This is the third and final part of what was planned as a five-part series on the USCCB’s moral principles for health reform. As a result of recent developments in Congress, the series has been shortened.
Part III: Where do we go from here?
By Michael Lewis, Associate Director
The Republican-proposed American Health Care Act, offered as a replacement for the 2010 Affordable Care Act, was abruptly pulled from the House floor Friday because it did not have the votes. In the wake of the ACHA’s defeat, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said, “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” as Congress is expected to pivot to other issues such as tax reform and infrastructure.
While politicians and pundits assign blame for the breakdown of health care discussions, the U.S. health care system remains in urgent need of reform to better serve the needs of all Americans, regardless of income, age or health status. The USCCB recently outlined five moral principles that should guide any discussion of reform. Over the past two weeks, we’ve explored the first two criteria of respecting the dignity of human life and honoring conscience rights.
The future of the health care debate is uncertain; however, the USCCB and, in Virginia, the Virginia Catholic Conference, will continue to advocate for reform that includes the two moral principles mentioned above as well as the following values:
- Access for all: Even with the Affordable Care Act, lack of health care access for the poor continues to be a problem. The ACA provided funds for states to expand their Medicaid programs to provide health care to low-income individuals, but several states—including Virginia—have refused to expand their Medicaid programs. Other states have extended access to health care for millions of individuals. The Virginia General Assembly’s refusal to expand Medicaid has left 400,000 low-income Virginians without access to health care. As the USCCB writes, “[H]ealth care is not a privilege, but a right and requirement to protect the life and dignity of every person.”
- Truly affordable: Even as 19 million Americans gained health care coverage from 2010 to 2015, many have faced skyrocketing premiums, substantial deductibles, and a lack of choices. Others who previously had plans they were satisfied with lost them because they were not compliant with new mandates under the ACA. Any future health reform efforts must encourage employers who seek to be more generous with health benefits than the law requires, and support the financial needs of low-income families and individuals by maintaining expanded Medicaid coverage or providing substantial premium subsidies.
- Comprehensive and high-quality: In many cases, having health insurance does not equate to having access to health care services. Many health care providers do not accept Medicaid due to low reimbursement rates, making it difficult for many low-income Americans to receive medical care. As the bishops write, “Access to health care which is necessary and suitable for the proper development and maintenance of life for all people must be a goal of our society.” To that end, incentives for prevention, early intervention, provider choice and equitable provider compensation are critical components of a comprehensive and high-quality health care system.
The ongoing need for substantial and comprehensive health reform is clear. The ACA is seriously deficient. It funds abortion with taxpayer money, mandates coverage for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, and lacks conscience protections. But the ACA has also expanded access to health care for millions. Let us pray for authentic reform that covers all and protects all, born and unborn.