Current Comment

Health Care Benefits

President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, survived scrutiny by the U.S. Supreme Court with the unexpected support of Chief Justice John Roberts in an opinion that preserved health care reform and may help restore public faith in the highest court in the land. Health care reform in the United States can now move forward according to its pre-established timeline of expanded services and coverage.

Parts of the reform package already implemented allowed millions of people who had been denied health care because of pre-existing conditions to acquire health insurance. It has also extended coverage to more than three million young people under their parents’ plans during a period after college when most went without the protection of health insurance. By eliminating lifetime limits on coverage, the Affordable Care Act has already protected families burdened by accident or disease from ruinous health care expenses. Now the law will extend Medicaid to millions more uninsured people and establish insurance plan exchanges, an essentially free-market fix.


Difficult issues remain. The reform creates the possibility that federal money may be used for abortion procedures. Reform has also occasioned an unwarranted intrusion into religious institutional identity. As the law takes effect, modifications are needed to address these concerns.

More Than PR

It has never been easy to publish a diocesan newspaper. Serving both the local church and the Catholic public often leads to moments of tension. Catholic editors must learn to work fruitfully with their diocesan bishop, then renegotiate that relationship every time a new bishop is named to lead the diocese. In too many cases, local Catholic papers have become mere public relations vehicles for their bishops, with the result that their readership has dwindled.

In June, two reputable diocesan newspapers received troubling news. The Archdiocese of Minneapolis withdrew recognition from the union that represented the journalists at the award-winning Catholic Spirit; a reduced staff will be moved to the communication office. In Philadelphia the archdiocese announced that The Catholic Standard and Times would be shuttered, after 117 years of publication, and replaced by a Web site. The closing was part of a diocese-wide budget reduction plan. Some Catholics may not mourn the decline of local papers, but they should. At their best, Catholic papers report news that Catholics would not find anywhere else. They also serve as an essential catechetical tool and help connect Catholics with their fellow believers in the diocese and across the world.

It may be necessary for some print papers to cease publication, but dioceses should seek to provide responsible alternatives online. Too many Web sites that focus on the church are biased and uncharitable. The most respected Catholic newspapers follow standard journalistic practices. The same standards should apply online. As Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told attendees at the Catholic Media Conference in June: “The Catholic press has to live up to the same professional and ethical standards as the press in general: the search for truth, fairness in reporting, respect for human dignity.”

‘Free-Market’ Prisons

In prison for assaulting his girlfriend, David Goodell was transferred to a halfway house in Newark; but he soon walked out, found another girlfriend and killed her. Derek West Harris, a friendly barber guilty of $700 in unpaid parking tickets, was sent to Newark’s 900-bed Delaney Hall, a rehabilitation house for minor offenders. On his third day there three gang members killed him over three dollars.

These institutions in New Jersey are not state prisons but part of a national network of private prisons operating under the name Community Education Centers. According to a 10-month investigation by The New York Times, they are ungovernable failures in which drugs, murder and chaos rule. Their staffs, which include no corrections officers, are untrained and incompetent. At least 5,100 inmates have escaped since 2005—mostly by not returning from work-release. Eighty-five are still at large. Since Chris Christie became governor of New Jersey, at least 1,300 inmates have escaped in 29 months. In 2011 no one escaped from the state prisons.

Private-enterprise prisons are to the American penal system what Blackwater was to Iraq. The government passes off its solemn responsibilities for security and policing to companies that are responsible primarily to their stockholders. This is not free-market competition; it is living off government contracts in a system where state prisons rent empty beds in private prisons and transfer violent criminals into halfway-house dormitories. Politicians’ real moral and legal obligation should be to keep the prisons in line. Instead, Governor Christie lobbied for Community Education in 2001 and put the son-in-law of the company’s chief executive on his office staff in 2010.

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Leonard Villa
6 years 6 months ago
Your Obama care comments that now the law can go forward ignores the fact that there is going to be an election in November and the law is very unpopular. I imagine largely because socialized medicine is not an unknown quantity with bureacrats rationing health care and the long waits for necessary surgeries in coutnries like Great Britain,Sweden, etc. Plus your comments ignore the fact that the country is broke and cannot sustain Obamacare. In '92 85% of people paid taxes today only 51% pay taxes. Your editorials need to reflect reality.
Virginia Edman
6 years 6 months ago
There is no reason why socialized medicine will not work in the United States.  It has worked in other countries, including Canada.  To deny health care to millions of people with pre-existing conditions is not a Christian thing to do.  It is therefore appropriate to report the Supreme Court decision with satisfaction and even joy.  It is something I expect from a Catholic magazine such as America.  It can work in any country that sees its citizens as equal, and does not seek to empower only the wealthy.  Surely we have not come all this way to deny the basics of life to others who cannot afford it.
Carole Belgrade
6 years 6 months ago
 New Jersey is committing a serious crime against its citzens by allowing such for profit prisons exist within the state.  The prisoners send to these institutions are not under the jurisdiction of the corections department, but a corporate entity maing money wharehousing these indviduals. 

As a consequence, the corrections authorities need to re-establish the foundational guideleines dealing with criminal punishment.  These actions may include a top to bottom review and subsequent oversight of corporate governed halfway facilities and rehabilitation centers,  reponsible evaluation of those individuals forced into these circumstances who have comitted misdomenor crmes and a general overhaul of the criminal justice system.

These corporate prisons are a form of 'cruel and unusal punishment' in the way untrained and often undersupervised employees are in charge of a secondary penal system.

I hope the powers to be in New Jersey and in other consitutionies who contract with for profit prisions read this article.
Robert Sherman
6 years 6 months ago

No American or non-American is refused health care in this country. People without insurance get treated every hour of every day. You are confusing health care with paying for health care. Obamacare does not provide health care. What it does is seize control over how it is paid for and restricts health care for the over 65 set.

Children from low income families in this country have access to health care and health insurance through the childrens health insurance program, CHIP. Low income Adults are eligible for medicaid but can receive health care in emergency rooms with no health insurance.

President Obama wants to require every one in this country, except for illegal aliens, to have health insurance by expanding the government's free program, Medicaid. That program is funded by the middle class. He proposes to pay for it by taxing the over 65 middle class through cuts in its insurance program, medicare. We've already seen the effects. It is turning it into no insurance.

Medicare premiums are higher if your income is higher. And it is not indexed for regional cost of living differences. Somehow the entire progressive movement has missed this.

If you want to reform paying for health care, let insurance companies sell across state lines. Why should thare by 50 different state monopolies regulated by armies of lawyers? Reform tort laws that make malpractice insurance unconscionable. Provide incentives for national high risk pools and that will take care of any residual pre-existing condition problems not already covered by state laws.

Let the insurance companies define the coverage and compete, not the government. Let insurance companies nationwide also compete for the medicare business.

Change the laws and regulations that have been driving Catholic hospital systems out of business. At least our Catholic hospital systems will treat and care for illegal aliens. Then encourage everyone to give to those Catholic Hospitals or better yet local and national Catholic Charities who will support the whole gamut of social services our poorest members of society. They are far more efficient and caring than the government.

C Walter Mattingly
6 years 6 months ago
One of the hopes of those of socialist bent is that the severe restrictions placed upon large insurance companies under Obamacare, that at least 85% of every dollar be spent directly on the patient, is that the administrative costs make this goal impossible. As private insurance companies withdraw from the field, gradually the government bureaucracy will take over healthcare.
One of the very few large segments of the US economy in which government and unions have had virtually total control is public education. Such congtrol has over time resulted in third quartile performance and about 50% of every dollar going into classroom instruction. This compares with the parochial school system, where about 80% of every dollar goes into the classroom.
A 1990 study of the Wisconsin Public School system, where there is 1 administrator for every 4 teachers, discovered the following: "Using an inclusive definition of instructing, instructional spending has dropped from 70% of the (school) budget in 1968... to 45% om 1989." A 2013 study of the Boston public school system indicates a slightly better performance, with 54% of total educational spending going to the classroom. 
By analogy one can see the probable scenario over time if Obamacare actually goes into place. If not even the scrupulosity of our sisters in the parochial schools can get 85% of all funds into the classroom, insurance companies won't be able to get it to the patient either. As they withdraw from the field, federal and state bureaucracies will move in. As with public education, public healthcare will likely be far less efficient than its private counterpart.  The cost of health care will skyrocket, while the service will decline. The government will promise the same reforms and corrections of the bloat and inefficiencies, for which improvements it will require more money. Nothing of significance will result other than increased expenditures, and the costs and services of healthcare will continue to increase and decline respectively just as they have in public education.
Virginia Edman
6 years 6 months ago
Being covered in the emergency ward is not the same as having medical coverage.  By the time you go to the emergency it is treated differently.  To discover an illness or condition before it becomes chronic or a crisis is the best way to treat it.  That is obvious.

I think the problem with President Obama's health care plan is the media hype and fear created by disinformation.  If the U.S.A. can go to the moon and finance NASA it can run a universal health care system.
Dan Hannula
6 years 6 months ago

Walter #5.  I think you have a point to make.  And, as a former member (and President) of a Catholic school board, I think it should be made.  However, as former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said-you have a right to your own opinions but not your own facts.  First, the study you refer to is a study of Milwaukee Schools (which has unique innner-city problems) not "Wisconsin" schools.  Second, you should give a reference to the study you cite-so that we can judge it for ourselves.  It is not an objective study and it's findings are subject to a very large grain of salt. The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute did the study you cite and it is a major conservative think tank (funded in part by the right-wing Koch brothers) advocating radical free market economic solutions in state public policy.  It helped develop Wisconsin's voucher program and advocated privitization of state prisons.  It funded polls to bolster Governor Walker’s position, and produced attack ads against Walker’s political adversaries and a series of pieces supporting his drive against the state’s labor movement.

I like a spirited public policy discussion as much as the next fellow-but isn't the that biased Fox Newsy pre-digested right-wing narrative style of discussion a bit tiring and not very helpful? 

Marie Rehbein
6 years 6 months ago
It is disturbing to read the misinformation about health care reform in these comments.  Would that people commented on facts as found on the HHS website instead of concocting or repeating concocted scenarios.
joseph o'leary
6 years 6 months ago
Thank you Mr. Hannula and Ms. Rehbein for your comments. I'll only add that using the word "Obamacare" or "socialist" immediately shuts down any real discussion and labels the writer, much in the same way as using "corporate greed" or "Reaganomics" does for the other side. Does anyone really think repetition of a tired, old line is going to change someone's mind?
Christopher Kuczynski
6 years 6 months ago

The Supreme Court has spoken on the Affordable Care Act.  But is the House of Representatives listening?  Of course not.  Once again, House Republicans are engaged in a political drama in which the American people are nothing more than stage props.  An attempt to repeal the law would be understandable if Republicans had control of the Senate.  Since they do not, the effort underway - at taxpayer expense - is nothing more than  a cheap trick to pander to the political base of the right.  

 Politics is full of such silly tricks on the right and left, to be sure.  But with most of the law's provisions not taking effect until 2014 and with an election in November that could put the Senate and perhaps even the White House in the hands of the Republicans, is there really so little of the people's business to do right now that it's necessary to engage in such a futile act?  Is there anyone in the Republican party with the integrity to stand up and say, "at least let's wait until the people speak in November before we waste a dime more of their hard-earned money on this effort?"  You bet there is not! 

6 years 6 months ago
Your comments on "Free-Market" Prisons represents a puzzling statement on the use of private companies to run New Jersey prisons. I have no first hand knowledge of CPC, the company envolved, but I know there is a denial by CPE of these charges made in the New York Times report. Also a statement was made by Governor Christi that the abuses mentioned in the NY Times article will be investigated.

Why not wait for investigation or at least mention that the abuses in the report were
denied by CPC and will be investigated by the State of NJ.

You mentioned the number of inmates who have escaped from NJ prisons. CPC in a interview by Brian Lehrer on NPR radio stated that most of the numbers included in these numbers were of inmates on work release programs who did not return but were subsequently apprehended. This a certainly different from prison escapes.

This may well be a program that is beneficial to prison inmates. Investigate before you condemm.

Your use of the term Free-Market" and your blind reliance on the NY Times may be a indication of your poltical leanings. I have been a subscriber to America for approximately 50 years and  find these statements in your magazine out of line with
the  respect I have for AMERICA..


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