As the 114th Congress and calendar year 2016 come to end, we find the Republican Party in complete control of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.

With the support of President-elect Donald Trump, the Republican-controlled Congress pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act on January 3, 2017, the first day of the new session.

Repealing Obamacare without simultaneously implementing a replacement health care plan for the 20 million Americans currently receiving coverage under Obamacare would be totally irresponsible for Republicans and the incoming Trump Administration.

During my 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, I was fortunate to serve on the Energy and Commerce Committee, the committee with jurisdiction over health care issues.  My last four years in Congress, I served as Chairman of the Congressional Oversight and Investigations subcommittee.

I spent several years investigating the health insurance industry and its practices of providing sham policies and rescinding tens of thousands of individual policies based on “post-claim underwriting.”

“Post-claim underwriting” occurs when a policy holder submits a claim. The claim is then checked against the insurance company’s computer program, containing up to 2,000 diagnostic codes which identify expensive medical treatments.

Once the diagnostic code is triggered, a personal audit of the insured’s health insurance application and medical records is undertaken.

The primary focus of the claims reviewer is to develop excuses to rescind an individual’s insurance policy. Sadly, we uncovered more than one case where the insurance coverage was rescinded and treatment denied, resulting in the death of the insured.

The abusive insurance practices uncovered through my Congressional investigations led to meaningful reforms, including a Patients’ Bill of Rights. These reforms were written into Obamacare and empower consumers to challenge a rescission of his/her health insurance policy.

During the debate on the Affordable Care Act, I led a small group of Right to Life Democrats who withheld their votes in favor of health care until we received an ironclad commitment from the president, through an Executive Order, assuring us that taxpayer funds would not be used to pay for abortions.

These Right to Life Democrats held steadfast to the belief that no public funds would be used for abortions and that the sanctity of life would be respected at every stage.

Even the Vatican, through its semi-official publication, La Civilta Cattolica, praised the passage of the Affordable Care Act and our actions by saying we did “…everything possible to obtain the approval of the health care reform without neglecting to respect unborn life.”

After leaving Congress, I challenged the Obama Administration’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act through my U.S. Supreme Court amicus briefs in support of Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor.

I believed it was necessary for me to intervene in these cases to protect the integrity of the conscience clause and the religious convictions of those individuals and organizations who objected to providing and paying for health insurance policies providing abortifacient drugs.

If the Republican majority follows through on its pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare, will the plan require all insurance policies to offer, at a minimum, the essential benefits to prevent and treat illness, disease and injury?

Will each health insurance policy offered to consumers provide basic essential benefits, such as: (1) ambulatory patient services; (2) emergency services; (3) hospitalization; (4) maternity and newborn care; (5) mental health and substance use disorder services including behavioral health treatment; (6) prescription drugs; (7) rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; (8) laboratory services; (9) preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management; and (10) pediatric services, including oral and vision care?

Any proposed health care plan should include provisions for children to remain covered under their parent’s health insurance plan until age 26, cover pre-existing injuries, and provide for the most vulnerable among us, the disabled, the poor, the unemployed and the under-employed.

I raise these issues questioning coverage and benefits not to politicize the Republican health care plan but to ensure that whatever plan is developed reflects the social, moral and ethical values of America.

If Republican members of Congress allow the Catholic teachings of promoting social justice and dignity of every human as their guiding light, then they must produce a quality, affordable health care plan for all Americans.

The current vitriol of politicians demonizing Obamacare does not reflect our Catholic values, our morality, or our sense of justice.

As Catholics, let us embrace the “…ethical challenge [of health care that is] demanding and exciting, and so many people of good will, motivated and competent, with humility, in a spirit of cooperation and self-sacrifice, …to reform not only the U.S. health care system, but every health care system, by making those systems more effective from every point of view, by focusing them on promoting the dignity of each person and justice, care for immigrants and refugees, and safeguarding the environment.” (La Civilta Cattolica, page 479, June 2010.)

Under our Democracy, the Congressional Republicans possess the legislative authority to repeal Obamacare. They also possess a moral and ethical responsibility in governing that is reflective of our Catholic values of social justice, fairness, and dignity for all mankind.

Former Congressman Bart Stupak continues to advocate for health care for all Americans and details his own health care hell in his upcoming book expected to be published in 2017.