BY NANCY FRAZIER OʼBRIEN THREE leading US bishops have called on members of Congress to “set aside partisan divisions and special-interest pressures” to achieve genuine health reform.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City said: “The healthcare debate, with all its political and ideological conflict, seems to have lost its central moral focus and policy priority, which is to ensure that affordable, quality, life-giving care is available to all.” The three men chair the US bishops’ committees on ProLife Activities, on Domestic Justice and Human Development and on Migration.
In the two-and-a-half-page letter they outlined their “fundamental principles” for healthcare reform, saying it must “Protect human life and dignity, not threaten them”; “Respect the consciences of providers, taxpayers and others, not violate them”; “Be truly universal and... not be denied to those in need because of their condition, age, where they come from or when they arrive here”, and restrain costs and apply them “equitably across the spectrum of payers”.
Although the letter did not refer specifically to the election of Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts to the Senate, the bishops said “political contexts have changed” but “the moral and policy failure that leaves tens of millions of our sisters and brothers without access to healthcare still remains”.
Mr Brown’s election broke up the Democrats’ 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, leaving the future of health reform legislation up in the air. Senate majority leader Harry Reid said no action would be taken on health reform in the Senate until Mr Brown was seated.
In their letter, the Church leaders repeated their criticism of health reform bills passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Both bills, they said, “leave between 18 and 23 million people in our nation without health insurance”.
“Although recently passed legislation in the House and Senate may not move forward in either of their current forms, there are provisions in the bills that should be included in – and some that should be removed from – any proposals for healthcare reform,” they said.
They faulted both bills for failing to protect the conscience rights of health care providers, insurers, consumers and institutions beyond the abortion issue and said the Senate bill “violates the long-standing federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions and health plans that include such abortions”.
“We believe legislation that fails to comply with this policy and precedent is not true healthcare reform and should be opposed until this fundamental problem is remedied,” the bishops said.