Bishops: Changes to Health Law Should Prioritize Universal Availability
Letter to Congress: Any repeal of Affordable Care Act should not take place ‘without the concurrent passage of a replacement.’
WASHINGTON — Any changes to health care law under the new administration should not abandon the principal of genuinely affordable health care for everyone, said the U.S. bishops in a letter to Congress.
In American policy, they said, “we must not see health care as a luxury, but as a necessary building block to help individuals and families thrive and contribute to the good of the community and the nation.”
“We recognize that the law has brought about important gains in coverage, and those gains should be protected,” Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, said in a Jan. 18 letter to members of Congress.
He wrote in his role as chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
For the U.S. bishops, any repeal of key provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act should not take place “without the concurrent passage of a replacement plan that ensures access to adequate health care for the millions of people who now rely upon it for their well-being.”
President-elect Donald Trump, in a press conference last week, pressed for a speedy repeal of the health care legislation commonly known as Obamacare. He has also spoken of replacing the legislation with his own proposals that promise “insurance for everybody” and “much lower deductibles,” CNN reports.
However, some congressional Republicans have voiced concern about any vote that would end major parts of the 2010 law that covers 20 million people without providing an alternative, creating widespread disruptions.
The U.S. bishops emphasized that health care reform “should be truly universal, and it should be genuinely affordable.”
“Every person is made in the image of God and possesses inherent dignity,” Bishop Dewane’s letter said. “A just community strives to see and address the needs of those who struggle on its margins, and each segment of society is called to build toward a common good that creates and maintains conditions aimed at true human flourishing.”
He cited Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris, which spoke of the right to life and the right “to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest and, finally, the necessary social services.”
Pope Francis echoed these words in May 7, 2016, remarks to a doctors’ group: “Health, indeed, is not a consumer good, but a universal right, which means that access to health care services cannot be a privilege.”
The bishops’ letter to Congress noted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ support for the general goal of the 2010 health care law, but added that the conference in the end opposed its passage “because it expanded the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion, and it failed to provide essential conscience protections and access to health care for immigrants.”
“We remain committed to the ideals of universal and affordable health care and to the pursuit of those ideals in a manner that includes protections for human life, conscience and immigrants,” the letter concluded. “We urge you to approach the important debates in the days ahead seeking also to honor these principles for the good of all.”