Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Catholics and Health Care Reform

Some questions have arisen in the comments here and in other places I've been about what Catholics should believe about health care. Aren't the bishops in favor of government-run health care? Shouldn't we be, too? And what about the teaching of the Church on health care?

Let's start with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 2288:

2288 Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.

Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance.

This teaching comes during the discussion of the fifth Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." Respect for the lives and dignity of our fellow men does not entitle us to remain indifferent to the suffering of others, nor to promote any sort of unjust system of health care which excludes vast numbers of people from access to a doctor or hospital.

However, it is clear that the requirement that "society help in the attainment" of good living conditions, food and clothing, housing, heath care, etc. as listed above is not a requirement that a government adopt socialist plans to enact confiscatory taxation in order to provide for "free" these basic human goods. To look at this issue in the simplest way, it is more necessary to life that people have shelter and food than health care, and welfare programs which provide these to the impoverished are an act of both justice and mercy--but requiring all people to give a significant portion of their income to the government so that the government could then purchase and distribute food and regulate housing for all would clearly be an abuse of the government's power over its citizens.

Making sure that the poor have access to medical care and treatment is a good goal. Enacting a hugely expensive program that will quite likely strain our already devastated economy to a dangerous point, end private health insurance in America, depress the wages of doctors and nurses and other highly-trained health care workers, and mandate coverage of immoral things like contraception and abortion (and, if Nutmeg is right, eventually euthanasia), and which still does not cover illegal immigrants whose use of our nation's medical system has been one factor in the rising costs of health care is not necessarily the same thing.

The United States bishops are noticing this; here's Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y:
WASHINGTON—“Genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and a vital national obligation,” said Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., as he outlined the policy priorities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on the issue of health care in a July 17 letter to Congress. The letter supported efforts to pass health care reform, but warned against inclusion of abortion.

Writing on behalf of the bishops as chairman of their Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Murphy said the bishops have advocated comprehensive health care reform for decades and recommended four criteria for fair and just health care reform: respect for human life and dignity, access for all, pluralism and equitable costs.

“Two of these criteria need special attention as Congress moves forward with health care reform,” Bishop Murphy said.

On respecting life and dignity, he said, “No health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion. Any such action would be morally wrong.”

After citing protections from public funding of abortion in U.S. law, Bishop Murphy added, “Health care reform cannot be a vehicle for abandoning this consensus which respects freedom of conscience and honors our best American traditions. Any legislation should reflect longstanding and widely supported current policies on abortion funding, mandates and conscience protections because they represent sound morality, wise policy and political reality.”
Bishop Murphy's entire letter is available as a .PDF document at the above link, for those interested in reading the whole thing.

The way I see it, it's one thing to notice that our current system of health insurance needs to be fixed, but quite another to insist that only by letting the federal government take over the health care industry, make decisions for all, promote an immoral, anti-life view of the human person, and drive private businesses out of existence can we fix the problems with health insurance and access to health care.

In fact, as things stand right now there's one hugely grave danger that may become a reality under a government-run health care system. The post above this one will explore that danger.

1 comment:

Baron Korf said...

Its a combination of insurance, billing, tort reform and fraud protection. The problem is fixing those things is a long drawn out process that could take years and come as a detriment to those in power position.

In a lot of ways it would be like asking Congress to give itself a pay cut. Without a higher guidence than profit, our human dignity is cheap to them.