Bishops: Loss of affordable health care under GOP plan 'simply unacceptable'

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The
nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, in its analysis of the Senate health
care bill, said late June 26 the measure would leave 22 million more people
without insurance.

“This moment cannot pass
without comment,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman
of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and
Human Development.

“Today, the Congressional
Budget Office released a report on the ‘discussion draft’ of the Senate health
care proposal, indicating that millions of people could lose their health
insurance over time,” he said in a statement issued in response to the
just-released analysis.

“As the USCCB has consistently
said, the loss of affordable access for millions of people is simply
unacceptable,” the bishop said, noting he would continue to study the full
CBO report. “These are real families who need and deserve health care.”

He added, “We pray that the
Senate will work in an open and unified way to keep the good aspects of current
health care proposals, to add missing elements where needed, and to not place
our sisters and brothers who struggle every day into so great a peril on so
basic a right.”

The Senate released its health
care reform bill — called the Better Care Reconciliation Act — in
“discussion draft” form June 22.

In a statement the same day, Bishop
Dewane said the Senate version contains “many of the fundamental
defects” that appeared in the House-passed American Health Care Act
“and even further compounds them.”

“As is, the discussion
draft stands to cause disturbing damage to the human beings served by the
social safety net,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is precisely the
detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft
unacceptable as written.”

One part of the bill cuts the
federal government’s share of funding for Medicaid to 57 percent of its cost
over the next seven years. States have picked up the balance of the funding to
date.

Under the Affordable Care Act,
the government had guaranteed that its funding for adults newly eligible for
Medicaid would fall to no lower than 90 percent of their costs. Many states
expanded Medicaid coverage for all adults ages 18-65 with incomes up to 133
percent of the federal poverty level.

Bishop Dewane criticized the
“per-capita cap” on Medicaid funding, which would no longer be an
entitlement but have its own budget line item under the Better Care
Reconciliation Act. The effect, he said, “would provide even less to those
in need than the House bill. These changes will wreak havoc on low-income
families and struggling communities, and must not be supported.”

He indicated the Better Care
Reconciliation Act at least partially succeeds on conscience rights by
“fully applying the long-standing and widely supported Hyde Amendment
protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the
final bill.”

However, the bishops “also
stressed the need to improve real access for immigrants in health care policy,
and this bill does not move the nation toward this goal,” Bishop Dewane
said in his June 22 statement.

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