Last weekend's reform vote reassessed

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." 

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Brian Thompson
9 years ago
I really don't get the objection to Stupack based on its "expanding the ban," it is government involvement in heath care which is expanding, and the ban is part of federal policy. Plus, it isnt attacking private coverage as plans where the government are involved are no longer private plans, no? at best they are semi-private or subsidized.
More fundamentally though; More strait forward and less "tricky:" It seems, just like everywhere else, if you play with the federal money you have to play by the federal rules. Stupack simply spells that out explicitly. It is not clever or crafty or subversive, but consistent with existing and long standing policy. If the administration or the Party don't want that policy, they can put it to a vote, and they could honestly and explicitly say abortion reduction and/or federal non-involvement are not a priority. Either way, pro-life people, for the most part, are being explicit and open about our goals. We want the federal government not to be financially involved/entagled with elective abortion, period. We would prefer it if this travesty were to end ASAP, but for lack of that being feasible, we wish at least not to have blood on our hands from somthing which is objectively evil. If you want to exercize your "right," or if the abortion industry is preying upon you, then it needs to be on their own or your own dime. It seems that it is the anti-life crowds who are talking out both sides of their mouths.
MaryMargaret Flynn
9 years ago
The reform bill mandates insurance companies insure everybody and not deny coverage for pre-exsisting conditions, the reform bill prevents insurance companies from not paying what they owe to people who paid for insurance to and then, suprise get sick, the reform bill will get costs of medicine down and on and on-what a narrow fucus this blog is. Nothing new in the insurance industry and drug companies and for profit hospitals paying billions in lobbying-they don't want to provide health care-just pay checks and dividends. we get sick and go bankrupt when insurance runs out or we loose our job because we are sick. Develop junvinile diabetes-can't get health insurance, get cancer and when you hit your insurance limit-die. Does anyone listen to the citizen/patients who have suffered and died under the system we have now.
Think Catholic
9 years ago
What is even more surprising than what Durenburger cites is that 240 congressmen including 64 Democrats actually chose not to vote for the Stupak Amendment, but instead they let the bishops walk right in, mitre and all, and cast a yes vote.  Amazing!  Who would have thought such a thing could happen in our day and age.  Thank you Durenburger and Clarke for pointing out this rules violation to us.  And I also suppose that the Founding Fathers would be surprised that Catholics have the same rights to lobby their congressmen as everyone else.  I suppose it's only legitimate for a religious organization to lobby Congress when the organization's goal is liberal.  Then it's no problem.  But if it's against abortion, it violates some American principle.  Which is another way of saying, anyone who disagrees with anti-Catholic pro-abortion bigots is not only wrong, he has no right to petition the government.   


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