual provider prefers. This bill will help patients make informed decisions when choosing providers and treatment.”

The Arizona Legislative Session will begin on January 13th, 2020.