The U.S. Bishops have written to all members of Congress “urging members of the House and Senate to provide a replacement plan” to the Affordable Care Act.
The Chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, sent a letter Wednesday to members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate that “underscores the importance of creating a replacement plan that will safeguard human life from conception to natural death.”
The replacement plan should also “protect conscience rights and adequate healthcare services for the poor including healthcare for immigrants,” according to a press release from the Bishops’ conference.
Dewane said that Obamacare should not be repealed until Congress had prepared a suitable substitute plan that will “continue healthcare access for those who rely on it for their well-being.”
In his confirmation hearing Wednesday, Donald Trump’s appointee to the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, seemed to echo the Bishops’ concerns.
“I think it is imperative we have a system in place that has patients at the center and allows for every single American to have the opportunity to gain access for the coverage they want,” he said.
The U.S. Bishops have been vocal critics of the Affordable Care Act even before it was muscled through Congress. In response to queries about the Act’s contents, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (a “Catholic”) told Americans that Congress would have to “pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”
Obama also reneged on his oft-repeated promise to millions of Americans who had health insurance before Obamacare: “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan.”
In voicing their opposition to the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Bishops highlighted in particular the Act’s provisions for funding of abortions and its failure to protect freedom of conscience. The latter concern came to a head when the Obama administration later tried to bully the Little Sisters of the Poor—an order of Catholic nuns—into providing insurance coverage for procedures that they were morally opposed to.
In December of 2011, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, sent out an e-mail action alert calling the Obamacare regulation “an issue of fundamental, national importance,” that threatened the ability of Americans to act according to their religious beliefs.
“Until now, federal law has never prevented Catholic institutions, such as the Archdiocese of Washington, from providing for the needs of their employees with a health plan that is consistent with Catholic moral teachings,” he wrote.
The bishops’ concerns underscore an even deeper problem with the Affordable Care Act: the over-extension of government into the lives of citizens.
As one Catholic commentator wrote: “The deepest problem with Obamacare touches on fundamental questions about the proper role of the state in the lives of citizens.”
While the state bears responsibility for the common good, “entrusting the state with ever greater authority over ever greater swaths of civic life—however well intentioned—opens doors to unwanted, often unjust, intrusions upon the rights and consciences of citizens.”
In their call for the replacement of the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. bishops will find plenty of support inside and outside the fold.
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