U.S. Bishops Chairman Reacts to Draft Senate Health Care Bill

Source: U.S. Bishops Chairman Reacts to Draft Senate Health Care Bill

WASHINGTON—After
the U.S. Senate introduced a “discussion draft” of its health care
bill, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S.
Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development,
highlighted certain positive elements in the bill, but reiterated the
need for Senators to remove unacceptable flaws in the legislation that
harm those most in need.

The full statement follows:

The
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is examining very closely
the new Senate “discussion draft” introduced today and will provide more
detailed comments soon.

It
must be made clear now, however, that this proposal retains many of the
fundamental defects of the House of Representatives-passed health care
legislation, and even further compounds them. It is precisely the
detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate
draft unacceptable as written.

An
acceptable health care system provides access to all, regardless of
their means, and at all stages of life. Such a health care system must
protect conscience rights, as well as extend to immigrant families.

The
Bishops value language in the legislation recognizing that abortion is
not health care by attempting to prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to
pay for abortion or plans that cover it. While questions remain about
the provisions and whether they will remain in the final bill, if
retained and effective this would correct a flaw in the Affordable Care
Act by fully applying the longstanding and widely-supported Hyde
amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be
included in the final bill.

However,
the discussion draft introduced today retains a “per-capita cap” on
Medicaid funding, and then connects yearly increases to formulas that
would provide even less to those in need than the House bill. These
changes will wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling
communities, and must not be supported.

Efforts
by the Senate to provide stronger support for those living at and above
the poverty line are a positive step forward. However, as is, the
discussion draft stands to cause disturbing damage to the human beings
served by the social safety net.

The
USCCB has also stressed the need to improve real access for immigrants
in health care policy, and this bill does not move the nation toward
this goal. It fails, as well, to put in place conscience protections
for all those involved in the health care system, protections which are
needed more than ever in our country’s health policy. The Senate should
now act to make changes to the draft that will protect those persons on
the peripheries of our health care system. We look forward to the
process to improve this discussion draft that surely must take place in
the days ahead.

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Keywords:
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane,
Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, American Health
Care Act (AHCA), respect for life, human dignity, health care,
affordability, abortion, poverty, immigration, conscience.

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Media Contact: Judy Keane202-541-3200