HEC Forum

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 111-126

First online:

Catholic Identity and Charity Care in the Era of Health Reform

  • John Paul SlosarAffiliated withAscension HealthAscension Health Care Network Email author 
  • , Mark F. RepenshekAffiliated withAscension HealthColumbia St. Mary’s
  • , Elliott BedfordAffiliated withAscension Health

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Catholic healthcare institutions live amidst tension between three intersecting primary values, namely, a commitment of service to the poor and vulnerable, promoting the common good for all, and financially sustainability. Within this tension, the question sometimes arises as to whether it is ever justifiable, i.e., consistent with Catholic identity, to place limits on charity care. In this article we will argue that the health reform measures of the Affordable Care Act do not eliminate this tension but actually increase the urgency of addressing it. Moreover, we will conclude that the question of limiting charity care in a manner that is consistent with the obligations of Catholic identity around serving the poor and vulnerable, promoting the common good, and remaining financially sustainable is not a question of if, but of how such limits are established. Such limits, however, cannot be established in light of one overriding moral consideration or principle, but must be established in light of a multitude of principles guiding us to a holistic understanding of the interrelatedness of the moral dimensions of Catholic identity.


Charity care Catholic identity Stewardship Common good Participation Solidarity Distributive justice Affordable Care Act Undocumented residents