By Anne Marie Amacher
BETTENDORF — Discussion about a faith-inspired vision of health care drew about 50 people to the St. Mary Chapel at St. John Vianney Parish on Sept. 6. Sister Pat Miller, CHM, and Vicki Felger, who have years of experience in nursing, facilitated the presentation and dialogue that followed.
Sr. Miller encouraged participants to read the lengthy health care law, officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (passed in 2010), and to visit various websites on the issue to get a better understanding.
She pointed out that some phases of the more than 1,000-page-long law have gone into effect and others are yet to come. “It takes time to implement something this big and it will take some tweaking along the way.”
Prior to passage of the health care act, an estimated 45 million people lacked health care coverage in the United States. That figure is down to 30 million today. “This is the first time there has been a national commitment for health care for all,” Sr. Miller said.
For people of faith, a health care system that is inclusive, accessible and affordable is part of the overall vision for society. Inclusive means that health care is a shared responsibility, grounded in a common humanity. Affordable means that individuals, families and society as a whole must be able to afford health care coverage because it contributes to the common good. Accessible means that all people have access to health services that provide necessary care and contribute to wellness. Accountable means that the health care system provides quality care that is equitable and sustainable and that helps individuals and the community as a whole in their efforts to be healthy, Sr. Miller said.
She also talked about various parts of the health care law that have taken effect or will take effect by 2014, when full implementation is expected. For example, young adults up to 26 years old may remain on their parents’ health care plans. Children younger than 19 years old can no longer be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. People cannot be dropped from their health insurance plans because they are sick. A lifetime cap on expenses has been lifted. Children’s health insurance plans have been enhanced. By 2014, insurance policies will cover mental health and other health-related concerns that have been optional in many plans.
Sr. Miller emphasized that many diseases can be prevented which, in turn, reduces health care costs. But having insurance coverage that provides for early diagnosis and treatment is essential. “You need to prevent or catch diseases earlier,” Felger said, which is why preventative care is a key part of the health care act.
“Everyone has to take ownership,” she added, and that begins when people take good care of themselves. But Christians also have an obligation to care for others, as the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel clearly states. The young and elderly are among those in need in this country, she said.
Following the presentation, Sr. Miller and Felger took questions and statements. One participant asked about Catholic organizations being forced to cover contraceptives under the new health care law. Sr. Miller said President Obama proposed an alternative solution concerning the contraception mandate. Catholic Church leaders did not find it acceptable, but both sides are still working on the issue together. “It has to be worked out,” she said.
Another participant asked about the law allowing coverage of abortions. Sr. Miller said the Hyde Amendment (which restricts federal funding for abortion) still holds. “Some may get around it, but it should not be covered under the new law because of Hyde.”
Statements the two presenters received touched on Medicaid, Medicare, single-payer systems, dental options for the future and other issues. Sr. Miller acknowledged at the end of the evening that the health care system is broken, but everyone must work together to fix it. She believes that the new health care law strives to do just that.