Bishops: Senate health care bill must respect life, be 'truly affordable'


WASHINGTON (CNS) — Members of the U.S. Senate “have a
grave obligation” to make sure their health care reform bill respects
life, provides access to adequate health care “for all” and is
“truly affordable,” the chairmen of four U.S. bishops’ committees
said in a letter to senators released June 2.

As the
Senate takes up health care reform, it “must act decisively to remove the
harmful proposals from the House bill that will affect low-income people —
including immigrants — as well as add vital conscience protections, or begin
reform efforts anew,” the chairmen said, reiterating key moral principles
they urged be in the U.S. House bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.

By a
four-vote margin May 4, the House passed the American Health Care Act to
replace the Obama administration’s health care law.

Republicans have been urged to pass health care legislation before the congressional
recess at the end of July.

House passage of its measure, the U.S. bishops “noted the positive
aspects” of the bill, including “critical life protections” for
the unborn, the letter said, but the measure “contains many serious
flaws” the Senate must act to change, it added.

letter, dated June 1, was signed by New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan,
chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life
Activities; Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Ad Hoc
Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida,
chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice Chairman and Human Development; and
Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration.

troubling are unacceptable changes to Medicaid that reports indicate will leave
millions of additional people uninsured in the years ahead,” the letter

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,”
it continued. “Health care debates must not be reduced to only those
elements which appear most politically expedient; those without a strong voice
in the process must not bear the brunt of attempts to cut costs.”

letter said the U.S. bishops “stand ready to work with Congress” to
address problems with the current health care law “in ways that protect
the most vulnerable among us.”

It also
stressed that health care is “much more than mere insurance” and
should provide incentives for preventative care, early intervention and even encourage
people to enter medical professions which foster relationships between doctors
and patients.

bishops’ letter to the Senate reiterated many of the points raised in a March 8
letter to House members that said any repeal of the previous health care
legislation shouldn’t move forward without a replacement plan. They also urged
that such a plan should show respect for life, offer access for all, be truly
affordable and offer comprehensive and high quality coverage.

health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction
of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of
abortion,” the bishops wrote, adding that long-standing Hyde Amendment
protections must be included in any health care plan and that federal resources
should not be used to “assist consumers in the purchase of health care
plans that cover abortion.”

bishops said that if the Senate uses the American Health Care Act as its starting
point, they should “retain the positive elements of the bill and remedy
its grave deficiencies.” The bishops suggested the new plan keep protections
for the unborn; ensure affordable and adequate coverage for all stages of life; and increase
the level of tax assistance, especially for low-income and older people, in the measure’s
tax credit proposal.

also said a new plan should oppose significant penalties, which the poor cannot
afford, for gaps in coverage and add conscience protections.

letter urged senators to recognize their “grave obligation” to come
up with a fair health care plan. It included a quote from Pope Francis about
health care saying: “When a sick person is not placed at the center and
considered in their dignity, attitudes arise which can even lead to
profiteering on other people’s misfortunes. The growing health poverty among
the poorest segments of the population is due precisely to the difficulty of
access to care.”

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