Think about your circle of family and friends and their health care needs: your daughter who just gave birth; your spouse with high blood pressure; your son who broke his leg during a baseball game; your niece who’s been hospitalized for depression; your mother, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease; your friend’s son with autism. This is the face of healthcare. It is all of us!
Imagine how you would finance the bill for your son’s leg surgery without health insurance. Or pay for your spouse’s blood pressure medicine. If your daughter didn’t have health insurance, what financial resources would she tap to pay for delivery of her baby in the hospital?
Our health care coverage is now in the hands of the U.S. Senate. We cannot allow congressional impatience to reinvent healthcare to jeopardize the well-being of our loved ones or anyone else in this country. Our church teaches that quality, affordable health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity. Certainly, people of goodwill may respectfully disagree about how to achieve quality, affordable health care. But we have a responsibility to compromise so that this basic right is attained by everyone, most especially the least among us.
So where do we start? Here’s a proposed template, drawn from statements on the websites of the Iowa Catholic Conference, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and media reports on the potential impact of the U.S. House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA):
• Provide access to quality, readily accessible, affordable, life-giving health care for all Americans, including immigrants and their children.
• Support state initiatives that would make health care more readily available to all.
• Give extra consideration for pre-existing conditions.
• Don’t allow states to waive minimum benefit standards and rules that prevent insurance companies from charging higher prices to customers with pre-existing illnesses.
• Examine the high cost of prescription drugs.
• Retain longstanding requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions.
• Prohibit euthanasia and assisted suicide.
• Don’t roll back the expansion of Medicaid, which has provided coverage to about 11 million people, according to the New York Times (5-8-17).
• Don’t provide tax breaks to high-earning individuals or couples.
• Don’t allow discrimination of senior citizens by charging them higher premiums.
• Help businesses to provide affordable insurance coverage to their employees.
The existing Affordable Care Act (ACA) is flawed and needs to be fixed. But, as Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Fla., says: “vulnerable people must not be left in poor and worsening circumstances as Congress attempts to fix the current and impending problems with the Affordable Care Act.” The bishop chairs the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and is calling on the Senate to strip harmful proposals from the House-passed health care bill.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, rightly says that health care reform must address the underlying causes of the high cost of health care. However, his support of re-establishing states as the main regulators of health care, including the management of Medicaid, is wrong. Just look to Iowa’s venture into a managed care system for Medicaid, which by numerous media accounts has deprived service to people in need and resulted in bigger bills for the state.
Providing health care is complex and expensive. It is more than just a question of who is covered with insurance and to what extent. Medical costs, in some cases, can lead to bankruptcy. Lack of access to preventive health care can result in lost time from school or work, which can impact the ability to learn and to remain employed. We must be proactive: keep informed on health care legislation and issues, contact state and federal legislators to support accessible health care to all, and be willing to carry our share of the tax burden.
St. Paul said we are all one body, made of many parts. We need each part to make us whole.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor