Catholic bishops: Loss of affordable health care under GOP plan 'simply unacceptable'

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks from his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, June 26, 2017. 

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, in its analysis of the Senate health care bill, said late June 26 the measure would leave 22 million more people without insurance.

"This moment cannot pass without comment," said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.


"Today, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on the 'discussion draft' of the Senate health care proposal, indicating that millions of people could lose their health insurance over time," he said in a statement issued in response to the just-released analysis.

Bishop Dewane: "The loss of affordable access for millions of people is simply unacceptable."

"As the USCCB has consistently said, the loss of affordable access for millions of people is simply unacceptable," the bishop said, noting he would continue to study the full CBO report. "These are real families who need and deserve health care."

He added, "We pray that the Senate will work in an open and unified way to keep the good aspects of current health care proposals, to add missing elements where needed, and to not place our sisters and brothers who struggle every day into so great a peril on so basic a right."

The Senate released its health care reform bill—called the Better Care Reconciliation Act—in "discussion draft" form June 22.

"We pray that the Senate will work in an open and unified way to keep the good aspects of current health care proposals," Bishop Frank J. Dewane said.

In a statement the same day, Bishop Dewane said the Senate version contains "many of the fundamental defects" that appeared in the House-passed American Health Care Act "and even further compounds them."

"As is, the discussion draft stands to cause disturbing damage to the human beings served by the social safety net," Bishop Dewane said. "It is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written."

One part of the bill cuts the federal government's share of funding for Medicaid to 57 percent of its cost over the next seven years. States have picked up the balance of the funding to date.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the government had guaranteed that its funding for adults newly eligible for Medicaid would fall to no lower than 90 percent of their costs. Many states expanded Medicaid coverage for all adults ages 18-65 with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.


Bishop Dewane criticized the "per-capita cap" on Medicaid funding, which would no longer be an entitlement but have its own budget line item under the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The effect, he said, "would provide even less to those in need than the House bill. These changes will wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported."

He indicated the Better Care Reconciliation Act at least partially succeeds on conscience rights by "fully applying the long-standing and widely supported Hyde Amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill."

However, the bishops "also stressed the need to improve real access for immigrants in health care policy, and this bill does not move the nation toward this goal," Bishop Dewane said in his June 22 statement.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
1 year 6 months ago

I have a question?

Is healthcare, America's fake narrative as Russia is CNN's fake narrative. CNN just admitted the Russia story is BS. Similarly the coverage of healthcare is completely one sided by America.

Why the complete lack of the other sides' point of view? The Republican efforts are to lower healthcare cost but the title says "loss of affordable health care." I think it is time for the editors and authors to report what is actually going on.

To remedy this one sided approach I recommend a great source for understanding the root of the problem of high healthcare cost. It is an interview by Russ Roberts of EconTalk with Christy Ford Chapin who wrote a book titled

"Ensuring America's Health: The Public Creation of the Corporate Health Care System "

It is a history of the American health care system and extremely informative.

Just google

econtalk heres to your health

The problem with costs started back in the late 1930's when the AMA tried to establish rigid control over who could provide healthcare and how they could do it. The problem with costs is the

"fee for service" model

currently practiced. The interview is a hour + podcast but there is a transcript of the interview at the web site in case one would rather read than listen.

All editors and authors on healthcare should listen. It does not take sides. The author tends to like the one payer system while the interviewer does not.

Allison Quinn
1 year 6 months ago

Healthcare is NOT affordable under Obamacare. Premiums have doubled and deductibles have skyrocketed. Obamacare is a financial failure, therefore it must be replaced. Duh.

John Dresler
1 year 6 months ago

From the comment I read, the only objection is to the COST of providing healthcare. So, many folks think the cost of universal healthcare is not worth it. Sure, protections like national defense, our judicial system, our police, fire and national guards, our coast guard, our food inspectors, OSHA, etc., all cost money. But they are necessary rights.

So what do our Bishops really think? Who knows? Like the above author they dance around the edges of the problem. Our Bishops rightfully are loud about pro-life rights yet silent about a healthcare RIGHT. Yes, that's the word: right. Is healthcare a human right or just a privilege? If we believe in pro-life then "life" logically extends past the birth. Why don't our Bishops declare healthcare an inalienable RIGHT? By their silence, they must think it only a privilege.

I wish we could disagree only on the best and most economical way to provide such a right.

J Cosgrove
1 year 6 months ago

Several things:

First, no one is being denied healthcare. The question is what level of care and at what cost. So when the CBO says millions of citizens will lose their health insurance it is a misnomer. They mean millions will choose not to pay for health insurance because it is too expensive. They have the right to pay cash if they want and many choose to do so under the expectation that they will not pay large amounts.

Hence, cost is the main consideration for buying health insurance. And why a major part of the debate is over costs.

Second, if health insurance will represent a major piece of one's budget, how can an individual get relief? Again a cost issue. The government currently provides extensive subsidies for certain people. So the question becomes who and how much should they be subsidizes. Again cost.

Third, the Republicans have been focusing on cheaper insurance so more will be covered. For that they have been falsely demonized by the editors and authors in America magazine.

Fourth, the main attack by the Democrats has been a tax break for the rich which is ludicrous since most well off Americans vote for a Democrats.

Fifth, healthcare is an economic good and is limited so it has to be rationed. The normal way we do that in the US is by price. The other way in many parts of the world is by bureaucrats and that usually leads to inferior products.

Sixth, by "right" do you mean other people should pay for your healthcare? No one is being denied healthcare, only at a price they might not want to pay.

John Dresler
1 year 6 months ago

OK. Now commenter Cosgrove shows his/her true colors by supporting one political party and chastising another. My comment did not broach the partisan issue. If you can, let's leave specific partisan issues aside for a more nuanced argument on the basic question: is basic healthcare a right. If not, then I fully understand (not agree) with your position.
If not a right, logically then we should get rid of medicaid. Why should your taxes help someone else be healthy? The following is my reasoning for those interested in pursuing this subject. I hope our Bishops are making a stand on this fundamental human right at their synod.

So as to avoid the semantics, let's define basic as that needed to keep healthy. I plead that basic healthcare is a human right and by definition obliges society to provide it to all equally to the best of its ability. Yes, that means we as a society are responsible.As with our many basic societal needs, cost is always a factor. Death panels aside, it's arguable if rationing basic healthcare means not providing a 75 year old with a new heart. I hope it's not arguable to provide an uninsured, poor child a new heart.

While commenter Cosgrove apparently does not believe basic healthcare is a fundamental human right (thus provided to all equally under our constitution) but that "healthcare is an 'economic good' and is limited so it has to be rationed" like other economic goods such as police, fire, military, transportation, environment, water, food, etc. These protections are only rationed via mandated taxes, and notably not rationed by individual-- e.g. my policeman or fireman does not require insurance to save me from harm.

If insurance dictates who gets what level of basic healthcare, then basic healthcare is not a right but a privilege afforded to some and not others. How can anybody justifiably state "No one is being denied healthcare, only at a price they might not want to pay." Does one's conscience really allow one to make insurance cost their "rationing panel?" Does anyone really believe "equal access" to health insurance is the same as equal access to basic healthcare? Yes, we currently have some insurance subsidies but will they disappear with new legislation? Are you supporting the current subsidies? Probably not because subsidies are a societal cost. Besides they are just a bandaid on a gaping wound.

J Cosgrove
1 year 6 months ago

Mr. Dresier. Some responses to your comment

I was trying to answer your comment by discussing some of the economic issues that are present. Are you saying that economics should not be a consideration?

Healthcare is an economic good, just as water is an economic good. When it is scarce the price will go up. When it is plentiful, it can be almost free. Wishing it away will not change that. Some drugs cost almost nothing, others cost thousands of dollars.

is basic healthcare a right.

Your point of view sounds very altruistic but if it is a right then why do some have it and others do not. For whom is it a right? There are 7 billion people in this world. Does everyone have a right to healthcare and at what level? The same level for everyone? Did they have a right to it from the time of Adam? Or is it just now in the 21st century? For thousands of years no one talked about healthcare as a right. What existed was compassion for others and attempts to use what was available to ameliorate a sickness or injury as best they could. Is it any different today.

If people have a right to it, then how much? There is not enough to treat all equally. You will never be able to ensure anything close to equality. Should they be given the best care that was available in 1990, 2000, 2010 or today? Should they be given access to every new procedure or drug as soon as it is available when these new treatments are in short supply?

If a doctor is the best heart surgeon in the world, that doctor will be in demand and will be paid much higher fees for an operation and post care. Who gets to be operated on by the doctor? The answer is those who can pay and if the doctor chooses to provide pro bono care to some, then that is his prerogative but the doctor cannot treat every potential patient.

We have gotten to much better care for our population by letting aspects of the market work. Poor people today have better care than the rich did 60 years ago. And in another 20-30 years they may be getting better care than today's rich. But many parts of the market are not working well especially the doctor patient relationship. I suggest you listen to the Russ Roberts podcast.

No one is being denied healthcare, only at a price they might not want to pay. Does one's conscience really allow one to make insurance cost their "rationing panel?

This is the main problems with the ACA. People who are not subsidized must pay high premiums and then pay high deductibles so essentially they do not have healthcare except for what they pay out of pocket and no insurance except for catastrophic occurrences. They have a card that says they have insurance but they pay cash for healthcare.

Are you supporting the current subsidies? Probably not because subsidies are a societal cost.

Interesting that you are making a personal judgment when I said nothing about my position on subsidies. As far as subsidies are concerned I am and have always been in favor of them to a certain level. One of the problems with modern healthcare is the fee for service model where the patient experiences no cost for additional services so why not get them since they are free. There is no constraint on the transaction since neither partner in the transaction in involved in setting the fee or paying for it.

Besides they are just a bandaid on a gaping wound.

And that is what the Republicans are trying to correct. And for that they have been demonized by the authors in America.

Michael Barberi
1 year 6 months ago

I have not read the Republican bill. However, I know healthcare benefits extremely well as I have spent more than 30 years in senior positions in this industry.

Just the other day there was a report that said that the Republicans might drop the repeal of the tax currently in ObamaCare for people making over $250,000 a year (about .9% on income and 3.8% on investment income for this group). The Republicans would be wise to leave this tax in place, thereby generating revenue to use to fund more healthcare subsidies for the poor and lower middle class that might lose coverage under the Republican Senate bill. This would make their plan more acceptable to both Democrats and some Republicans that are resisting the bill's current version.

This is just one of the things that demonstrate how 'politics' is getting in the way of responsible healthcare reform. This repeal of this tax is foolish and not necessary because 'taxes' can be dealt with in a tax reform plan. However, by cutting the taxes in a healthcare bill on those making over $250,000 a year is like poking a finger in the eyes of the Democrats.

The authors of this article are being irresponsible and unpersuasive by only talking about one issue and not the much larger issues. It is obvious that they want the perfect plan where premiums are affordable and no one losses coverage. Like the Bishops all they want to complain about is the fact that 22 million people will lose coverage under the Republican plan. Yet at the same time they are deliberately ignoring the fact that many more Americans will loss coverage under ObamaCare because of the ever increasing sky-high premiums and the monumental deductibles making any ObamaCare plan they choose completely 'unaffordable and useless'.

In closing, AM and the authors of this article should reflect on writing a more fair and balanced essay on this complicated and emotionally-packed issue.

J Cosgrove
1 year 6 months ago

Someone said the McConnell will use the savings in the deficit from their bill to fund additional subsidies such as opiate addiction clinics and more generous allowances for those on the edge. He has about $200 billion to use. He wanted to see how the CBO scored the bill so he would know where to make adjustments.

Also I find the discussion of the medicaid expansion confusing at best. Healthy unmarried adults became eligible and are currently subsidized at 100% while sick married poor received only 50% subsides . This has caused concerns and seems to be a distortion of the objectives of subsides. The Republicans want to reduce this which seems fair but are made out as ogres for doing so.

Any thoughts?

Mike Evans
1 year 6 months ago

Yes. Bring everyone together to fix the system and its inconsistencies. The costs for subsidies and Medicaid/MediCare are chump change compared to the gigantic expenditures for corporate subsidies and defense. And for Christ's sake, yes healthcare is a RIGHT! Now, let's figure out a workable way to provide it to everyone.

Dcn Cliff Britton
1 year 6 months ago

Mike... if healthcare becomes a "right" inshrined by law then the Government will also have to mandatorily assign healthcare providers to medically underserved areas. These areas include inner cities where few healthcare providers want to set up practice as well as distant areas such as small towns in the desert. And, as other writers have noted, the level of guaranteed healthcare has to be decided (likely by the Government given it will be funded by taxpayer dollars). And then there are the penalties and lawsuits that naturally follow when people are not afforded their rights.

Mike Evans
1 year 6 months ago

LOUDER, please. I doubt anyone in the GOP has heard either Catholic bishops or leaders of most other faiths on the failings and meanness of this awful legislation. SPEAK UP forcefully and often. Most bishops know their local senators and representatives personally. Call them, chide them, persuade them and do it now!

john hernandez
1 year 6 months ago

Mr Evans, please highlight those portions of the Republican's proposed legislation that you consider mean and include what your understanding of the goal of that portion of the legislation is. For example, removing the requirement for the younger population to not have to pay for healthcare that they neither need nor want and at a rate they find unreasonable is a goal; this addresses freedom of choice and free market principles. Don't think this is mean at all. Thank you

Stuart Meisenzahl
1 year 6 months ago

J Dresler

Health care is not one of the enumerated rights under our Constitution.
The only way it will become such is through congressional legislation or through a decision of the Supreme Court searching in the so called "penumbra of the Constitution." as they did with the right of privacy. There are many obstacles to either course of action , all of which are obvious.

If Heath care does become a "right under US Law", I think you would be in for some real surprises such as government imposed ciriculum or outright control of medical schools; mandatory services at all hospitals and medical centers, including abortion through whatever trimester the government determines; and withholding of various services to the terminally ill or perhaps even based on age.; etc
If you think this is improbable or nonsensical then I suggest you look up Obamacare Architect Dr Zeke Emanuel's "complete lives curve" . Emanuel boldly advocates:

"When implemented the "complete lives curve" produces a priority curve on which individuals between 15 and 40 years get the most substantial chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances that are attenuated" Lancet January 31, 2009

This is nothing less than a naked implementation of the Margaret Sanger progressive theory that those whose contribution to society is either impaired or worn out should be eliminated.

Congress has already granted to veterans "the right to health care" .
Since 1930 the Federal Government has had sole control of all VA services and institutions. Some 90 years later we have demonstrated in weekly scandals what this right means in practical terms for Vetrans. If nothing else you need only look in this the 6th month of 2017 for the head of the VA to have to get a special act of congress passed in order to enable him to fire some 1500 incompetent employees!! It took the VA 90 years to be able to have the ability to operate like an ordinarily efficient business.

Dcn Cliff Britton
1 year 6 months ago

Stewart... I agree that there is not a Constitutional "right" to healthcare yet "right" language is often used to shape the discussion (even in the original article's quote from the USCCB which call healthcare both a right and referred to a "safety net"). I think a fair argument is that our Catholic faith should incline us to make policy decisions that improve the welfare of all because of our shared humanity. But (as you note) the pool of money available for social programs is not infinite. And studies have shown that, with healthcare, there really is no end to need, both perceived and real.

john hernandez
1 year 6 months ago

I agree with J Cosgrove. Media organizations must provide fair and balanced facts. I worked in media for 33 yrs and was extremely disappointed with today's News reporting. Newsrooms are stacked with Left wing ideology. The Medicaid expansion is a slap in the face to those truly in need. Healthy working folks should not be subsidized with Medicaid.

John Dresler
1 year 6 months ago

When someone like commenter Cosgrove states "First, no one is being denied healthcare," I have no response. We live in different worlds. I wish these folks well.

Some folks understand I have been arguing that basic healthcare is our human right just as is liberty. I hope many agree on this but are stymied by the cost. I hope discussing this concept need not devolve into politically partisan positions. I would like to see our Bishops take a stand on this issue just as they have with issues such as birth control where dollar cost has not entered into their reasoning. They have painted themselves into a corner for fear national healthcare like Medicare/Medicaid will provide services they can't abide. Their silence is deafening.

As for cost, we require taxes for national defense, transportation, schools, police, etc. These are more than arbitrary "economic goods."
They are necessities for our quality of life. And of course there are spending limits, with one part approved, another not. I believe basic healthcare is a necessity for quality of life. But, as on our national defense, schools, etc. we need to control costs. There's the rub, but we don't give up on food safety because of cost. We don't give up on veteran care because of cost and mismanagement, we try to fix it.

J Cosgrove
1 year 6 months ago

Mr. Dresler,

I am glad to see that you agree with me and the Republicans about the important issue. The issue has to do with cost and I again suggest you listen to the Russ Roberts podcast I recommended. He has another podcast from last year also on healthcare costs. Google

Russ Roberts Jonathan Skinner and healthcare costs

Maybe then you will start to understand the problem with our "pay for service" healthcare system in which neither the patient nor the healthcare provider set the charges.

By the way I live in a world where one tries to solve a problem not in a make believe one where there is only wishful thinking. The world I live in sees that huge numbers of people cannot afford health insurance because of its costs so they pay out of pocket for healthcare they decide to get. So that is a real world that has to be acknowledged not one where I can just say healthcare is a right without specifying what that right means and how one is going to implement it.

rose-ellen caminer
1 year 6 months ago

If health coverage were a recognized right in the US;if we had a universal single payer system, or everyone was guaranteed coverage, and the Europeans did not, we would be citing universal health care /single payer, as a hall mark of American Exceptionalism; we care about our citizens and our health care policy is an expression of our exceptionalism! Unlike those greedy European capitalists, we would be crowing.
The only reason the right wing opposes single payer, and does not see health care coverage as a right, is because the Europeans do! The right wing Republican /conservatives are brainwashed with an ideology of; we're better then every one else; "liberty , the Constitution , liberty ,the Constitution". That's their "holy" mantra they recite to rationalize treating health care as a privilege! Those memes are used to hide behind their backward, puritanical hyper capitalist mindset and call it exceptional! It's exceptionally callous and backwards. The conservative/ right wing, stand for nothing but a belief that we're better then all other nations and people on the face of the earth and we have nothing to learn from anyone. The good new is that the young are not buying it. They DO believe in the European style liberal democracy that includes universal health care and other entitlements befitting a technologically advanced 21st century nation of hundreds of millions of people! We'll catch up and right wing Republican/conservative ideology will end up on the dust heap of history.
P.S Even Trump, I betcha, deep down inside has no problem with single payer, universal coverage. Its the right wing Republicans/ conservatives who are first and foremost American nationalists who oppose it on [brainwashed] principle; its "un-American".

Stuart Meisenzahl
1 year 6 months ago

Rose -Ellen

The bed rock principle of Conservatives in the US is that America was built and sustained on a "free market system" . That is exactly what is "exceptional". It is not that its people are per se exceptional but the "free market" creates a system in which many people can achieve exceptional results demonstrated by advances in technology, biologics, medicine etc. The big "BUT" in this is that "the free market" requires everyone to live with the consequences of their free choices made in that context. Sure safety nets are provided.....BUT they are limited to those in demonstrated need because if they were "across the board available" the market/human nature/ human history demonstrate that such availability dictates a loss of personal reliance/responsibility/ ambition /etc. In short there are no consequences to your inactivity on your own behalf. As an example, you only have to think back to this Continent's first experience with the "socialist concept".......the Jamestown Colony of 1620 as reported by Gov Wm. Bradford . Don't bother reading the political blogs on this point.....look at what Bradford himself wrote. The political blogs are full of right and left wing diatribes on this issue-the left blaming the problems all on disease etc.....the right emphasizing sloth, etc. The common denominator was that the colony was under stress and those who didn't shoulder their burden for whatever reason sapped the resources and energy of those who did the heavy lifting! The experiment failed miserably.

You state that: "the good news is that the young aren't buying it(American exceptionalism/free market competition) "

I suggest that you are quite wrong on that point. Now I understand that you make this argument in large part based on the young population's very positive response to Bernie Sanders list of "free stuff" that socialism would provide. But Bernie's response to the needed $$$ was the brush off line: " There is lots money". However the young who were out of school suddenly realized what a joke Bernie's approach was when they were subjected to paying what the Democrats determined to be their fair share of mandatory health benefits----Viola they were required (mandated) to buy Health Insurance which they did not need or want! They refused to buy despite the mandate and some 7.5 million of them paid fines in 2015 alone!
Then they discovered that Bernie who was sarcastically asking "how many yachts do you need?", apparently needed himself some THREE HOMES! (Newsweek 4/21/2017)
Google Malcom Gladwell, the Canadian Philosopher who loves single payer health and note what health care benefits he says Canadians were required to give up! You will be shocked at the health care items you consider normal that are forgone.
Google Obama Architect Zeke Emanuel "Continuous Lives Curve" in the Lancet and you will find that he believes successful universal health care will require those "under 15 and over 40 to receive only ATTENUATED health benefits"......That is Dr. Emanuel's polite way to say that if your contribution to society is limited, worn out exhausted, or not important you are in trouble!! Anyone remember Margaret Sanger? She pushed this same point and advocated sterilization and euthanasia as more active measures.
Healthcare is not a privilege per se but just as obvious as the necessity of health care is that it has costs which must be met and a profit incentive to attract workers, physicians, nurses, etc.....not to mention buildings , equipment. When you are young all of this seems like it must be free and should be free just because it is already there It is only later that youth becomes familiar with the hard facts that it took money to build and maintain and it will take THEIR money to keep it. THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH! Youth grows up as the recent election demonstrated! King Oscar 11 of Swedenfamously said:
"If you not a liberal at 25 you have no heart; and if you are not a conservative at 35 you have no brain!"


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