Bishops: Senate health care bill must respect life, be ‘truly affordable’

The chairmen of four U.S. bishops' committees wrote a letter to the Senate urging its members to ensure that the health care reform not only respect life and religious liberty, but also remove the "unacceptable changes to Medicaid" that would leave "millions of additional people uninsured in the years ahead."

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of the U.S. Senate “have a grave obligation” to make sure their health care reform bill respects life, provides access to adequate health care “for all” and is “truly affordable,” the chairmen of four U.S. bishops’ committees said in a letter to senators released June 2.

As the Senate takes up health care reform, it “must act decisively to remove the harmful proposals from the House bill that will affect low-income people — including immigrants — as well as add vital conscience protections, or begin reform efforts anew,” the chairmen said, reiterating key moral principles they urged be in the U.S. House bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.

By a four-vote margin May 4, the House passed the American Health Care Act to replace the Obama administration’s health care law.

After House passage of its measure, the U.S. bishops “noted the positive aspects” of the bill, including “critical life protections” for the unborn, the letter said, but the measure “contains many serious flaws” the Senate must act to change, it added.

The letter, dated June 1, was signed by New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration.

“Most troubling are unacceptable changes to Medicaid that reports indicate will leave millions of additional people uninsured in the years ahead,” the letter said.

“The Catholic Church remains committed to ensuring the fundamental right to medical care, a right which is in keeping with the God-given dignity of every person, and the corresponding obligation as a country to provide for this right,” it continued. “Health care debates must not be reduced to only those elements which appear most politically expedient; those without a strong voice in the process must not bear the brunt of attempts to cut costs.”

The letter said the U.S. bishops “stand ready to work with Congress” to address problems with the current health care law “in ways that protect the most vulnerable among us.”

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