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John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, speaks during a 23-hour prayer vigil June 29 on Capitol Hill in Washington. The vigil focused on preserving Medicaid and was organized after the Senate delayed a vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act, its health care reform bill. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, speaks during a 23-hour prayer vigil June 29 on Capitol Hill in Washington. The vigil focused on preserving Medicaid and was organized after the Senate delayed a vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act, its health care reform bill. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Even after revisions, the Senate health care bill is still “unacceptable” in the view of Catholic bishops because of its failure to ensure that the poor and other vulnerable populations continue to have access to medical care.

Speaking on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Frank Dewane, head of the Diocese of Venice, Fla., said in a statement on Thursday, “On an initial read, we do not see enough improvement to change our assessment that the proposal is unacceptable.”

“We recognize the incremental improvement in funding the fight against opioid addiction, for instance,” the statement continued, “but more is needed to honor our moral obligation to our brothers and sisters living in poverty and to ensure that essential protections for the unborn remain in the bill.”

The Catholic Health Association, meanwhile, said the revisions to the proposal “reinforces the fact that this bill cannot be fixed.”

“The proposed changes do not affect the core issue that this bill will ultimately take health care away from millions of our nation’s most vulnerable populations,” said a statement from the organization that represents hundreds of Catholic hospitals in the United States.

The Catholic Health Association, meanwhile, said the revisions to the proposal “reinforces the fact that this bill cannot be fixed.”

“For this reason we continue to encourage Senators to oppose this bill and to work together towards improvements in our health care system that will stabilize the insurance market, improve affordability and strengthen and expand the coverage gains already achieved,” the statement continues.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell released the new version of the health care bill on July 13, bidding for conservative support by letting insurers sell low-cost but skimpy policies while reaching for moderates with added billions to combat opioid abuse and help states rein in consumers’ skyrocketing insurance costs.

The 172-page legislation, the Senate G.O.P.’s plan for rolling back much of President ] Obama’s health care law, faces a do-or-die vote next week. Senator McConnell has no margin for error on the vote. Since Democrats uniformly oppose the effort, the bill needs the votes of 50 of the 52 G.O.P. senators to prevail, and two have already said they will vote “no” if for different reasons—conservative Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and moderate Senator Susan Collins of Maine.

Over the past several months, Catholic bishops have opposed House and Senate efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. In a letter sent to senators on June 27, Bishop Dewane, head of the bishops domestic justice committee, wrote that the loss of coverage for millions of Americans due to potential cuts to Medicaid would be “devastating.”

“Lawmakers can address the very real problems of the Affordable Care Act by more narrow reforms, and in a unified way,” he wrote. “Removing vital coverage for those most in need is not the answer to our nation’s health care problems, and doing so will not help us build toward the common good.”

Last month, during their spring meeting in Indianapolis, several bishops condemned Republican proposals to undo the Affordable Care Act, pointing to the estimated loss of coverage for upwards of 23 million Americans.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego said bishops must do more “to recognize the breathtaking nature of the assault on the core principle of Catholic social teaching” present in some congressional proposals, adding that “health care is a fundamental human right and government is its ultimate guarantor.”

The Catholic Health Association said in its statement that the revised bill still put too many Americans at risk of losing access to Medicaid and argues that states, which would lose federal subsidies under the G.O.P. plan, would be “focused on ways to cut eligibility, benefits and provider payments rather than ways to improve care and lower long-term costs through innovation.”

“This is a critical time for the people we serve and especially critical for those who are the most vulnerable,” the statement said. “Thousands of our members have taken action to urge their Senators to oppose this bill. We hope that Members will listen to their constituents who continue to express their concerns.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
janet macdonald
5 years 1 month ago

I'm an active "Jesuit-trained" Catholic and very involved with the Spiritual Exercises. That said, I believe that the Church should do more to help the poor and sick, open more hospitals, give more free care, etc. You see, I'm also a taxpayer. I would rather give more money to the Church to do good, rather than give it to the government to subsidize a lot of Medicaid fraud. Pushing healthcare expenses off onto the government (I hear taxpayers) is a good way for the Church (I hear hierarchy) to shirk her duty and push her mission off on a civil system (I hear waste). I'm sure the bishops have great healthcare. Perhaps they should consider giving that up to some poor people. Hmmm, is the shoe on the other foot then? And I do love our huge cathedrals and magnificent halls of art, but Jesus didn't direct us to do that. He told us to care for His poor. Maybe it is time to think about downsizing the Church's wealth in favor of doing what He told us to do.

Philip Fabiano
5 years 1 month ago

Perhaps Ms. MacDonald you missed those classes on critical thinking and examination of facts. Every credible analysis of the Medicaid system shows that "fraud" is virtually non-existent. The most significant source of fraud is not on the part of recipients but rather involves providers billing for a service or equipment that patients never received. Nationally, about $19 billion (that’s 7%) of federal Medicaid dollars were absorbed by improper (pertaining to fraud, abuse, and unintentional slip-ups like paperwork errors) payments in 2012. Are you so sure that a church based system would do better in curbing this type of abuse. While certainly, the church has had a long history of providing health care to those in need I don't see any clamor from parishioners willing to provide the necessary funds to ensure that health care is what it is--a fundamental human right and not a privilege. And selling every church, selling every pew, selling every candle will not support an adequate health care system for very long. Providing for the general welfare is the role of government and one that it does very well--the efficiency of the Medicare and Medicaid system is proof.

Carolyn Capuano, HM
5 years ago

Any number of hospitals and health care providers do not accept patients on Medicaid. Catholic hospitals welcome all and often Medicaid reimbursement does not even cover the cost of care. I applaud our Bishops for speaking up on this issue.

Vincent Gaglione
5 years ago

To quote this article: Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego said bishops must do more “to recognize the breathtaking nature of the assault on the core principle of Catholic social teaching” present in some congressional proposals, adding that “health care is a fundamental human right and government is its ultimate guarantor.”

Bishop McElroy’s language is very different than the modest rhetoric of the majority of the nation’s Catholic bishops who characterize the Republican health plans with the word “unacceptable.” Where is the moral outrage with language such as Bishop McElroy’s?

And one more aside, one commenter here has the notion that the Church can better provide medical care through the charity of the faithful! The naiveté is stunning. There are parishes closing all over the nation for lack of support. As another here says, Medicaid and Medicare are probably the best administered health care programs in the country, bar none. The fraud by doctors is not so easily detected… unless the patients are willing to report the phony claims, copies of which the patients receive subsequent to their visits!

Stuart Meisenzahl
5 years ago

I suggest you google Malcolm Gladwell for his recent comments on Meet the Press concerning Canadian Health. As you probably know Mr Gladwell is a very well respected academic and social philosopher. He points out that the price of Canadian single payer health care is based on the Canadian consensus that it would not have anything resembling the best hospitals, medical procedures or access to the newest drugs and a willingness to incur long waits for access to medical services and a loss of certain procedures after a certain age.I believe that there is a YouTube video of his appearance. I hasten to add Mr Gladwell endorses the Canadian consensus but understands the cost incurred to keep it.
As Gladwell points out .....There is no free lunch and yet the Bishops seem to think there will be or that the public will tolerate a newer wholesale reduction in available health care quality . Assuming such a single payer system is put in effect you can be practically assured that a competitive and better private health system will develop with better paid more highly skilled doctors and more advanced procedures and facilities and therapies. Perhaps you would like to gauge the massive social unrest that would surely result from such a two tier system. Unlike the many single payer countries which have a history of flirting with various levels of socialism and its effects,the American public has no such experience as would soften the blow of such radical change.
Zeke Emanuel has predicted that in the US if single payer system were adopted that it would be necessary to also adopt what he calls the "The Continuous Lives Curve" under which people age 15 to to 40 have priority access to health services whereas those outside those parameters would receive what calls "attenuated services". See Lancet Jan 2009 and American Thinker April 2014 . You will recall Dr Emanuel is one of the principal architects of The ACA. Do you honestly think the American public will accept this result?

Chuck Kotlarz
5 years ago

Canadians today outlive us by three years. Canadians outlived us by only a year in 1960.

No right-to-work state has a life expectancy higher than California. Life expectancy in three right-to-work states falls closer to Russia than California. Russia ranks 110 out of 183 countries.

Michael Barberi
5 years ago

After reading this article the only solution that would be acceptable to the Bishops is a single payer, government paid, universal healthcare plan for all Americans. The premiums for ObamaCare plans are skyrocketing and deductibles are so hight that healthcare is not only unaccessible but completely unaffordable for millions of Americans and their families.

While the Bishops have not proposed any solution (other than calling cutting benefits for Medicaid 'unacceptable'), it seems obvious to me that 'costs' are not really that important. Remember that ObamaCare was supposed to cost about $900 billion over 10 years, but three years later the CBO estimated the cost to be $2.7 Trillion. These costs are still increasing at an unacceptable rate.

What the Democrats (and I assume the Bishops) want is polyanna:

> Don't cut benefits for the poor (e.g., Medicaid which was expanded under ObamaCare)
> Reduce premiums and costs to affordable levels
> Provide everyone with adequate healthcare benefits and easy access
> Ensure that the quality of care remains high
> Stamp out fraud and abuse

Unfortunately, ObamaCare is fundamentally flawed and is not achieving its objectives. The solution being proposed by the Democrats is a single payer Medicare-type national health insurance program. Unfortunately, such an idea is nothing more than irresponsible cost shifting where the government will end up managing and paying for the costs of universal healthcare benefits by allotting money every year to pay for its skyrocketing costs.

While the Bishops are calling the Senate Republican plan 'unacceptable', I wonder whether the de facto solution will be worse than the problem.

Eugene Fitzpatrick
5 years ago

Reduce the military budget by an amount that thoroughly covers the costs of the annual health needs of every single citizen and a large number of non-citizen residents also. And after this reduction, start applying the disgraceful amount of excess funds for the military that remain to the repair of the nation's legendary crumbling infra-structure. Thusly we get a wise, humane extirpation of several American societal malignancies --- military excess, neglect of the health of the citizenry and infra-structure shabbiness. And as a bonus , maybe the rest of humankind will cease seeing us as the ethically-challenged troglodytes we've so progressively become.

Randal Agostini
5 years ago

There is no such thing as "Government Money." Those who believe that there is also believe that it is simply a question of directing where it should be spent. The answer to our Healthcare debate is that healthcare should be paid by - US. There should be a universal tax, like a VAT where everyone contributes the same percentage and everyone receives the same benefit. This could be managed by States, putting even more control in the hands of citizens. When people decide their own level of healthcare, then the price of healthcare will reduce and we will all get the biggest bang for our buck.

Vincent Gaglione
5 years ago

In Sunday’s local paper, which uses material from USA Today as well, there was a story about the importance of Medicaid to a Catholic institution in Yonkers that takes care of severely disabled children. The Elizabeth Seton Pediatric center relies on Medicaid for the vast proportion of its funding.

Here’s the link to the story:

In addition, I was speaking to several nun friends who remarked to me how important Medicaid is to their order for the care and health of their elderly sisters.

In both instances, with knowledge such as these two items provide, I don’t know how any Catholic could in conscience give support to the proposed Republican Senate and House legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act that would eviscerate Medicaid, all the talk of economics notwithstanding.

I am equally appalled that the activists of the pro-life movement, especially in an instance like the pediatric center, have not vigorously and loudly condemned the proposed Republican Senate and House legislation as a threat to life. As some critics of the pro-life movement claim, they seemingly are politically only pro-birth. They evidently abandon any political efforts to support life after it is achieved!

Stuart Meisenzahl
5 years ago

As of noon today there will be no reductions in the growth of Medicaid spending (there never were any"cuts"). So we shall quickly see if the vaunted ACA can survive as written.
Based on the 5 year experience to date, the chances of the ACA survival are nil. I have read absolutely nothing that indicates it will/could survive.
The history of pensions promised in New York, Illinois, California etc provide the road map for what is going to occur. Similarly the labor benefits promised at General Motors and Chrysler are instructive. In short : massive unfunded liabilities that compound! The laws of economics have not been abrogated nor can they be legislated away.
President Obama said he would not sign the ACA if it cost more than $1 Trillion over 10 years. Yet in the first 3years ACA already ran up a $3 Trillion tab and only covered in its best year 1/2 of the projected number of newly insured people!
When the dust settles from the impending massive implosion you will find ACA architect Zeke Emanuel's "Continuous Lives System" . See Lancet 2009 . As Dr Emanuel politely put it, those under age 15 and over age 40 will be given "attenuated" access to health care services. The patients described in the article you referenced for the Seton Hospital will be getting "attenuated" care which I believe will be far worse than any reduction in the growth of Medicaid imposed by the now defunct Senate bill. Architect Emanuel believes that a physician's obligation to the health of society in general is greater than his obligation to his patient. So if it's support for health care after birth you are most concerned with, then it appears that it is going to be fully available only to a rather select group of people between about 15 and 40. It seems that Margaret Sanger , the person who brought us Planned Parenthood and modern abortion attitudes, is going to bring us her longed for "attenuated health care " as well. So If your contribution to society as a whole is limited, unproven, or exhausted you will then " be entitled to be attenuated"! You might check back to the roots of the so called "Progressive Movement".....I think you will quickly find Ms Sanger, Woodrow Wilson and a gaggle of "elites and luminaries" who believed they knew what is best for "Society".
President Obama and the Democrats created the unread 2700 page ACA monster that then needed 20,000 pages of rules which has already cost over three times its projected cost half way through its ten year cost period. The insurance portion of the ACA is collapsing in front of your eyes as was predicted 5 years ago. The insurance market has been destroyed for the near term and millions of people who had insurance before Obamacare (and the doctor they liked) are now about to lose their Obamacare coverage .They will soon end up being participants in Medicaid with the monies the good Nuns now rely having to cover a lot more people. And the Federal Government will have had about $4Trillion added to the national debt, compounding with rising interest rates.

Chuck Kotlarz
5 years ago

Seniors in twenty-eight right-to-work states are thirty percent more likely to have lost all their natural teeth.

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