DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - The U.S. Bishops are declaring that everyone has a right to universal health care, and in a new letter to Congress, they're warning there should be an alternative medical plan if Obamacare is repealed.
While Catholic Tradition does not teach health care is a universal right, in a letter released Wednesday, Bp. Frank J. Dewane, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for the USCCB, said, "We remain committed to the ideals of universal and affordable health care."
Earlier this month, President-elect Trump called Obamacare "a lie from the beginning" in a tweet. Mike Pence, vice president-elect, has said the "first order of business is to repeal and replace Obamacare."
Despite an expected 25-percent increase in premiums for 2017 and the near-crashing of many healthcare exchanges even before the election, Bp. Dewane went on to express in the letter, "We recognize that the law (Obamacare) has brought about important gains in coverage, and those gains should be protected."
Despite a confrontation between the Catholic bishops and the Obama administration during the time of the roll-out, the Huffington Post pubished an article this week titled "Catholic Bishops Are Urging Congress to Halt Obamacare Repeal." Bishop Dewane admitted the bishops agreed with the general goal of Obamacare, but it had problems because it wrongly "expanded the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion, and it failed to provide essential conscience protections and access to health care for immigrants."
The letter further quoted Pope Francis as a reason to support universal health care: "[W]e note for now that a repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act ought not be undertaken without the concurrent passage of a replacement plan that ensures access to adequate health care for the millions of people who now rely upon it for their well being."
Trump has said that he doesn't plan merely to repeal Obamacare but also to replace it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said replacing Obamacare is "pretty high on our agenda." In a campaign release in October of Donald Trump's Contract With the American Voter, Trump revealed what he will do in his first 100 days in office:
[The] Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines and lets states manage Medicaid funds. Reforms will also include cutting the red tape at the FDA: There are over 4,000 drugs awaiting approval, and we especially want to speed the approval of life-saving medications.
The letter was issued just days after influential Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston called health care "foundational" and said governments have a "moral obligation" to provide such care to all citizens.
Samuel Gregg, Research Director at the Acton Institute, aruged in Crisis Magazine that universal, federally operated health care is not necessarily a part of Catholic teaching. Rather, Gregg offers, "Clearly there are many issues that even a well-founded recognition of a right to access health care cannot resolve by itself. Nor is it obvious that government top-down control of healthcare is the only (let alone the most optimal) way of actualizing such rights."
Gregg further offers the principle of subsidiarity, which "reminds us that there are numerous communities that precede government institutions and which help establish many of the conditions that assist people to promote, protect and freely choose the good of health."
When Obamacare rolled out in 2013, the website crashed twice in one week. Private insurance companies were placed under strict federal government scrutiny and Catholic institutions in particular were harmed by Obamacare when "conscience protections" failed to be added. Protections weren't guaranteed until May 2016, when the Little Sisters of the Poor were given an exemption by the Supreme Court because of the scheme that forced them to participate in a scheme that would cover contraceptives to employees.
Mitch McConnell predicted late last year that regardless of who won the White House, changes would need to be made to avoid "crashing" the entire system owing to rising premiums.