Kansas Bishops Issue Health Care Reform Statement
The belief in the innate value of human life and the transcendent dignity of the human person must be the primordial driving force of reform efforts.
'We urge the President, Congress, and other elected and appointed leaders to develop prescriptions for reforming health care which are built on objective truths: that all people in every stage of human life count for something; that if we violate our core beliefs we are not aiding people in need, but instead devaluing their human integrity and that of us all.'
Principles of Catholic Social Teaching and Health Care Reform. A Joint Pastoral Statement of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and Bishop Robert W. Finn
Dear Faithful of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph,
To his credit, President Barack Obama has made it a major priority for his administration to address the current flaws in our nation’s health care policies. In fairness, members of both political parties for some time have recognized significant problems in the current methods of providing health care.
As Catholics, we are proud of the Church’s healthcare contribution to the world. Indeed, the hospital was originally an innovation of the Catholic faithful responding to our Lord’s call to care for the sick, “For I was…ill and you cared for me.” (Matthew 25, v. 35-36). This tradition continues today in America, where currently one in four hospitals is run by a Catholic agency. We have listened to current debate with great attention and write now to contribute our part to ensure that this reform be an authentic reform taking full consideration of the dignity of the human person.
Some symptoms of the inadequacy of our present health care polices are:
1) There are many people – typically cited as 47 million – without medical insurance.
2) The cost of health insurance continues to rise, with medical spending in the U.S. at $2.2 trillion in 2007, constituting 17% of the Gross Domestic Product, and predicted to double within 10 years. (Source: Office of Public Affairs, 2008: http://www.cms.hhs.gov/NationalHealthExpendData/downloads/proj2008.pdf).
3) The Medicare Trust Fund is predicted to be insolvent by 2019.
4) Mandated health insurance benefits for full-time workers have created an incentive for companies to hire part-time rather than full-time employees.
5) Similarly, the much higher cost to employers for family health coverage, as compared to individual coverage, places job candidates with many dependents at a disadvantage in a competitive market.
6) Individuals with pre-existing conditions who most need medical care are often denied the means to acquire it.
There are also perceived strengths of our current system:
1) Most Americans like the medical care services available to them. Our country, in some ways, is the envy of people from countries with socialized systems of medical care.
2) It is important to remember that 85% of citizens in the U.S. do have insurance. Forty percent of the uninsured are between 19-34 years old. (Source: Current Population Survey 2008 Annual Social and Economic Supplement) A 2007 study by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and Uninsured found that 11 million of those without insurance were eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP but were not enrolled. Those eligible but not enrolled include 74 percent of children who are uninsured. (Source: Characteristics of the Uninsured: Who Is Eligible for Public Coverage and Who Needs Help Affording Coverage?)
3) The competitive nature of our private sector system is an incentive to positive innovation and the development of advanced technology. Medical doctors and research scientists are esteemed. Doctors and other scientists immigrate to our country because of the better compensation given to those who provide quality medical care or produce successful research.
4) Medicare and Medicaid, while they have their limitations, provide an important safety net for many of the elderly, the poor and the disabled.
What Must We Do?
The justified reaction to the significant defects in our current health care policies is to say, “Something must be done.” Many believe: “We have to change health care in America.” Despite the many flaws with our current policies, change itself does not guarantee improvement. Many of the proposals which have been promoted would diminish the protection of human life and dignity and shift our health care costs and delivery to a centralized government bureaucracy. Centralization carries the risk of a loss of personal responsibility, reduction in personalized care for the sick and an expanded bureaucracy that in the end leads to higher costs.
A Renewal Built on Principles
We claim no expertise in economics or the complexities of modern medical science. However, effective health care policies must be built on a foundation of proper moral principles. The needed change in health care must therefore flow from certain principles that protect the fundamental life and dignity of the human person and the societal principles of justice, which are best safeguarded when such vital needs are provided for in a context of ...
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