Health care prescription? Regroup, cooperate, Catholic health leaders say

| Carol Zimmermann | July 18, 2017 | 3 Comments

After efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act collapsed late July 17 in the U.S. Senate, Catholic health care leaders said they hope Congress will work together, in small steps, to fix flaws in the current legislation.

The bill lost ground when two Republican senators announced their opposition to it, joining two other senators who opposed the bill and leaving Republican leaders at least two votes short of the 50 needed to start debate on the measure.

Four days earlier, Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said in a statement that the measure, a revision of an earlier draft, still it did not have “enough improvement to change our assessment that the proposal is unacceptable.”

“The Catholic Health Association is pleased that the bill in the Senate will not go forward,” said Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, who is president and CEO of the association, adding: “It would have had incredibly negative consequences for so many Americans.”

Dr. Steven White, a pulmonary specialist in Ormond Beach, Florida, and chairman of the Catholic Medical Association Health Care Policy Committee, said that because of the complexity of the heath care legislation, he would hope people would see what happened — when the Senate failed to secure the necessary votes for the health care repeal — as a setback not a failure.

In his July 13 statement about the Senate bill, Bishop Dewane also referred 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.

In a July 18 statement, Sister Keehan said Congress can “now turn a page and open a new chapter” stressing that the country deserves a health care bill that gives quality and affordable health care to everyone.

The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate bill would leave 18 million more people uninsured within a year, and 32 million fewer people would have coverage in 2026, compared with the number of those insured under the current law. Health insurance premiums also would increase by at least 20 percent within the first year and would likely double by 2026.

The bill would have done away with the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid and subsidies for the purchase of private insurance, but it would have left in place requirements prohibiting insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums because of a pre-existing medical condition.

Sister Keehan, who was consulted on the initial Affordable Care Act legislation, said moving forward will require bipartisan efforts and broad consultation. “There is the competence and resources to do this if we work together. Health is too critical to be allowed to be a partisan issue,” she said, adding that CHA “stands ready to work with all members of Congress to achieve this.”

The woman religious, who is a nurse and heads an organization of more than 600 hospitals and 1,400 long-term care and other health facilities in the United States, also said her organization would “definitely not support a bill that repeals but delays replacement” of the Affordable Care Act because it would create “incredible uncertainty.”

“Health care is too critical to put at that much risk,” she added.

White told Catholic News Service July 18 that members of Congress need to “get together and view in incremental steps what they can do” acknowledging that fixing flaws in the Affordable Care Act “can’t all be done at once.”

He said one aspect of the reform efforts — Medicaid cuts — is not fully understood. As he sees it, the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA is currently hurting state budgets, so some type of reform is necessary.

He also stressed that any future health care legislation that comes before Congress must include conscience protections that he said are “absolutely essential.”

Three days before the Senate plan was stopped in its tracks, Sister Keehan said she hoped more senators would take a stand against the proposed legislation. The next step would be for “Democrats and Republicans to show they can be statesmen and women and come together — not gloating or finding fault but looking to stabilize the Affordable Care Act for now and to look at what might be better in the future.”

On the Senate floor July 18, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said: “I regret that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failures of Obamacare will not be successful. That doesn’t mean we should give up. We will now try a different way to bring the American people relief from Obamacare. I think we owe them at least that much.”

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  • Charles C.

    And once again? This is the fifth nearly identical article on the subject in the last three and a half weeks.

    “American Bishops Declare Health Care Plan Unacceptable.”

    The articles don’t mention that Obamacare failed each of the four tests the bishops now require to be passed in order that the plan be called acceptable. Yet, they didn’t condemn Obamacare.

    Of the states that have tried to establish a “cover everybody” healthcare plan, even at the state level, none have been able to because of the cost, among other problems.

    The Obamacare marketing co-ops are closing because of the increased costs. Nineteen of the twenty-three co-ops have shut down, only four remain. The federal government has lost well over $1.7 Billion in those exchanges. Oh, and there are still 22 million uninsured Americans between the ages of 20 and 64.

    Even if we steal enough money from our citizens to pay for full medical care for all, and I’m not sure we can and remain solvent, who will provide it? The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that:

    “A 2017 study conducted for the AAMC by IHS Inc., predicts that the United States
    will face a shortage of between 40,800-104,900 physicians by 2030. There will be shortages in both primary and specialty care, and specialty shortages will be particularly large.”

    That seems like a long time away, 13 years. But how long does it take to train a doctor, especially a specialist?

    The bishops are asking for a plan that will give full pro-life protection and freedom of conscience protections. Everybody, except the bishops, knows that would never receive Democrat approval, regardless of any other provisions.

    The bishops are asking for a federal government plan which will cover everyone who happens to be inside our borders at a cost which everyone can afford. Everybody, except the bishops, knows that isn’t practical without accepting massive tax increases, declines in quality of care and reduced access.

    And, like all of the other articles, there is still no suggested solution from the bishops. I mean, a feasible solution. “Cooperate?” You’re kidding, right? Who do you want to modify their demands? Who do you want to concede on their principles and goals? The Democrats haven’t presented a plan, and they certainly won’t accept one with pro-life and conscience protections.

  • Charles C.

    Here’s a thought provoking article written by Ted Noel, M.D.

    Some excerpts:

    “When Charlie Gard entered Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, England’s
    single-payer health system, the National Health Service, took over. At first, it seemed that this was a good thing, since his parents didn’t have to pay extra for his care. But they didn’t have a choice. They weren’t in the small minority who are either wealthy enough or favorably employed to access private insurance. So Charlie was swallowed by the Blob.

    “Thus far, there didn’t seem to be any difference between single-payer and private insurance. Both start with the same level of medical care. But shortly, the differences became manifest. When Charlie’s rare diagnosis became clear (only 16 known cases), the NHS refused to allow any sort of alternative approach.

    “After first contact with a doctor who might be able to help, Charlie’s parents set up a crowdfunding page and raised £1.3 million (about $1.7 million). That’s enough for any conceivable therapy. All the NHS had to do was say, “Yes.” Instead, the NHS asserted its ownership of Charlie, and multiple courts agreed. The hospital got
    court orders to discontinue life support.

    “When Charlie Gard came through that Emergency Department door, the NHS took
    ownership of him. It’s a classic case of the Golden Rule: ‘He who has the gold makes the rules.’ (Apologies to Saint Matthew.) In essence, the NHS said that since it is paying the freight, Charlie is now the property of the State. His parents were involuntarily dispossessed of their son. The NHS stole him by force of law. Parental rights inherent in natural law were ‘stripped away by strangers.’

    “Even at this late date, with doctors and world leaders lining up to volunteer help for Charlie, the NHS still acts on the basis that it owns the child. His parents were not allowed to appeal. Only the hospital had that right.

    “This conceit is at the center of the single-payer controversy, but no one is willing to actually argue it. If it were debated, it would show that the “payment” idea is a diversion. Instead, single-payer advocates have taken the position that the State owns its citizens.

    “Right now, I have been forced into Medicare. I don’t like it, and I would happily take an alternative, but legally, I cannot. Further, if Medicare declares that I can’t have a particular treatment, I can’t even buy it for myself. That’s exactly the same situation Charlie Gard’s parents are in. The federal government owns me through Medicare.

    “My only alternative is to go out of the country for unauthorized care, or to find a cash-only doctor who does not accept Medicare. And how many of those are there?”

  • Charles C.

    Finally, the truth behind the claim that millions of Americans would lose coverage. Look towards the CBO and the individual mandate, that portion of Obamacare which requires people to sign up for insurance.

    “[V]irtually every person who would allegedly be “stripped” of coverage under the GOP plan would either be making a conscious choice of their own volition, or currently does not have coverage (but supposedly would in the future).”

    How can this be? In December the CBO reported on what would happen if the only change to Obamacare was the repeal of the individual mandate. There conclusion was that 16 million Americans would choose not to take the coverage. That’s three-quarters of the lost coverage figure all by itself.

    But what about the other six million poor souls?

    “Three years ago, CBO anticipated that Obamacare would enroll 24 million consumers on the exchanges this year. Last year, that estimate had fallen to 15 million. The real number? 10.3 million and falling, quite likely dipping to around nine million by the end of this year. That’s a six million person misfire that’s built into CBO’s analysis of the GOP bills.”

    Yet the CBO is still using the 15 million enrollees estimate in spite of reality.

    Perhaps The Catholic Spirit or a bishop of the Archdiocese will bring these facts to the attention of the USCCB, which will then revise it’s position on the new healthcare proposals. (Well, I can dream, can’t I?)