Reform health care system first Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, editor   
Thursday, Apr. 23, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

We’ve been hearing a lot about reforming our economic system. Some of our policy-makers are telling us that after we get our economic system fixed, then we’ll start working on health care reform.

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They’ve got it backwards. In order to reform the economy, we’ve got to start by reforming our health care system. That’s what many Catholic health care experts believe, according to Scott McConnaha, director of corporate relations for the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity HealthCare Ministry in Manitowoc, Wis.

In his talk at one of the breakout sessions at the recent Catholics at the Capitol day in Madison, McConnaha urged concerned citizens to get involved now in calling on public policy makers to reform health care first.

The Catholic Church knows what it’s talking about, because it has a long history of involvement in the health care field. We could even say it goes back to Jesus Christ himself, who healed the sick in many of his miracles and who commanded his followers to love their neighbors.

Largest not-for-profit health care system

Catholic health ministry — present in all 50 states — is the nation’s largest group of not-for-profit health care sponsors, systems, and facilities. In 2007 there were 615 Catholic hospitals and 1,444 continuing care ministries in the country.

In Wisconsin, there are 41 acute care Catholic hospitals, 18 long-term care nursing facilities, and 26 other health service organizations, including hospice, home health, assisted living, and senior housing facilities run by the Catholic Church.

Right to health care

The U.S. bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services quote Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris when they say, “The first right of the human person, the right to life, entails a right to the means for the proper development of life, such as adequate health care.”

Since health care is a basic human right, McConnaha said it should concern Catholics in the United States that “we live in the only industrialized nation that doesn’t provide health coverage to all.” He noted that more than 47 million people in the U.S. lack basic health insurance coverage. That is one in every seven people.

Even with the recent SCHIP reauthorization, some five million children remain uninsured, even though most live in a home where at least one parent works. McConnaha said that some 18,000 people die each year “because they did not have adequate health coverage.”

Many uninsured people are working, but their employers are finding it harder to provide health benefits. Health care tied to employment has been slipping in recent years.

Health care reform needed

Health care reform is needed, but everyone is waiting to see what happens nationally. However, McConnaha said it’s important to act now. He encouraged expanding funding of Badger Care Plus, so more Wisconsinites can find immediate healthcare coverage.

He noted that there are budget hearings going on now in the state. He emphasized, “The economy can’t be fixed until we fix health care. But sweeping health reform is still a tough sell. There is fear that the government is taking over health care.” However, there is momentum for health care reform. There are various ideas being proposed and we are called to participate in the debate.

A good resource is the Wisconsin Catholic Conference brochure, “A Call for Health Care Reform.” I encourage concerned citizens to stay informed, carefully evaluate reform proposals, share knowledge with others, tell legislators and community leaders where they stand, and keep health care reform part of their prayer.

For more information on how to participate, check these Web sites:,,,, and  To contact legislators go the advocacy tab on the WCC Web site or go to the box on the bottom-right of the CHA homepage.

Let’s help put health care reform on the top of our national and state agendas.