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Fix health care bill's major defects, bishops ask US Senate


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Washington D.C., Jun 6, 2017 CNA/EWTN News.- Despite its pro-life actions, the latest health care reform bill has “many serious flaws,” the U.S. bishops have said.

People without a strong voice in the political process “must not bear the brunt of attempts to cut costs,” several leaders with the U.S. bishops' conference told U.S. Senators in a June 1 letter. They said lawmakers have “grave obligations” related to health care legislation and need to reject the “grave deficiencies” of the American Health Care Act.

The U.S. bishops’ letter to senators stressed the principles of universal health care access, respect for life, truly affordable health care, conscience protections, and the need for health care that is comprehensive and of high quality.

They asked the Senate to reject major changes to Medicaid, to retain protections for human life, to increase tax assistance for those with low-income and the elderly, to retain a cap on health care plan costs for the elderly, to protect immigrants, and to add health care protections.

On May 2 the House of Representatives narrowly voted (217 to 213) to pass a bill to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act and to replace it with the American Health Care Act.

The latest bill would replace the 2010 legislation’s individual insurance mandate with a 30 percent premium fine for having a significant gap in coverage. More tax credits would be offered, and the allowable contributions to health savings accounts would also be expanded.

The bill would cap the expansion of Medicaid and would allow states to determine which “essential health benefits” to recognize as mandatory for health plans. Under the 2010 legislation, this included hospitalizations and maternity care. The new bill would allow states to charge persons more based upon their health history, provided the states set up pre-existing pools. Under current law, this is forbidden.

The bill bars funding for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood for one year, instead directing $422 million in these funds to health care providers that do not perform abortions.

However, the new legislation faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

The bishops said that the Catholic Church “remains committed to ensuring the fundamental right to medical care, a right which is in keeping with the God-given dignity of every person, and the corresponding obligation as a country to provide for this right.”

The U.S. bishops’ conference leaders who signed the letter were Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, who chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, who heads the Committee on Migration.

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