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#329882 - 08/13/09 12:57 PM Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform  
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Erie Byz Offline
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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has developed a series of questions and answers regarding the Catholic Church and the ongoing national debate over health care reform.


Q. The Catholic bishops support health care reform. What are the bishops’ key criteria for health care reform?

A. The bishops have been consistent advocates for comprehensive, life-affirming reform to the nation’s health care system. Health care reform needs to reflect basic moral principles. The bishops believe access to basic, quality health care is a universal human right not a privilege. In this light they offer four criteria to guide the process:

1. A truly universal health policy that respects all human life and dignity, from conception to natural death
2. Access for all with a special concern for the poor and inclusion of legal immigrants
3. Pursuing the common good and preserving pluralism including freedom of conscience and variety of options
4. Restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of payers.

Q. Why are the bishops so vocal about health care reform?

One out of three Americans under the age of 65 went without health insurance for some period of time during 2007 and 2008. Of these, four out of five were from working families. Sixty-four percent of the uninsured are employed full time, year round. This state of affairs is unacceptable. In the Catholic tradition, health care is a basic human right not a privilege. It is a fundamental issue of human life and dignity.

Q. Are the bishops trying to promote an anti-abortion agenda through health care reform?

No. The bishops will continue to fight against the evil of abortion by all means available. But they have not demanded that urgently needed health care reform become a vehicle for advancing the pro-life cause, and they likewise believe it should not be used to advance the cause of abortion. In this sense, the bishops have asked that health care reform be “abortion neutral,” this is, that existing laws and policies with regard to abortion and abortion funding be preserved, allowing health care reform to move forward and serve its legitimate goals.

Q. Why are the bishops insistent that health care reform be “abortion neutral”?

Abortion advocacy groups are trying to use health care reform to advance their agenda by having Congress or a federal official establish abortion as a “basic” or “essential” health benefit, guaranteeing “access” nationwide and requiring Americans to subsidize abortion with their tax dollars or insurance premiums. This would reverse a tradition of federal laws and policies that have barred federal funding and promotion of abortion in all major health programs for over three decades (e.g., the Hyde amendment, 1976), and have respected the right of health care providers to decline involvement in abortion or abortion referrals.

This agenda would also endanger or render irrelevant numerous local and state laws regulating abortion. The bishops cannot, in good conscience, let such an important and pressing issue as health care reform be hijacked by the abortion agenda. No health care reform plan should compel anyone to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion. Any such action would be morally wrong and politically unwise.

Q. Are the bishops promoting socialized medicine by advocating for universal access?

All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage in life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born. There may be different ways to accomplish this, but the Bishops’ Conference believes health care reform should be truly universal and genuinely affordable.

Q. Health care is already expensive. Why advocate for legal immigrants to be covered too?

Legal immigrants pay taxes and contribute to the U.S. economy and social life in the same manner as U.S. citizens do. Therefore, there should be equity for legal immigrants in access to health care. In the Catholic tradition, health care is a basic human right, like education, and having access to it should not depend on where you were born.

Achieving equality in this case, for instance, means repealing the five-year ban currently in effect for legal immigrants to access Medicaid, and ensuring that all pregnant women in the United States, who will be giving birth to U.S. citizens, are eligible along with their unborn children for health care.

Q. What kind of actions do the bishops recommend to make quality health care accessible for all and genuinely affordable?

Many lower income families simply lack the resources to meet their health care expenses. For these families, significant premiums and cost-sharing charges can serve as barriers to obtaining coverage or seeing a doctor. Medicaid cost-sharing protections should be maintained and new coverage options should protect the lowest income enrollees from burdensome cost sharing. The bishops have urged Congress to limit premiums or exempt families earning less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level from monthly premiums; they also recommend limiting co-payments and other costs which could discourage needed care, and increasing eligibility levels for Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). They have urged Congress to provide states with resources to expand coverage and ensure sufficient funding for safety net clinics, hospitals and other providers serving those who will continue to fall through the cracks even after the system is reformed.


United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
August 2009

#329884 - 08/13/09 01:12 PM Re: Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform [Re: Erie Byz]  
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Gosh, but they are so clueless.

#329887 - 08/13/09 01:57 PM Re: Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform [Re: StuartK]  
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I would suspect that they have enough of a clue, as this point runs runs counter to the current house bill: "A truly universal health policy that respects all human life and dignity, from conception to natural death".

A vote of "Nay" on that bill will be justified on that point alone.

Terry

#329889 - 08/13/09 01:58 PM Re: Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform [Re: StuartK]  
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I would suspect that they have enough of a clue, as this point runs runs counter to the current house bill: "A truly universal health policy that respects all human life and dignity, from conception to natural death".

A vote of "Nay" on that bill will be justified on that point alone.

Terry

#329896 - 08/13/09 03:38 PM Re: Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform [Re: Terry Bohannon]  
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I would disagree that "the bishops are so clueless". It is part of the social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that health care is a right, and that it is the responsibility of the state to secure the common good (part of which includes access to affordable health care). Now this does not mean that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the the responsibility for the common good falls to the state alone (on the contrary, she teaches that everyone is responsible for contributing to the common good. Furthermore, the Church's teachings that health care is a right, that universal access to health care is an aspect of securing the common good, and that the state has an obligation to secure the common good does not equate with an obligation for the state to provide umiversal, taxpa yer funded health care. Actually, iirc, the Church teaches that the "regular" manner in which an individual secures his right of access to health care is through compensation earned by working. Given that there are problems with access to health care (perhaps not to the extent that certain politicians would have us believe), it seems entirely consistent with their role as teachers of the Church that the bishops would call for reform of the health care delivery system, provided that they don't begin demanding or advocating for one particular system. For the bishops to begin to demand one particular solution would seem to go beyond their role as teachers of the Church and would involve their taking upon themselves a role that the Church teaches rightly falls to the laity.

Ryan

#329899 - 08/13/09 04:32 PM Re: Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform [Re: Athanasius The L]  
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Originally Posted by Athanasius The L
I would disagree that "the bishops are so clueless". It is part of the social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that health care is a right, and that it is the responsibility of the state to secure the common good (part of which includes access to affordable health care).

Actually, no. The Church teaches that Christians are responsible to care for those in need. It does not teach that the State has to provide health care as a right. That is equivalent to teaching that the Church teaches socialism. I agree that some bishops get this wrong, and that very likely comes from the Church ceding to the State much of the obligation that belongs to the Church.

Health insurance is not a right. No one has the right to demand cradle-to-grave health care from the State. The obligation of Christians to care for those in need is something entirely different.

Originally Posted by Athanasius The L
Furthermore, the Church's teachings that health care is a right, that universal access to health care is an aspect of securing the common good, and that the state has an obligation to secure the common good does not equate with an obligation for the state to provide universal, taxpayer funded health care.

"Universal access" can be limited to an equal playing field. Just as the State must guarantee but not pay for our freedom of speech so, too, must it guarantee our equal access to insurance but not pay for it. Americans may choose to use taxes to care for those in need but there is absolutely no moral obligation for the government to be involved in health care delivery. I agree with the final portion of Ryan's sentence quoted above but not the first part.

Originally Posted by Athanasius The L
Actually, iirc, the Church teaches that the "regular" manner in which an individual secures his right of access to health care is through compensation earned by working.

A model like that used in auto insurance would be reasonable. The individual pays most day-to-day costs and relies on insurance to pay for the big stuff, and can purchase insurance that costs less and covers less (say, major doctor bills, hospital stays and surgery) or covers more (everything and every doctor bill and drug). Employers need not actually be involved. It is government regulations that make the purchase of individual coverage too high for many to afford apart from their employer's group rates.

Originally Posted by Athanasius The L
Given that there are problems with access to health care (perhaps not to the extent that certain politicians would have us believe), it seems entirely consistent with their role as teachers of the Church that the bishops would call for reform of the health care delivery system, provided that they don't begin demanding or advocating for one particular system.

Stated reasonably and well.

Originally Posted by Athanasius The L
For the bishops to begin to demand one particular solution would seem to go beyond their role as teachers of the Church and would involve their taking upon themselves a role that the Church teaches rightly falls to the laity.

But they are often clueless and simply follow liberal politics. Learn from the past. In the 1980s they were condemning America for having a strong defense and President Reagen working with Pope John Paul II (providing information) while our fellow Christians were being murdered in the Soviet gulags. They are majorly guilty of "group think" and falling in with the political correctness of Washington. I've recently contacted the bishop in charge of environmental affairs. He busy the global warming lie lock, stock and barrel. He had no interest in science.

We are now at the point where almost half of Americans receive a wealth transfer from other Americans. Government takeover of health care will increase that quite a bit. Such a redistribution of wealth is unsustainable in the long term, and Obama's promise of being about to triple the number of people on Medicare/Medicaid while cutting the cost of Medicare/Medicaid in half is a out and out lie unless there is rationing. Telling old people they will not get that cancer treatment but instead get only pain medication is not acceptable or moral. And yet the good bishops seem to not be vocal about these things.

#329905 - 08/13/09 06:14 PM Re: Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform [Re: Administrator]  
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Originally Posted by Administrator
Originally Posted by Athanasius The L
I would disagree that "the bishops are so clueless". It is part of the social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that health care is a right, and that it is the responsibility of the state to secure the common good (part of which includes access to affordable health care).

Actually, no.


Actually, the Catholic Church does indeed teach that medical care is a right.

"We see that every man has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means which are suitable for the proper development of life; these are primarily food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and finally the necessary social services."

--John XXIII, Pacem in Terris

#329907 - 08/13/09 06:28 PM Re: Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform [Re: Athanasius The L]  
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Actually, the Catholic Church does indeed teach that medical care is a right.

And who is going to provide this "right"? Does "medical care" float down from the sky like manna from heaven? Do doctors and medicine grow on trees? Can the Church will "health care" into existence?

Since it cannot do so, the Church cannot demand that such things be provided, but can only exhort Christians to provide for those in need. Saints Cosmas and Damian, the Unmercenary Physicians, did not demand that the state pay their salaries--they provided medical care for their patients gratis. They did this of their own free will. The Church seems, in some of its public pronouncements, to think it can demand similar behavior from doctors, nurses, pharmacists and all the scientists who creativity goes into modern medical miracles. History speaks to this approach--it doesn't work. Where it has been tried, it has failed miserably, because people expect to be adequately rewarded for their effort--and making a career in the medical professions takes enormous time, money and industry.

The same could go for the other "rights" that John XXIII enumerated in Pacem in Terris. These things do not provide themselves, they are provided by industrious, creative people who work hard and deserve to be compensated for their work. Whenever it is implied that the government must provide these things, the net result is always a decline in the standard of living, and mostly for those who are the most needy among us.

The Church should stay away from policy prescriptions--that is not its competency, and whenever the Church has become prescriptive, the results have been less than edifying. Usually, Church leaders come off at best as naive, and at worst as economic, political and social illiterates.

The Church should exhort and encourage, through the processes of metanoia and theosis, its members and all mankind to live more fully in Christ and to voluntarily share their gifts for the benefit of those in need; this is best done by emphasizing the need to live liturgically every hour of every day (the "liturgy after the Liturgy"). But whenever it begins to use "rights talk", it invariably slouches into the kind of sloppy social justice theory that posits utopian ends unconstrained by limited physical means. The Church, of all institutions, should recognize the imperfectibility of human nature by human means. it should therefore set an example itself for others to emulate, rather than demand of others what it does not demonstrate itself.

#329908 - 08/13/09 06:29 PM Re: Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform [Re: Athanasius The L]  
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Originally Posted by Athanasius The L
Originally Posted by Administrator
Originally Posted by Athanasius The L
I would disagree that "the bishops are so clueless". It is part of the social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that health care is a right, and that it is the responsibility of the state to secure the common good (part of which includes access to affordable health care).

Actually, no.

Actually, the Catholic Church does indeed teach that medical care is a right.

"We see that every man has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means which are suitable for the proper development of life; these are primarily food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and finally the necessary social services."

--John XXIII, Pacem in Terris

No. No mention there of the State. Pope John Paul II was not endorsing socialism. There is no responsibility of the State to guarantee a cradle-to-grave supply of food, your clothing, your shelter, how much rest you take, your medical care, or your social services. The State should not be involved in providing anything of these things. The right here is one of access, not one of providing at the cost to others. This is like our right to freedom of speech or religion. The State has the obligation to protect our rights but not obligation to (for example) pay for the soapbox we might speak from, control or supply the foods we eat, control or supply our clothing, shelter, rest periods, medical care and/or social services. The obligation to care for those in need for the listed items is one assigned by the Lord to Christians. He did not assign this obligation to the State. Americans (or people of any nation) may choose to use the government to use their tax money to help those in need, but this is to be seen as merely the use of the State as a method to care for those in need.

#329910 - 08/13/09 07:01 PM Re: Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform [Re: Administrator]  
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Originally Posted by Administrator



Originally Posted by Athanasius The L
Furthermore, the Church's teachings that health care is a right, that universal access to health care is an aspect of securing the common good, and that the state has an obligation to secure the common good does not equate with an obligation for the state to provide universal, taxpayer funded health care.

"Universal access" can be limited to an equal playing field. Just as the State must guarantee but not pay for our freedom of speech so, too, must it guarantee our equal access to insurance but not pay for it. Americans may choose to use taxes to care for those in need but there is absolutely no moral obligation for the government to be involved in health care delivery. I agree with the final portion of Ryan's sentence quoted above but not the first part.


I'll restate it, slightly.

The Church's teachings that health care is a right, that health care is an aspect of the common good, and that the state, together with all individual persons, has an obligation to secure the common good does not equate with an obligation for the state to provide universal, taxpayer funded health care.

I stand by my assertion that the Church teaches that health care is a right (see Pacem in Terris, 11, as well as The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2211, which makes explicit the duty of the state to secure the right to medical care); I stand by my assertion that the Catholic Church teaches that access to health care is an aspect of the common good (see Gaudium et Spes, 26, 84 ); I also stand by my assertion that the state has an obligation to secure the common good (see Pacem in Terris, 54). In saying all this, I am not asserting that the state must fulfill this obligation to secure both the basic human right to medical and the common good exactly by funding universal, cradle-to-grave health care.

Ryan

#329911 - 08/13/09 07:02 PM Re: Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform [Re: Administrator]  
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John,

You're arguing with things I'm not asserting. My position that the state has responsibility to secure the common good is in accordance with and based upon Catholic social teaching. However, in saying "responsibility to secure the common good," I am not necessarily equating it with "has the responsibility to pay for the cost of providing the common good."

Ryan

#329912 - 08/13/09 07:16 PM Re: Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform [Re: Athanasius The L]  
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I stand by my assertion that the Church teaches that health care is a right

So what if it does? Rights come from God, and therefore it is implicitly assumed that this right is freely available. But health care is not like justice, a matter of procedure, but is a good that is provided through skilled practitioners. If nobody wants to be a doctor, a nurse, a biochemist, a medical technician, a pharmacologist, etc., then how can the Church insist that this good be provided? Will it force people to practice medicine? Will it form its own med schools, its own clinics and hospitals (it does that, but not for free), and then service everybody who wants health care free of charge? This can certainly be done in theory, though I think even the most starry-eyed idealist recognizes that the standard of care available to all will be uniformly poor.

This is what happens when the Church talks about "rights" extending beyond the Big Three of the Declaration of Independence. Once you declare that "adequate" health care is a right, who defines "adequate"? Once you define housing as a right, who defines "adequate"? Once you define clothing, or rest, or "necessary social services" (who thought up that one?), who defines, who decides, and who provides? Because of the way in which social goods are defined as rights, it is far too easy (as the USCCB proves time and again) to devolve everything to the state, and letting the principle of subsidiarity go by the board.

Government is, at the end of the day, about accumulating and exercising power--about killing people and breaking things. Over the course of several millennia, government has not proven very good at doing anything else.

#329914 - 08/13/09 07:42 PM Re: Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform [Re: Athanasius The L]  
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Originally Posted by Athanasius The L
John,

You're arguing with things I'm not asserting. My position that the state has responsibility to secure the common good is in accordance with and based upon Catholic social teaching. However, in saying "responsibility to secure the common good," I am not necessarily equating it with "has the responsibility to pay for the cost of providing the common good."

Ryan

Ryan,

I'm not always disagreeing with you. I just want to be sure no one walks away thinking the Church teaches that health care is a right that must be provided by the State. I get a decent amount of e-mail on hot topics at the website and always want to make sure the Church's teaching is presented clearly.

I can also appreciate Stuart's post. My only complaint there is sometimes people will read the first line "health care is a right" and assume the State must provide it (they won't read the rest of his post).

In both cases I'll try to make clearer that I am amplifying and not always rejecting what I am quoting.

John

#329915 - 08/13/09 07:47 PM Re: Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform [Re: Administrator]  
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John:

Thank you for clarifying that.

Ryan

#329916 - 08/13/09 07:48 PM Re: Q&A from US Bishops on Health Care Reform [Re: Athanasius The L]  
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Originally Posted by Athanasius The L
I stand by my assertion that the Church teaches that health care is a right (see Pacem in Terris, 11, as well as The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2211, which makes explicit the duty of the state to secure the right to medical care); I stand by my assertion that the Catholic Church teaches that access to health care is an aspect of the common good (see Gaudium et Spes, 26, 84 ); I also stand by my assertion that the state has an obligation to secure the common good (see Pacem in Terris, 54).

To clarify what I hope Ryan is saying, "securing the right to medical care" is about securing the right to access medical care. The State could simply secure provide (guarantee) equal access but not pay a cent towards it. Americans could choose to use the taxes they pay to be distributed to the needy to pay for the medical care (and food for those who are hungry, etc.). Or they could choose to keep the government entirely out of it and choose a church or other private social organization to distribute such care.

Originally Posted by Athanasius The L
In saying all this, I am not asserting that the state must fulfill this obligation to secure both the basic human right to medical and the common good exactly by funding universal, cradle-to-grave health care.

Here's how I might rephrase that to make it clearer to my ears:

In saying all this, I asserting that the state must fulfill this obligation to secure both the basic human right to [equal] access to medical and the common good. I am not asserting that this be done or need to be done by funding through the State universal, cradle-to-grave health care, or any health care at all.

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