Bishop sees little improvement in Senate’s latest effort on health care

| July 13, 2017 | 3 Comments

The Senate Republicans’ latest effort to overhaul the Affordable Care Act is “unacceptable” and shows little improvement over the lawmakers’ first attempt to reform the federal health care law, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee.

“On an initial read, we do not see enough improvement to change our assessment that the proposal is unacceptable,” said Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“We recognize the incremental improvement in funding the fight against opioid addiction, for instance, but more is needed to honor our moral obligation to our brothers and sisters living in poverty and to ensure that essential protections for the unborn remain in the bill,” he said July 13.

Bishop Dewane said the USCCB “is reviewing carefully the health care bill introduced by Senate leadership earlier today.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, introduced the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act. The measure needs 50 votes to pass.

In his July 13 statement, Bishop Dewane referred back to his June 27 letter to senators that said any health care reform bill must uphold several moral principles: affordability; access for all; respect for life; and protection of conscience rights. The bishops also have stressed the need for U.S. health care policy “to improve real access” to health care for immigrants.

The U.S. Senate must reject any health care reform bill that will “fundamentally alter the social safety net for millions of people,” he said in the June letter. “Removing vital coverage for those most in need is not the answer to our nation’s health care problems, and doing so will not help us build toward the common good.”

Bishop Dewane also said in that letter the U.S. bishops valued the language in the earlier Senate bill that recognizes “abortion is not health care,” and that it at least partially succeeded on conscience rights. But he said it had to be strengthened to fully apply “the long-standing and widely supported Hyde Amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill.”

The June 27 letter reiterated points the U.S. bishops made in reaction to a June 22 draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Bishop Dewane had warned that the bill’s “restructuring of Medicaid will adversely impact those already in deep health poverty. At a time when tax cuts that would seem to benefit the wealthy and increases in other areas of federal spending, such as defense, are being contemplated, placing a ‘per capita cap’ on medical coverage for the poor is unconscionable.”

The revised GOP bill introduced July 13 retains big cuts in Medicaid funding and in subsidies for low- and moderate-income people. It also scales back the federal portion that covers the cost of Medicaid, leaving states to pay more and find new funding and/or reduce benefits and limit who can enroll in the program.

The measure provides for $45 billion in grants to help states combat abuse of opioids and other drugs; the first version allowed $2 billion. It also would let people use money from their tax-exempt health savings accounts to pay for insurance premiums.

In addition, people would be allowed to buy just a catastrophic health insurance policy to cover serious accidents and diseases, like cancer. Insurance companies also would be allowed to sell policies that do not include all the coverage mandated by the ACA, such as preventive care and mental and substance abuse treatment — as long as they sell one policy that includes those requirements.

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  • Charles C.

    Some generalizations. (They might be over-generalizations, but they seem to work more often than not.)

    1.) If an event boasts one or more “facilitators,” it’s not worth attending.

    2.) A group which begins with “demands” is not interested in solving a problem, they’re laying the groundwork for extortion.

    3.) Giving into extortionists is poor policy.

    4.) Remember that the only good thing that can come from ‘listening” to an angry emotional person or group is the provision of an opportunity to vent. If there’s a problem, wait however long it takes for the rational part of the brain to return before having a serious discussion or making any decisions.

    5.) Supporting law breakers is either ego-centered “virtue signalling,” fear and cowardice, or ignorance.

    6.) When a person or group doesn’t change when the facts change, “dialogue” will be fruitless.

    Again, these are generalizations, but it’s surprising how often they are valid.

    • The RCC used to speak out against Socialism. Now many bishops seem to be promoting Socialism.

      • Charles C.

        Perhaps the bishops are simply seeing some people in distress and want to help them quickly. Therefore they go to where the money is and demand more and more in order to give cash, goods, and services to people who don’t have as much. I suspect they won’t be happy until everyone has the same amount of whatever.

        Unfortunately, that creates dependence and flattens the human spirit. It is also a short term fix, it’s the “Give a man a fish . . .” problem.

        But most obviously, it doesn’t work. Since Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” we’ve spent $25 TRILLION on anti-poverty programs. That’s over $78,000 for every man, woman, and child currently living in the US, yet people are crying for more.

        If fighting poverty was the goal, we’d have faced reality and tried another solution by now. Sadly, I think there’s another goal.