Thursday, August 13, 2009

US Bishops on Health Care Reform

Things about health care that I think need to be addressed.

1 - What level of health care is a "right" and what level of health care is not?
We need to determine this before we move forward on reform. The Catechism says:
2288 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.

So, the US Bishops are teaching that "adequate health care" is a human right. What does this entail? For instance, these questions need to be answered clearly before the church should support any reform:
  • Does the government consider elective surgeries to be part of adequate health care?
  • Is preventative care part of adequate health care?
  • Are sex-change surgeries and other mutilations part of adequate health care?
  • Are contraception, abortion, in-vitro fertilization, and sterilization part of adequate health care?
  • Are euthanasia, assisted suicide, or starving/dehydrating an ill person part of adequate health care?
  • Does reform contain conscience exemptions for providers who do not want to perform acts that violate their conscience?
  • Are the vunerable, the poor, the marginalized all included?
The last five should be absolute non-starters for any Catholic in supporting health care reform. In other words, as a Church, we cannot support reform that includes any immoral practice or excludes those who need our assistance. The first two are open for debate (as are other questions), as Fr. Orsi has pointed out in his article (of which I agree with some of it and disagree with other parts).

2 - How is this funded?
I absolutely agree that health care pricing has gotten out of control. But, how much responsibility does the government have in taking over the health care system in trying to keep costs down? There are many mechanisms of helping control costs besides a government run medical system. The federal government has never efficiently run a major beaurocracy of this size, so how will it keep costs down without raising taxes astronomically?

3 - What other options are there and why are these not being debated?
The Catholic Bishops have a strong voice in the health care debate because of the Catholic health care system in this country. They should help take the lead in a dialogue of bringing people together. Archbishop Chaput has done another masterful job of drawing out themes that various camps can agree upon, including seeking "common ground" on health care. We cannot compromise on issues like abortion, but we should dialogue on negotiable issues.
He says:
The test of White House and congressional honesty about seeking “common ground” will be the details of the health care plan being worked on this summer and fall. The whole meaning of “health care” would be subverted by any plan that involves mandated abortion access or abortion funding. The reason is obvious. Killing or funding the killing of unborn children has nothing to do with promoting human health, and including these things in any “health care” proposal, no matter how shrewdly hidden, would simply be a form of lying.
His entire article is worth a close read for any Catholic truly open to discussing health care reform. It includes four points of emphasis that should be in any reform:
  • It should provide access to basic, quality health services for all persons, from conception to natural death, with a special concern for the poor, elderly and disabled, and the inclusion of legal immigrants;
  • It should protect the conscience rights of individuals and religious institutions;
  • It should exclude all so-called “services” that involve violence against the dignity of the human person, such abortion, physician-assisted suicide and their funding;
  • It should be economically realistic and sustainable, with costs spread equitably across all taxpayers.
Basic and "adequate" health care is a right, but not all of the different ways we can reform the system can be supported and others should and ought to be debated. We need to continue to educate ourselves and speak out against those who would force immoral practices onto a government mandated health care policy.

Let us pray to the divine physician to guide us all.
"When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet: "He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases."
- Matt 8:16-17

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