Catholic Health Association applauds 'strong leadership' by Obama on health care

Vice President Joseph Biden listens as Sr. Carol Keehan announces an agreement to help finance health reform last August. Credit: CHA
Vice President Joseph Biden listens as Sr. Carol Keehan announces an agreement to help finance health reform last August. Credit: CHA


Despite criticism from the U.S. Catholic bishops, the Catholic Health Association (CHA) has issued a statement saying it continues to support the insurance reform provisions in recent health care legislation and continues to “applaud” President Obama for his “strong leadership.”

The statement comes even though the U.S. bishops’ opposed the bill. Three leading bishops have said the divergence between the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and groups like the CHA have caused “confusion and a wound to Catholic unity.”

In a Tuesday statement, the CHA said President Obama’s June 22 remarks show he is “once again keeping national focus on the importance of implementing vital reform measures designed to protect the health and well being of millions of vulnerable people in this country.”

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to the CHA, will soon “stop insurance companies from prohibiting coverage for pre-existing conditions and end lifetime limits of coverage and other abuses such as arbitrary rescissions.”

The organization said it was “confident” that the act will provide both access to more affordable insurance and a greater sense of security to 32 million Americans who lack these protections.

“We continue to applaud the President for his strong leadership in this important area.”

The CHA supported the bill even though the U.S. Catholic bishops opposed the health care legislation for reasons including concerns about its restrictions on abortion funding. For lending her support, CHA’s president, Sr. Carol Keehan, received one of the 21 pens the president used to sign the legislation into law.

In a May 21 statement titled “Setting the Record Straight,” three heads of USCCB committees disagreed that the divergence between the Catholic Conference and other Catholic organizations, including the CHA, represented “merely a difference of analysis or strategy.”

“Rather, for whatever good will was intended, it represented a fundamental disagreement, not just with our staff as some maintain, but with the bishops themselves. As such it has resulted in confusion and a wound to Catholic unity,” the bishops said.

The disagreement was brought to the surface again by a June 16 CNA story that reported comments Cardinal George made on the rift at a recent U.S. bishops meeting. The remarks were recounted to CNA by several bishops who were in attendance at the meeting. The accuracy of the article was called into question by an employee of the USCCB, causing CNA's executive director Alejandro Bermudez to insist that the agency stands by its story and supports the release of the audio recording from the bishops' meeting.