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Moral Principles for Health Care Reform

As the U.S. Senate begins to discuss health care reform, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin provided moral principles to help guide policymakers in their deliberations.
 
In a letter sent on June 1, the chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stressed the "grave obligations" that Senators have "when it comes to policy that affects health care." While commending the bill passed by the House of Representatives, the American Health Care Act, for its protections for unborn children, the Bishops emphasized the "many serious flaws" in the AHCA, including unacceptable changes to Medicaid.
 
"The Catholic Church remains committed to ensuring the fundamental right to medical care, a right which is in keeping with the God-given dignity of every person, and the corresponding obligation as a country to provide for this right," the Chairmen wrote. "[T]hose without a strong voice in the process must not bear the brunt of attempts to cut costs."
 
Cardinal Dolan is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Lori chairs the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop Dewane heads the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Vásquez is the chairman of the Committee on Migration.
 
The bishops outlined key principles for senators such as universal access, respect for life, true affordability, the need for high quality and comprehensive medical care and conscience protections.
 
If the Senate takes up the House bill as a starting point, the letter urges that lawmakers "must retain the positive elements of the bill and remedy its grave deficiencies." Specifically, the chairmen called on the Senate to: reject dramatic changes to Medicaid; retain the AHCA's life protections; increase the level of tax assistance, especially for low-income and older people; retain the existing cap on costs of plans for the elderly; protect immigrants; and add conscience protections, among other things.
 
The full letter to Congress can be found at: usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/Senate-Principles-letter-Health-Care-Reform-2017-06-01.pdf.
 
 
 
  • Published in Nation

Reactions to American Health Care Act vote

The American Health Care Act that passed by a four-vote margin May 4 in the House has "major defects," said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Social Development.
 
"It is deeply disappointing that the voices of those who will be most severely impacted were not heeded," Bishop Dewane said in a May 4 statement. "The AHCA does offer critical life protections, and our health care system desperately needs these safeguards. But still, vulnerable people must not be left in poor and worsening circumstances as Congress attempts to fix the current and impending problems with the Affordable Care Act."
 
He added, "When the Senate takes up the AHCA, it must act decisively to remove the harmful proposals from the bill that will affect low-income people -- including immigrants -- as well as add vital conscience protections, or begin reform efforts anew. Our health care policy must honor all human life and dignity from conception to natural death, as well as defend the sincerely held moral and religious beliefs of those who have any role in the health care system."
 
One of 20 Republicans to vote against the bill was Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.
 
"I voted no on the AHCA largely because it cuts Medicaid funding by $839 billion; undercuts essential health benefits such as maternity care, newborn care, hospitalization and pediatric services; includes 'per capita caps' and weakens coverage for pre-existing health conditions -- all of which will hurt disabled persons, especially and including children and adults with autism, the elderly and the working poor," Smith said in a May 4 statement.
 
Those opposing the bill cited reductions in coverage and cost increases. Those favoring the bill cited its pro-life provisions.
 
 "Today's House vote marks the beginning of the end of the shell game Planned Parenthood plays with public money. That the American Health Care Act limits Medicaid funds to entities that don't kill people is entirely appropriate, not to mention a step that's long overdue," said a May 4 statement by Father Frank Pavone, national president of Priests for Life.
 
"Abortion is not health care, and in light of that -- this bill provides Hyde (Amendment)-like protections and redirects funding away from America's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, to community health centers that offer comprehensive women's care, and already outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics by 20 to 1," said a May 4 statement by Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.
 
"Over 2 million Americans are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment. This new health care bill ensures that we are one step closer to getting the federal government entirely out of the business of subsidizing abortion," said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, in a May 4 statement.
 
"Protecting Medicaid is a priority for the faith community. The 'fixes' made to the AHCA do nothing to change the fact that millions of low-income Americans will lose their health coverage," said a May 4 statement by the Rev. David Beckmann, a Lutheran minister who is president of Bread for the World, the anti-hunger lobby. "Medical bills often drive families, especially those who struggle to make ends meet, into hunger and poverty."
 
"We support efforts to strengthen and stabilize our nation's health care system and extend insurance coverage and protections," said Arthur C. Evans Jr., CEO of the American Psychological Association. "However, the American Health Care Act is not the answer. Accordingly, we call on the Senate to reject the bill due to its projected adverse impact on the well-being of our nation, particularly on individuals with mental health, behavioral and substance use disorders."
 
  • Published in Nation
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