Bishops on Health Care Priorities for Catholics

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Bishop James D. Conley, of Denver, wrote recently on the remaining problems with health care reform as it is currently being proposed:

The bishops have a few simple but important priorities.

First, everyone should have access to basic health care, including immigrants. The Church would hope to see that access broadened as widely as possible. But at a minimum, it should include those immigrants who live and work in the United States legally. Second, reform should respect the dignity of every person, from conception to natural death. This means that the elderly and persons with disabilities must be treated with special care and sensitivity. It also means that abortion and abortion funding should be excluded from any reform plan, no matter how adroitly the abortion funding is masked. Whatever one thinks about its legality, abortion has nothing to do with advancing human “health,” and a large number of Americans regard it as a gravely wrong act of violence, not only against unborn children but also against women.

Third, real healthcare reform needs to include explicit, ironclad conscience protections for medical professionals and institutions so that they cannot be forced to violate their moral convictions. Fourth—and this is so obvious it sometimes goes unstated—any reform must be economically realistic and financially sustainable. We can’t help anyone, including ourselves, if we’re insolvent. If we commit ourselves to health services, then we need to have the will and the ability to really pay for them. That’s a moral issue, not simply a practical one.

Note that these priorities do not attack the constitutional status of abortion. That’s a different battle. Nor do they take anything away from people who regard themselves as pro-choice. But they do protect the rights of the many, many citizens who see abortion as tragic and evil, and refuse to be implicated in supporting it.

Given the broad Catholic support for some kind of comprehensive healthcare reform, the historic links of the Democratic Party to the Catholic community, and the party’s total control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, the reform legislation actually moving through Congress as I write these comments on November 5 is not only inadequate and baffling, but insulting and dangerous.

So should Catholics support health care reform as it is currently being proposed and pushed through congress?

With the exception of a few leaders, like Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak, Congress has ignored or rejected every attempt at resolving the serious concerns voiced by the bishops—or alternately, has pushed solutions like the Capps Amendment that do not solve the problems, and even create new ones. The White House has done nothing to intervene. “Common ground” thinking in Washington apparently has more reality as public relations than as public policy. And as a result, all of the main healthcare reform proposals in Congress, including the huge, 2,000-page merged House bill, are fatally flawed. Unless they are immediately and adequately amended, they need to be opposed and defeated.

The House just passed a bill over the weekend and did end up (were forced to in order to pass it) including restrictions on funding for abortion. So that was a very good thing. The bad part is that these other moral problems with the bill still exist. We still can’t pay for it (which is also morally wrong). It does contain a “public option” which is a very bad idea. And it’s just an all-around bad approach to improving health care in the long run (socializing our health care industry).

The good news is that there is no way this horrible bill will pass the Senate as it is. The bad news is that whatever the Senate comes up with probably won’t be all that much better. We’ll see.

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Chris November 9, 2009 at 12:19 pm

A nice four-point overview of the pertinent issues. Thanks for giving it priority.

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