U.S. Bishops Urge Better Care for Immigrants and Affordability

WASHINGTON—The United

States Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the Senate to make

essential changes its health reform bill in order to keep in place

federal law on abortion funding and conscience protection on abortion,

protect access to health care for immigrants and include strong

provisions for adequate affordability.

The bishops called

the Senate health care bill an “enormous disappointment” that creates

new and unacceptable federal policy for funding and coverage of

abortions, as well as rights of conscience. Bishop William Murphy,

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Bishop John Wester voiced their wish for

better health care reform legislation in a November 20 letter to the

Senate. They chair the bishops’ Committees on Domestic Justice and

Human Development, Pro-Life Activities and Migration, respectively.

The letter, which was accompanied with a fact sheet on the House Stupak Amendment (http://www.usccb.org/mr/mediatalk/StupakAmendmentFactsheet.pdf),

urged Senators to improve the Senate health care bill in the key areas

of affordability, immigration, federal funding and coverage of abortion

and conscience rights.

According to the bishops, the bill

“does not live up to President Obama’s commitment of barring the use of

federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws.”

They cited an “abortion surcharge” that would force insurance

purchasers to pay for other people’s abortions, provisions that would

allow the HHS Secretary to mandate unlimited abortion coverage

nationwide, and that the bill does not even allow for religious

institutions to offer their own employees coverage that conforms to

their institution’s teaching.

 “The Catholic bishops have

advocated for decades for affordable and accessible health care for

all, especially the poor and marginalized,” the bishops said. “The

Senate bill makes great progress in covering people in our nation.

However, the Senate bill would still leave over 24 million people in

our nation without health insurance. This is not acceptable.”

The

bishops encouraged expanding Medicaid eligibility for those living at

133 percent or lower of the federal policy level. They also urged an

end to the five-year ban on legal immigrants for accessing federal

health benefits programs and said that undocumented persons should not

be barred from purchasing insurance plans with their own money.

 “Providing

affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these

fundamental principles is a public good, moral imperative and urgent

national priority,” said the bishops.

The text of the letter can be found online at http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-11-20-ltr-usccb-health-care-to-senate.pdf and in Spanish at http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/SP_1080_hc_reform_Sen_1120.pdf.

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