Boeing employees of Seattle, I hope you choose wisely

When I was growing up in Seattle, my family rode the Boeing roller coaster. Long time residents know what that is: the constant cycle of hirings and layoffs by the company. My father was always trying to get employed there, but it was always temporary as Boeing constantly expanded and contracted its workforce. So one year, we’d move into some nice new tract house in the suburbs, live well, and take advantage of all the benefits: vaccinations, regular check-ups, and lots and lots of dental appointments. The next year, Dad would get laid off, have to take jobs pumping gas, or reading water meters, or doing custodial work (or multiple combinations of the above to make ends meet), we’d move again into some shabby rathole, and no more visits to the dentist or doctor. We really were at the mercy of Dad’s employer for basic health care.

So good news for Boeing employees now! They still try to provide good worker benefits, and you’ve got your choice of two health care providers. You can choose UW Medicine, cutting edge stuff from one of the best universities in the country (said as an alumnus, of course), with access to all of the latest treatments. Or you can choose the Providence/Swedish plan, if you like good care for all of your bits except the nasty ones, which you think deserve only medieval punishment.

Because Providence/Swedish is a Catholic health care ministry, employees who choose the Providence/Swedish option will be subject to care that is limited by Catholic doctrine as laid out in the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care.   Providence very clearly says that “As a Catholic health care organization, we require adherence to all Ethical and Religious Directives as a condition of medical privileges and employment.”  These ERDs forbid contraception,  “direct” abortion in all circumstances, research that relies on embryonic stem cells, and participation with WA’s Death with Dignity Law.

Wow, what a tricky choice.


  1. Trebuchet says

    Former (retired) employee here. I wish I could still have a Boeing plan, Medicare + supplement is costing much more for less coverage. Especially dental.

    Boeing’s biggest employment center in the Puget Sound region is, I’m pretty sure, Everett. In Snohomish County. Where it’s pretty much Providence or nothing. They’re utterly dominant.

  2. says

    My physician’s medical organization was merged into the Catholic Health Association a few years ago with little fanfare. I was tempted to ask for a referral for a vasectomy—just to see what would happen—but I never did. CHA recently rebranded itself as “Dignity Health,” so “Catholic” no longer appears in the organization’s name. In addition, it acquired some secular facilities which it claims remain secular: “Though from the outside it looks as though we have fashioned ourselves into something new, we in fact look like we always did. Our Catholic hospitals are still Catholic; our hospitals that have never been Catholic still are not.” However, it claims that all facilities adhere to a “Statement of Common Values,” so it’s unclear whether the new structure makes it easier for “naughty” things like vasectomies, tubal ligatures, and in-vitro fertilization to be offered via referral to the “dark side.”

  3. carlie says

    If it’s cheaper, I’m sure a lot of people will end up with it and then get caught out when they need that care.

  4. Rich Woods says

    We really were at the mercy of Dad’s employer for basic health care.

    Or you can choose the Providence/Swedish plan, if you like good care for all of your bits except the nasty ones, which you think deserve only medieval punishment.

    What I really can’t understand is why there hasn’t been a second American Revolution. Are that many of you brainwashed into shooting yourselves in the foot? (Possibly literally, but I hope not.)

  5. says
    Excerpt below:

    […] a new report confirms that Catholic hospitals are emerging as one of the few clear winners — and the study adds its voice to a growing chorus of warnings about how church doctrine could affect women’s reproductive health care.

    The report is by MergerWatch, a New York–based nonprofit that tracks hospital consolidations, and the American Civil Liberties Union. It traces the growth of Catholic hospitals across the U.S. from 2001 to 2011, the most recent year for which complete data is available. It focuses on full-service, acute-care hospitals with emergency rooms and maternity units —settings in which Catholic religious teachings are most likely to come into conflict with otherwise accepted standards of reproductive care.

    The report’s major finding is illustrated in the chart below: At a time when other types of nonprofit hospitals have been disappearing, the number of Catholic-sponsored hospitals has jumped 16 percent. Over the last decade, only for-profit hospitals have fared better. The gains by Catholic providers are especially striking considering the sharp decline in the number of other religious-owned hospitals during the same period. […]

    See the page at the link for the chart.

    Catholic hospitals comprise 10 of the 25 largest healthcare networks in the USA. Some of the growth in Catholic hospitals is confirmed by data that is from 2011, when they were still in hyper-consolidation mode with trends showing 30% increases in Catholic-run institutions. In other words, the situation is only getting worse. Catholics love this. It’s a back door way to inflict their religious views on healthcare, and especially on women’s reproductive rights. They think of themselves as doing god’s work.

    In many cases, as was noted in a comment up-thread, the Catholic hospital is the sole provider or the only close provider for a community. This is a largely hidden downgrading of our healthcare system:

    “Ordinary people are not following hospital mergers and acquisitions,” Uttley said. “They don’t know who runs their hospital, especially if it doesn’t have a Catholic name. Even if it does have a Catholic name, people don’t know what that means.”

    Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., the newly elected president of the bishops conference, has called the lawsuit “baseless” and “misguided.” “A robust Catholic presence in health care helps build a society where medical providers show a fierce devotion to the life and health of each patient, including those most marginalized and in need,” he said.

    Catholic hospitals take in more than $115 billion in Medicare payments per year. We should be able to demand that they follow laws that protect patient rights.

  6. says

    Richard Houchin @ 5:

    I’ve only heard good things about Swedish and had never heard about them being catholic. Did that change?

    I can’t speak specifically about Swedish, but the RCC has been quietly buying up hospitals and clinics all over the U.S., that being one of the few ways it has to exercise draconian power these days.

  7. mrjonno says

    Frightening that your work place has anything whatsoever do with your healthcare, almost as frightening as religions being involved in hospitals

    Glad to say generally my medical care in the UK is generally not related to my employer (or even whether I work) and certainly god free

  8. raven says

    I can’t speak specifically about Swedish, but the RCC has been quietly buying up hospitals and clinics all over the U.S., …

    There has been some pushback that worked.

    A Catholic hospital chain tried to buy a floundering community hospital in southern Oregon. Enough people squawked that the deal fell through.

    It’s no secret smaller community hospitals have been in financial trouble. One of the things the ACA is supposed to fix. Instead of emergency rooms bleeding money while the poor die in the streets, they are supposed to get more paying patients.

  9. loreo says

    Having your healthcare tied to your job is so fucking alienating – to know that your ability to take care of yourself and your loved ones is tied to your ability to produce profits for some company.

  10. unclefrogy says

    Why should I (corporate management) pay for health care at all? I already pay them too much.
    If you get sick you can’t work so you do not make me money.
    OK if I do not pay for any health care I can not get any one to work for me I will do the least I can get away with.
    I am not going to pay for anyone’s health care if they are no longer working for me. Let them die maybe they will be less demanding if they are scared to complain and be more grateful for the work they do for me.
    If not there are lots of unemployed for me to pick from and if I need to I can complain to the government and import workers from foreign countries who I can exploit much easier.

    uncle frogy

  11. Al Dente says

    Corporate paid health insurance is a relic of World War II. Employers were desperate for workers and tried every incentive to get people to work for them. Health insurance wasn’t considered income and was relatively cheap, especially for group plans covering large numbers of people. So employers would offer health insurance to their workers. After World War II Truman tried to get a British style national health system in the US but Republicans and conservative Democrats screamed “SOCALISM!!1!” So the US is stuck with private health insurance for the foreseeable future.

    Incidentally, health insurance companies love Obamacare. They know if there isn’t some form of reasonably priced health insurance that some type of single payer system will be introduced with a reasonable chance of getting enacted. The establishment Republicans are also aware of this, which is why they’re happy the Senate has a slim Democratic majority.

  12. carlie says

    I don’t understand why corporations haven’t been pushing single-payer government-controlled healthcare harder than anyone else. If they got that off their back, it would help them out tremendously (that is, unless they’re worried that the healthcare is the only thing keeping their employees from jumping ship to better pastures). They have enough lobby power that they could make it happen.

  13. xavierninnis4191 says


    … health insurance companies love Obamacare.

    Which is why I bet around a dozen of my fellow political junkies 5 bucks apiece that “Obamacare” would pass muster with SCOTUS 5-4.
    I’ve heard all the theories attempting to explain why Roberts broke ranks, however I still believe the five assholes drew straws to see whose speaking engagement fees would, at least temporarily, take the hit.

  14. themadkansan says


    Boeing can collectively burn in hell for all I care. After their little fuck-fuck stunt with the New Tanker contract that left Wichita out in the cold after the employees and local govt. had poured sweat and blood into helping them get it away from Airbus, they can take a long walk off a short pier.


  15. steve84 says

    >”health care ministry”

    What a ridiculously absurd concept. Only in America.

  16. says

    Rich Woods #7

    Are that many of you brainwashed into shooting yourselves in the foot? (Possibly literally, but I hope not.)

    Wow. What condescending, rude, and cruel rubbish coming from someone who doesn’t even live here.

  17. HolyPinkUnicorn says

    @Rich Woods #7:

    What I really can’t understand is why there hasn’t been a second American Revolution. Are that many of you brainwashed into shooting yourselves in the foot? (Possibly literally, but I hope not.)

    Of course not literally; self-inflicted foot shootings aren’t covered! (Though neither are revolutions, for that matter.) Plus, there’s always profit to be had.

    Shameful to see Boeing offer such an organization as a healthcare option. They are, after all, a corporation that profits on the achievements of science and engineering. Even Bill Nye was employed there many years ago.

  18. JohnnieCanuck says

    Random thought. Is it possible that putting the RCC’s hard earned cash into hospitals will shield it from lawsuits? That would really be win-win for them. Force their beliefs onto large numbers of non-Catholics and also hide the money away from their victims.

    If not, maybe we need more lawsuits to empty their vaults and force them to cough up the hospitals.

  19. ck says


    Well, single-payer health care would reduce how much large corporations have to pay for health care, but due to their sheer purchasing power, they already get a better rate than anyone else. The problem is that single-payer would be a huge subsidy to small a mid-sized businesses, who either had to try to go without healthcare plans, or were offered group plans that were only marginally better or cheaper than individual ones.

    Cynical, greedy, short sighted and self-serving is the motto of American business these days.

  20. carbonfox says

    I’m a (relatively) healthy young person getting ready to take a healthcare hit as my spouse lost his job yesterday and with it our health insurance. Just this week, I was diagnosed with hydronephrosis secondary to a kidney stone that has firmly lodged itself at the ureter-bladder junction. Of course, despite Republicans bleating that the private health insurance model in the US makes waiting times nonexistent, no specialists within a reasonable distance could schedule me earlier than two weeks out. This after I spent three weeks trying to get an appointment to get referred for a CT scan. So I’m sitting here, envisioning my kidney swelling as it stings more with each passing day, and hoping that the doctor doesn’t send me away for lack of insurance. Sadly, while my case has the potential to become very serious, there are countless others in far worse health predicaments than I struggling as we speak to come up with a way to pay for life-saving treatment. Naturally, my spouse’s job was at a company that behaves very similarly to Boeing it is unpredictable employment practices. I’ll wait for a Republican or Libertarian to come by and explain how I and others deserve to suffer.

  21. A. Noyd says

    I just had to make this choice last night when I went into the ER for possible food poisoning. Swedish is a few blocks closer, but they can’t have any of my money or insurance until they tell Providence to fuck off and start providing all forms of medical care again. I went to Harborview instead, which is part of UW Medicine.


    Richard Houchin (#5)

    I’ve only heard good things about Swedish and had never heard about them being catholic. Did that change?

    Yes. See here:

    But cases like Halappanavar’s exist in Washington State. In fact, they’ve happened right here in Seattle. “I was past 24 weeks when doctors at Swedish told me I was miscarrying,” explains the woman sitting across from me at the coffee shop. We’ll call her Mary. […] She was checked into Swedish Medical Center, Seattle’s largest nonprofit health-care provider. But unbeknownst to Mary, last year the hospital formed an alliance with Providence, a Washington-based Catholic institution that operates 32 hospitals in Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Per their new relationship, Swedish agreed to stop performing abortions except in emergency situations—you know, like when a woman’s life is at risk.
    During Mary’s Swedish visit last year, “They said that they couldn’t save the fetus but it still had a heartbeat, so there was nothing they could do. They had to wait for the heartbeat to stop.”

    And here:

    In one high-profile case, when Seattle’s Swedish Health Services partnered with the Catholic giant Providence Health Services last year, both companies avowed that Swedish Health would stay secular. Yet soon afterwards, Swedish Health announced that it would stop providing elective abortions, and instead give $2 million to Planned Parenthood to open a clinic nearby that would provide a full range of reproductive services.

  22. Akira MacKenzie says

    Wow. What condescending, rude, and cruel rubbish coming from someone who doesn’t even live here.

    Yeah, how dare those damn foreigners criticize America’s self-destructive fascination with firearms and the capitalist system.

    The only people who should criticize America should be other Americans*… right before they are branded dirty Communist traitors who hate JEEZ-us and FREEEEEEEEEEDOOOOOOM and are ignored by the moronic, beer-swilling masses.

    *Like myself.

  23. Akira MacKenzie says

    EDIT: self-destructive fascination with firearms and the capitalist system.

  24. says

    @Richard Houchin #5 – Swedish is still secular… in name only. When Providence entered a “partnership” with the hospital, they were the senior partner, meaning that a slight majority of the new Board of Directors are appointees of the Archdiocese. As the merger was going through, the hospital spun off their women’s health services into a separate, independent clinic, so that the new owners would not have to deal it. And Swedish, like all other Providence hospitals, now refuses to to follow Washington law with regards to end-of-life directives.

  25. Rich Woods says

    @marilove #19:

    Wow. What condescending, rude, and cruel rubbish coming from someone who doesn’t even live here.

    You’re welcome to interpret my question any way you like, of course. Would you also like to explain to me why so many people vote for politicians who are clearly going to act against their constituents own self-interest?

  26. tiggrr says

    There should be a referendum on stem-cell research. Stem-cell research should continue unabated, but people who vote ‘no’ are personally excluding themselves from any treatment derived from stem-cell research.

  27. David Marjanović says

    What I really can’t understand is why there hasn’t been a second American Revolution. Are that many of you brainwashed into shooting yourselves in the foot?

    Some are. The rest, for the most part, simply don’t know that it’s any better elsewhere; last time I read about a poll (admittedly several years ago), lots and lots of Americans believed they had the best healthcare system in the world.

    now refuses to to follow Washington law

    How exactly are they getting away with that?

  28. says

    @David #32 – “Refusing” is a bit strong, but Catholic hospitals in Washington are doing everything they can to subvert state law. Two laws, in particular.

    The first is the one for advance directives, also known as a living will. In accordance with the federal Patient Self-Determination Act (PSDA) of 1991, Washington allows people to create a written notice not to be resuscitated using “extraordinary measures,” and/or not to be maintained on life support when death would otherwise be inevitable. The law requires that hospitals honor such documents. However, the law also requires a doctor to authorize implementation. What happens at Catholic hospitals is that the personnel able to give this authorization are contractually obligated not to: if they sign off, they are immediately fired for violating the hospital’s ethical code of conduct. With that kind of thing in their job history, they will likely never work in medicine again. The law also states that if no doctors at the patient’s hospital will authorize removing life support that the patient’s legal guardians may move the patient to another facility. Catholic hospitals have made foot-dragging on this into a fine art, often forcing the guardians into very costly, time-consuming legal battles before permitting a transfer. Remember Terri Schiavo? Hospitals in other states (not Washington yet, to my knowledge) have gone so far as to file suit against the guardians, claiming that they “are trying to kill the patient” and are legally unfit, thus guardianship should be handed over to the hospital.

    The second law is the Death With Dignity Act, passed by voters in 2008 and making Washington the second state to allow physician assisted suicide. To use the law, a patient must meet a lengthy list of requirements, which includes having two doctors sign off on the patient’s request. Again, Catholic hospitals contractually forbid doctors from giving such authorization. I believe the standard Catholic position is that any patient who makes such a request is mentally incompetent and thus the request is legally invalid, or is being coerced by family and thus the request is legally invalid, or can be kept “alive” indefinitely through artificial means regardless of the patient’s or her guardians wishes and thus the request is legally invalid. If the patient or her guardians attempt to transfer to a different hospital, the Catholic hospital will again do everything it can to drag out the process.

    All of this is an issue for me. My doctors are members of the Polyclinic, an independent group of physicians and medical specialists. All doctors at the Polyclinic must have admitting privileges to Swedish, so even though they are not themselves governed by Catholic doctrine and “ethics” in their practice, any of their patients who get hospitalized will be. Any Polyclinic doctor who signs off on an advance directive or death with dignity will lose his hospital privileges, and thus lose his job at the clinic. Given that I am on three of the Church’s better off dead lists — gay, atheist and HIV+ — I greatly fear having to end up in Swedish Hospital. Group Health and even the University of Washington have entered into some kind of partnership with the Providence Group, leaving only one major group of doctors that is still fully secular, Virginia Mason. I fear it won’t be long before Providence poisons that pie, too.