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Kevin ClarkeMay 04, 2017
President Donald Trump joins House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 4, 2017, after the House pushed through a health care bill. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)President Donald Trump joins House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 4, 2017, after the House pushed through a health care bill. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

In a response that came hours after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628), Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on the Senate to strip out "harmful" provisions of the bill when the chamber takes it up for consideration or else to essentially start over on Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“Even with efforts to improve the bill before passage, the American Health Care Act still contains major defects, particularly regarding changes to Medicaid that risk coverage and affordability for millions; it is deeply disappointing that the voices of those who  will be most severely impacted were not heeded,” said Bishop Dewane, speaking on behalf of the U.S. bishops on May 4. “The A.H.C.A. does offer critical life protections, and our health care system desperately needs these safeguards. But still, 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.

“When the Senate takes up the A.H.C.A., it must act decisively to remove the harmful proposals from the bill that will affect low-income people—including immigrants—as well as add vital conscience protections, or begin reform efforts anew. Our health care policy must honor all human life and dignity from conception to natural death, as well as defend the sincerely-held moral and religious beliefs of those who have any role in the health care system,” said Bishop Dewane.

The bishops reiterated "key moral principles in health care reform," which they have repeatedly emphasized since discussions about repealing the Affordable Care Act began. Among them: access for all people to comprehensive, quality health care that is truly affordable, including extra consideration for pre-existing conditions; respect for life by preventing the use of federal funds for abortion or to purchase health care plans that cover it; and conscience protections. Prior to Thursday’s vote, Bishop Dewane had urged House members to insist on such changes, especially for the sake of those who are struggling.

In a statement which also followed the House vote this afternoon, Carol Keehan, D.C., president and C.E.O. of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, expressed deep disappointment “with today’s vote in the House of Representatives to approve legislation that threatens the health coverage millions of Americans have gained through the Affordable Care Act.” According to Sister Keehan, the A.H.C.A.-proposed restructuring and cuts to Medicaid “will have devastating consequences for the many poor and vulnerable populations who rely on the program. The most recent amendments to the bill did nothing to alleviate those concerns, and in fact have made the legislation even more troubling by jeopardizing important protections for those with pre-existing conditions.”

She added, “As this legislation moves now to the Senate, C.H.A. will continue to work with lawmakers to address these issues. And on behalf of those we serve in Catholic health care, we will continue to advocate a health care system in which accessible and affordable health coverage is available for everyone.”

In a statement congratulating House members who had pushed the legislation through along party lines, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said, “Today was a big day, but it is just one step in this process. An important step. We still have a lot of work to do to get this signed into law. And I know that our friends over in the Senate are eager to get to work.”

Mr. Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, said the stakes were high for Americans, adding, “just this week, we learned of another state—Iowa—where the last remaining health care plan is pulling out of 94 of their 99 counties, leaving most of their citizens with no plans on the Obama market at all.

“What kind of protection is Obamacare if there are no plans to choose from?...The truth is this law has failed, and it is collapsing.”

Critics have argued that uncertainty created by Congress over the future of Obamacare is itself contributing to the purported collapse of the A.C.A. Indeed the insurance company Mr. Ryan referenced, Medica, had not actually come to a decision on pulling out of the Iowa market in 2018, but suggested in a statement released on May 3 that it was close to following two larger carriers who had already determined not to sell policies in Iowa next year.

“Without swift action by the state or Congress to provide stability to Iowa’s individual insurance market, Medica will not be able to serve the citizens of Iowa in the manner and breadth that we do today,” company officials said.

Before the vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said, “With only hours’ notice and no C.B.O. score, Republicans are maliciously, again, attempting to destroy health care and coverage for the American people. This is really almost, I would say, a welcome debate. I would hope that they realize that this is really bad for the country.  But I do say that it is good in one respect: It’s going to provide a great civics lesson for America.”

Ms. Pelosi warned House Republicans facing mid-term elections will “have every provision of this bill tattooed on your forehead. You will glow in the dark on this one.” On the House floor she condemned the legislation as “a tax bill disguised as a health bill.”

“This is a bill that is the one of the biggest transfers of wealth in the history of the country, from the middle class to the richest people and corporations in America.”

An Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center analysis indeed finds that the A.H.C.A.’s changes to federal taxes and health care benefits “would be very regressive.”

“Taking both tax reductions and benefit reductions into account, the average high-income family would be significantly better off and the average low-income family would be significantly worse off under the A.H.C.A.” According to the analysis, an average family with less than $10,000 income in 2022 would be $1,420 worse off, a net reduction of more than 30 percent of the family’s income. But “the average family with more than $200,000 of income in 2022 would be $5,640 better off, a net increase of 1.1 percent of the family’s income.”

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JR Cosgrove
7 years ago

Until any author on America delineates the problems with the ACA, can they be taken seriously when they present opinions that are critical of the ACHA. That is what is generally missing from articles on America, a discussion of the pro and cons versus the alternatives.

It is nearly all one sided but we know that is never the case.

Healthcare is getting more and more sophisticated and what is available to the poorest of our population today exceeds what was available to the richest 30 years ago. There is no way everyone will get the same level of healthcare. That is not possible despite the emotional appeal for equality. The question is what is the minimal healthcare that can be expected of everyone in the United States and that level will be above what most get in the rest of the world.

Gay Timothy O'Dreary
7 years ago

House Speaker Paul Ryan is allegedly a devout practicing Roman Catholic. He is happily married, is a faithful husband and committed father to his children and claims to support family values. Carol Keehan, D.C.,is allegedly a devout practicing Roman Catholic, a religious sister of many years following her vocation and claims to support family values.

What is a Catholic to believe? Is Keehan a better Catholic because she is a religious sister? Is Ryan a more credible witness because of his humility, devotion to his family and putting his neck on the line when former House Speaker John Boehner, also a devout practicing Catholic, resigned?

These articles are less than helpful.

There is a toxic atmosphere in the news media (including Catholic media) with a punishing polarization and obsessive divisive rhetoric. Christ is diminished in the coverage. The media doesn't even feign an attempt at returning to their roots of reporting objectively and allowing readers to interpret independently. With James Martin SJ lambasting United Airlines as being the consummate example of the alleged intrinsic evils of capitalism, it leaves readers breathless to see most of the articles on America being nothing less than click bait headlines. These are all an attempt to generate web traffic so as to generate revenue. Pot. Kettle. Black.

In the end, those of us low income Americans know how much Obamacare has hurt us. Our deductibles are outrageous, our co-pays doubled and some of us were forced to apply to the indigent program at our government run hospital due to our economic standing. It has been humiliating since Obamacare became the law. Obamacare proponents ignore us typical Americans who have taken a knife to the back by the likes of Pelosi and Schumer and Carol Keehan. The poor is 50% of Americans when one considers the true unemployment rate, the extraordinary number of Americans who stopped looking for work and the dehumanizing fact that many Americans must take dismal jobs in spite of our educational and professional histories. Working for a big box retail sales business has made us bitter, despondent and has broken our spirits. It takes frequent trips to Mass, reception of the Sacraments and turning off the sensational news, all clamoring for our attention, to come out sane.

The liberal social warriors lost the elections of 2016 across all levels of government. Maybe the newly empowered Republicans will get it right. Considering President Trump has a vocabulary less than most of us underemployed Americans, it does not give us much hope. Our current political fracas does look any better than the one before that or the one before that or the one being proposed by the yet again same political leaders of Pelosi, Schumer, et al. Throw them all out and bring fresh leaders with no political interests save that of integrity, character and humility.

If Americans want great health care we are going to have to start taking care of ourselves to avoid needing medical attention. "Memento mori" applies more than ever. We have become fat, lazy and self-labeled victims with nonstop celebrating "nunc est bibendum".

"An Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center analysis indeed finds that ...."

Who is Urban-Brookings?

"The New York Times has referred to the Brookings organization as liberal, liberal-centrist, centrist, and conservative. The Washington Post has described Brookings as centrist and liberal. The Los Angeles Times has described Brookings as liberal-leaning and centrist before opining that it did not believe such labels mattered". - Wiki

"The Urban Institute is described as a "leading liberal think tank" by the Los Angeles Times". - Wiki

Was Utne Reader not available for Kevin Clark to quote?

Tom Maher
7 years ago

Your comment makes many excellent points.

Overall this post is more polarizing political propaganda than it is informative of the much larger facts that the current Affordable Care Act, ACA, (Obamacare ) is collapsing and will likely not be functioning much longer due to the fact healthcare costs and subsidies are proving to be vastly more expensive than all financial resources available including federal, state and private insurance payment pools.

The ACA (Obamacare) has become a far worse healthcare problem than a solution. The ACA financing schemes have just not worked at all and have disastrously caused almost everyone's healthcare to becomes unaffordable in terms of premium payment. Private insurance rates have become unaffordable and health insurance policies themselves unusable due to the extremely high annual deductibles in the thousands of dollars all insurance companies charges due to the numerous Obamacare mandates on all private insurance policies who and what must be covered. Many people who want insurance are dropping their policy despite the ACA Obamacare penalties for doing so. Many insured people can no longer afford their high health care insurance premiums. These extreme financial impacts of insurance premiums and policies were not anticipated by the ACA (Obamacare) law.

The current ACA (Obamacare) law is badly not working only seven years after it became a law and must be repealed and replaced. If the ACA is not repealed and replaced quickly it will collapse entirely likely before the end of this year since most insurance companies no longer are offering healthcare and almost all insurance companies are not offering healthcare insurance policies next year due to the losses in offering healthcare policies. Healthcare insurance under the current ACA (Obamacare) law has proven to be no longer viable. The idea that the federal government can indefinitely make limitless subsidies and regulate of all aspects of healthcare has been proven to be completely unworkable , undesirable and prohibitively costly.

There is no realistic practical or political option for the ACA (Obamacare) law to be revised or saved. The ACA (Obamacare) law must be repealed and replaced with much more limited goals and workable and realistic financing by private individual health insurance free of costly government mandates of all types that have driven up health care insurance premiums for everyone.

The ACA (Obamacare) law has proven to be a Utopian scheme that has unrealistically and unsustainably attempted to make health insurance premiums affordable to all while also providing subsidies to insurance companies to pay for the premiums of tens of millions of uninsured people. But actual health care mandated costs have vastly exceeded what government subsidy or private health care insurance premiums can pay for. A much more limited, realistic and politically viable law is urgently needed to replace the current ACA (Obamacare) law.

A much more realistic and complete assessment of the many proven failures of current ACA (Obamacare) law and providing more politically and financial realistic alternative solutions that make health care insurance workable is urgently needed. Politically health care insurance reform can not realistically become another government health care entitlement program as the current ACA (Obamacare) tried to be but failed.

Chuck Kotlarz
7 years ago

Perhaps the time for universal health care in the US has arrived. Trump praised Australia’s universal health care. In 2013, Australia spent about $4,000 on health care per capita and the US spent about $9,000. Life expectancy in Australia surpasses the US by three years.


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