Chairman of U.S. Bishops’ Committee Calls Senate Health Bill ‘Unacceptable’

The Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development said that the American bishops are “examining very closely” the discussion draft of the U.S. Senate’s health care bill but that as it stands the bill is “unacceptable.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida released a statement Thursday saying that the new proposal retains many of the “fundamental defects” of the House of Representatives-passed health care legislation, and even “further compounds them.”

“It is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written,” Dewane said, including the omission of healthcare for immigrants and their families and insufficient protection of conscience rights.

This bill does not move the nation toward the goal of improving “real access for immigrants in health care policy,” DDewane said, and moreover it fails to put in place “conscience protections for all those involved in the health care system, protections which are needed more than ever in our country’s health policy.”

“An acceptable health care system provides access to all, regardless of their means, and at all stages of life. Such a health care system must protect conscience rights, as well as extend to immigrant families,” he stated.

Bishop Dewane praised the language in the legislation which recognizes that “abortion is not health care” by attempting to prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortion or plans that cover it. These provisions “would correct a flaw in the Affordable Care Act by fully applying the longstanding and widely-supported Hyde amendment protections,” he said.

“Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill,” he added.

The prelate also spoke favorably of efforts by the Senate to “provide stronger support for those living at and above the poverty line” while criticizing the draft’s “per-capita cap” on Medicaid funding as well as formulas that would provide “even less to those in need than the House bill.”

“These changes will wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported,” he said.

Bishop Dewane urged the Senate to “now act to make changes to the draft that will protect those persons on the peripheries of our health care system.”

Last January, the Bishop expressed similar concerns in a letter to members of the U.S. Congress underscoring the importance of creating a replacement plan for Obamacare 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.

At the time, 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.”

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