Insurers Can Send Patients To Religious Hospitals That Restrict Reproductive Care

By Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Anna Maria Barry-Jester

Last fall, about a month before her Medicaid coverage was scheduled to expire, Darolyn Lee realized that she needed to get her contraceptive implant replaced. Lee, a 37-year-old in Chicago, called the managed care organization in charge of her plan to find out where she should go to get the new implant. She was told that the closest in-network provider was Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, a Catholic hospital about 30 minutes away by bus.

When she got to the hospital for her appointment, the doctor said she couldn’t replace Lee’s birth control, but wouldn’t say why. Instead, she gave Lee a referral card for the hospital’s obstetrics and gynecology department. Lee, assuming that hospital bureaucracy was to blame, made another appointment and returned to the hospital a few weeks later. But when the second doctor walked into the room, she explained that she, too, could not replace the implant. She offered Lee a pap smear instead.

Lee was stunned and angry. Through tears, she asked where she could get her implant replaced. The gynecologist gave her a referral for the county hospital. “I couldn’t say nothing else — I was just upset,” Lee said. “They had wasted my time going to all of these appointments, only to not do anything that I had requested.”

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