Advocacy Groups Launch Website to Help Patients Know Which Services Hospitals Do—and Don’t— Offer

News Release: 
Thursday, July 21, 2016

Doug Honig, ACLU 

Katie Rogers, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest & Hawaii

Advocacy groups today launched a website to ensure that patients can know what health care services Washington hospitals do and don't provide. The site was created in response to the failure of many hospitals to provide clear information about health care services in their policies for reproductive health, end-of-life, nondiscrimination, and admissions.

A rule implemented by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) in 2014 requires all hospitals to post policies related to their services on their websites and to submit the policies to the DOH. However, many of these policies are so vague that it’s impossible for consumers to figure out what health care services are available. 

Clear information on health care services is especially important because religiously affiliated hospitals often restrict services based on religious doctrine.

The new website, ClearHealthWA, aims to fill the information gap for people seeking health care. ClearHealthWA provides information about health care services based on analyses of hospitals’ policies on reproductive health and end-of-life care. It also enables consumers to identify hospitals whose policies are vague and unclear and to take action to address the lack of transparency by sending a letter or email to hospital administrators. 

Many of the analyses highlight the fact that individual hospital policies are unclear and do not inform a consumer about available services. So, the advocacy groups that created ClearHealthWA have developed a checklist for hospital systems statewide to clarify the health care services available at their hospitals and related clinics, hospices, and other facilities. Completed checklists will be posted on the ClearHealthWA. If a hospital has not completed the checklist, the ClearHealthWA website provides consumers with information to contact their hospital to request that the checklist be filled out.

“People don’t have a good sense of what health care services are truly available at their local hospital. We have launched this website to make it easier for the public to know what services are provided at the hospital in their community. Consumers should not have to parse through vague policies to understand where they can obtain health care services.” said ACLU of Washington Staff Attorney Margaret Chen.

Changes in ownership have resulted in a greater number of religious health systems. According to a recent ACLU report, more than 40 percent of hospital beds in Washington now are in a Catholic facility. Care at these facilities is governed by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, promulgated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Directives prohibit a range health services relating to reproductive and end-of-life care; the Directives may also result in restricting access to LGBT health services.

ClearHealthWA is supported by the ACLU of Washington, End of Life Washington, Legal Voice, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii.

For questions about the project, contact [email protected].