The announcement that UW Medicine will be partnering with the Catholic organization Peace Health should be cause for alarm throughout the state, but particularly for any student or student employee dependent on health coverage through the University of Washington. While the current insurance policy offered to students and workers does not cover 100% of medical costs, it covers even less if you must get medical attention outside of the covered network (i.e., UW Medicine and Hall Health).
From my own personal experience, even if you are working for the University at the time of your injury and receive medical care at a different facility due to your work duties, you will have to fight your way through the system for reimbursement. I am currently waiting for the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals to schedule a hearing, more than two years after my work site exposure to tear gas overseas caused me to miscarry my first pregnancy. It was not covered fully under my UW employee insurance because the insurance company did not consider a D&C an emergency procedure (the only way it would have been fully covered), despite factors such as debilitating pain, uncontrolled bleeding, the heightened risk of infection, my doctor saying I should not get on the plane home without having the operation, and the loss of what was to be my first child.
Legally speaking, the first amendment guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Allowing one religion’s dogmas to determine which types of health care patients can receive in a public medical institution infringes upon the legal rights of those patients who do not have the same beliefs, yet must use the facility for UW insurance purposes, time sensitivity, or other reasons.
In a Catholic affiliated hospital where “elective abortions” such as mine are not permitted, women will be forced to seek medical treatment elsewhere, therefore paying more than they should have to, like I was forced to. This religious affiliation is one more insulting way to institutionalize gender discrimination at the University of Washington. Given the fact that the UW and its various branches, such as the University Medical Center, receive federal and state funding, neither this new religious affiliation nor other UW discriminatory practices should be allowed to stand.
I am calling on other citizens to stand up for women’s health and the right of equal access to medical care. I am calling on both the Governor and Attorney General of our state to step in and stop this partnership between the University of Washington and the Catholic Church from progressing. Separation of church and state is not just a phrase; where women are concerned, it is a matter of life and death.
— Suzanne Skaar