Over at the site for the National Institute of Health Policy, a program of the University of St. Thomas, former Minnesota Senator Dave Durenburger was not sharing the joy about both the Stupak Amendment and the historic House vote for health care reform on Nov. 7. His concerns on both the bishops' role in the vote and the path our presumed reform effort is heading—perhaps right to the cashiers' window of some of the self-aggrandizing insurers reform purports to neutralize he suspects—is worth a wider hearing:
The Founding Fathers of this country, and the first and only Catholic president, would be surprised to see the Catholic bishops in the office of the Speaker of the House on the eve of an historic vote on universal health care coverage dictating the terms under which Democrats and Republicans could be free to support this historic-for the U.S.-effort to assure its citizens the right to affordable health care. The Stupak Amendment was a not-so-clever way to expand a 34-year old bar against funding abortion services in public insurance programs to private insurance. . . . Abortion wasn't the only deal the bishops made with the GOP. They stood aside to let the Republicans and right wing media define "euthanasia." The likes of Sarah Palin used the August invention of "death panels" as a means of "killing" the health reform legislation which the House and the president favored. To top it off, the bishops brought out the principle of "subsidiarity" from Catholic social teaching as a foundational principle for this reform. In contemporary Republican "kill Obamacare" terms, that simply means that health insurance regulation and health care coverage should be left to the states wherever possible rather than the national government. So, a political journey which began in the mid-1970s for traditionally Democratic Party Catholics to the Republican Party is continuing to gain strength.
As a Catholic Republican, I am puzzled by the way in which mere mortals can shift the moral priorities of a Church over what, for a 2,000-year-old religion, is a relatively short period of time. As a new member of the U.S. Senate, I stood proudly with my Church in opposition to the expansion of the nuclear arms race, in definition of a just war, in efforts to reduce racial and economic discrimination and enact historic civil rights legislation.
How did a national law to prevent insurance companies, whose premium costs are defrayed in part by tax subsidies, from providing medical services related to abortion get to be a higher public priority for all Americans, not just Catholics, than financing access to health care services? Especially when it is unlikely this law will have that great an impact on the number of abortions performed in this country.
Durenburger apparently views the health care insurance industry as something of a socio-economic hydra. It may appear reform has it on the ropes, but if all Congress manages in this latest attempt to reform the industrialized world's most expensive and least effective health care system are some new regulations regarding client care while forcing a vast new market of 36 million uninsured into the loving embrace of insurers, the 2009 "reform" may prove regrettable.
Durenburger writes: "If you were part of an industry that Americans will pay $2.5 trillion to provide $1.5 trillion worth of value, would you want to change? Of course not. You'd want to create even more public demand for whatever you do. When a president of the United States commits the public treasury to expanding health insurance coverage to 100% of Americans, you hire lobbyists in Washington, D.C., to maximize the effort to expand coverage and minimize its financial impact on your business. A reported $253 million worth of lobbying was done in the first six months of 2009 by, among others, 1,752 insurance company lobbyists (as of 9-1-09). So far they have all been successful."