The Catholic Medical Association has made a vital contribution to the national debate over health-care reform, by publishing an open letter from its president, Dr. Louis Breschi, articulating its position on the matter.

In summary: The CMA recognizes the need to reform the current system to improve access for those without adequate health insurance and to better deliver services and control costs, but it rejects the government-driven model being pushed by President Barack Obama and his congressional allies.

Why? Because this model violates the Catholic social principle of subsidiarity and relies on the flawed premise that government has the ability to manage the nation’s health-care system effectively. Moreover, it opens the door to further institutionalization of the anti-life policies that have been promoted by Obama since he assumed power in January.

According to the CMA, a better approach is to pass legislation to remove the tax incentives in favor of employer-based health insurance and reassign the tax break to individuals to empower them to select from a wider range of competing plans that will best meet their needs. And to help those lacking sufficient financial resources to purchase adequate insurance coverage, Congress should tailor specific programs to address their problems.

The letter states,

In conclusion, we call upon all Catholics and Catholic organizations to reaffirm their support for the foundational ethical and social teachings of the Church which provide a framework for authentic health care reform, and to unite as one in an uncompromising commitment to defend the sanctity of life and the conscience rights of all providers as essential parts of health-care reform. And we also respectfully urge all Catholics and Catholic organizations to place a greater emphasis on respecting the principle of subsidiarity across the spectrum of issues in health-care financing and delivery during the coming legislative debates. Experience indicates that medical decisions are best made within the personal context of the individual patient-physician relationship rather than within some remote, impersonal, and bureaucratic agency, whether governmental or corporate. We are convinced that if this important principle of Catholic social teaching is not correctly upheld, then short-term measures to defend the right to life and respect for conscience will ultimately fail and the patient-physician relationship will be irreparably compromised.

We noted above that we face not only a crisis in health-care financing and delivery, but a crisis in the current legislative process. We must ensure that well-intentioned efforts to bring about “change” are not exploited to create a federally controlled system that promises health care for all, but creates an oppressive bureaucracy hostile to human life and to the integrity of the patient-physician relationship. It would be better to forgo long-needed changes in health-care financing and delivery in the short-term if these would lead to a long-term, systemic policy regime that is inimical to respect for life, religious freedom, and the goods served by the principle of subsidiarity. Rather than accept such an outcome, we should take the time required to implement reform measures that are sound in both principled and practical terms.