Issues for Catholic Voters (2012 edition) – Health Care
“Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good. Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance” (CCC 2288).
The issue of health care dominated the debate during the 2010 election. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), passed by Congress and signed by President Obama, attempts to provide universal care for American citizens long supported by the bishops.
Some people falsely assume that for health care to be universal it must be managed by the federal government. In fact, the bishops have never stipulated how universal health care – reasonable access for everyone to adequate health care – should be achieved. It could have been achieved by a combination of personal and corporate insurance coverage, supplemented by philanthropic and governmental programs.
But, the bishops did not support this legislation because it contains federal funding for abortion. In spite of this historic expansion of the abortion mandate, the majority of Catholic members of Congress voted for this legislation, many of them denying the very presence of the abortion funding their bishops publicly condemned.
Other Catholic leaders, including the Catholic Medical Association, questioned the impact of putting the nation’s health care under the supervision of the federal government. Their argument raised the principle of subsidiarity in connection with the loss of individual choice and the impact on the doctor-patient relationship.
The Protect Life Act has been introduced to strip the abortion mandate from the legislation and faces an initial vote in the House. This legislation has been strongly endorsed by the Catholic bishops and Catholic Advocate.
As Catholics, we are called to respect the dignity of people by helping “in the attainment of living conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity” (CCC 2288). Throughout this country’s history, Catholic hospitals—622 as of 2002—have steadfastly fulfilled this moral obligation to care for the sick. But faith-based medical services, along with publicly funded hospitals and clinics, are strained to take care of the uninsured.
Insured patients have been financially strained to meet the rising costs of health care. Most rely on their employee benefit plans, which are less expensive than private insurance policies. However, the costs are still high, and some companies are scaling back their benefit programs. Other companies and professions do not offer any benefits at all.
Another health-care issue that has surfaced in the PPACA is that of conscience protections. Following the passage of Roe v. Wade, Congress protected the rights of health organizations and providers to refuse to perform abortions under the conscientious objection principle. Today, this question is returning with a vengeance. Under President Obama, all conscience protections for health care personnel have been removed from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
In response, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011, was introduced by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R, NE-01) on March 17, 2011. It amends PPACA “to permit a health plan to decline coverage of specific items and services that are contrary to the religious beliefs of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan or the purchaser or beneficiary (in the case of individual coverage) without penalty.”
It also applies similar guidance to the state health insurance exchange programs and becomes retroactive to when PPACA was signed into law by President Obama as if the language was included.
In recent years, “reproductive rights” advocates have pushed for expanded health-care coverage that would force all employee health plans to include contraception and “emergency contraception.” The Catholic health-care ministry is based on the protection of life and preservation of the dignity of people. Procedures that are contrary to this mission (abortion, euthanasia, and contraception) cannot be provided by Catholic hospitals or supported by Catholic health-care plans.
As a result, many Catholic hospitals have lost their Catholic identity, gradually caving into the pressure to offer abortions, and some have been sold to secular medical conglomerates.
- Catholics should not be required to pay taxes that subsidize abortion coverage in a universal health care program.
- The good of achieving universal coverage does not outweigh the presence of abortion funding in Affordable Care Act.
- Health care needs should be met by a combination of personal and corporate insurance, philanthropy, and government programs.
- Catholic health care organizations must be free to perform their work with clear consciences.
By Deal Hudson, President of Catholic Advocate