Court invalidates shot at Catholic health care

Officials and government agencies often overstep their authority and assert their right to regulate matters that are actually beyond their mandate. The courts are supposed to be out last redoubt when that happens, though seeking resolution there can be lengthy and expensive.

The state Supreme Court smacked down one such overreach Thursday, ruling that the state Department of Health exceeded its authority when it tried to nose its way into approving even mere association agreements between hospitals. It wasn’t a close call; all nine justices signed the opinion.

Real reason behind the regulation
It sounds like a dull topic, about health regulations and “Certificates of Need” for hospitals, but the overreach stemmed from Inslee administration worries about the growth of Catholic health care systems in Washington.

Some view Catholic hospitals – which have served millions in our state, provided untold sums of charity care, and assisted underserved communities – as a threat. The church sees it as a ministry.

The “concern” is all about abortion and assisted suicide. Catholic hospitals are not involved in these procedures, as is their right. Critics would like to find some mechanism to either force them to provide those services or, barring that, at least prevent the expansion of Catholic health care.

The concerns are overblown. While mergers can bring changes to the services provided within a hospital’s walls, it does not mean those services will not be offered in that community at all. They just won’t occur within the walls of a Catholic institution.

Zealous overregulation by government isn’t always a full-frontal assault. It’s often a subtler message – do what we want, or we’ll make things even tougher for you. The court looked at Health’s regulatory attempt and properly asked, what gives you the authority?
-Rob McKenna

Washington Supreme Court: Health department overstepped authority on hospital deals

Jul 9, 2015, 12:34pm PDT
Annie Zak
Puget Sound Business Journal

A Washington State Supreme Court ruling Thursday found the state’s health department overstepped its authority in trying to more closely regulate hospital deals.

A new rule passed in January 2014 meant that, before completing an official affiliation or partnership, hospitals would have had to go through lengthier state health department reviews. The court decision today invalidates that rule.

To read more, click here.

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.