.- As national debate about a major Congressional health care bill continues, the U.S. bishops have called for “genuine” health care reform that protects human life and provides comprehensive health care access.
Bishop of Rockville Centre, New York William F. Murphy, writing a July 17 letter to Congress on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), commented:
“Genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and a vital national obligation.”
Bishop Murphy, who is chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said that the U.S. bishops have advocated health care reform for decades.
He also outlined four criteria for health care reform, listing respect for human life and dignity, access for all, pluralism and equitable costs.
Concerning respect for human life, the bishop insisted that no health care reform plan should “compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion.”
“Any such action would be morally wrong,” he stated, noting that U.S. law already bars federal funding for most abortions.
Health care reform, he said, should not be a vehicle for abandoning a “consensus” that “respects freedom of conscience and honors our best American traditions.”
“Any legislation should reflect longstanding and widely supported current policies on abortion funding, mandates and conscience protections because they represent sound morality, wise policy and political reality.”
Discussing access to health care, Bishop Murphy remarked, “All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage of life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born.”
The bishop said the USCCB believes health care reform should be “truly universal” and “genuinely affordable.”
Noting that some families, including immigrants, will not be covered by health care reform, Bishop Murphy urged Congress to fund adequately clinics and hospitals that serve these populations.
He also advocated more cost-sharing protections and new coverage options for poorer families, limits or exemptions on premiums for those who are near poverty, and increases in eligibility levels.