Please don’t weaken the safety net Print
Thursday, Jun. 15, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

Health care safety net providers are institutions that are critical in providing care and services in low-income, medically underserved, immigrant, and communities of color.

These institutions already serve a large percentage of patients who are underinsured or on Medicare. They have relied on help from the government. Yet, now Congress is considering changes to health care which could weaken that safety net.

Frightening outlook

The Congressional Budget Office, which provides a nonpartisan analysis for the U.S. Congress, has estimated that the proposed new American Health Care Act (AHCA) would increase the number of people who are uninsured by 24 million by the year 2026.

This is a frightening outlook for many people in our country. And it could become law very soon.

By a four-vote margin on May 4, the House of Representatives passed the AHCA to replace the Obama administration’s health care law. Senate Republicans have been urged to pass health care legislation before the congressional recess at the end of July.

Bishops write to senators

Catholic bishops have told members of the U.S. Senate that they “have a grave obligation” to make sure their health care reform bill respects life, provides access to adequate health care “for all,” and is “truly affordable.”

The chairmen of four U.S. bishops’ committees gave this admonition in a letter to senators released June 2, reported Catholic News Service (CNS).

As the Senate takes up health care reform, it “must act decisively to remove the harmful proposals from the House bill that will affect low-income people — including immigrants — as well as add vital conscience protections, or begin reform efforts anew,” the bishops said, reiterating key moral principles they urged be in the U.S. House bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The letter was signed by New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration.

‘Many serious flaws’

After House passage of its measure, the U.S. bishops “noted the positive aspects” of the bill, including “critical life protections” for the unborn, but the measure “contains many serious flaws” the Senate must act to change, it added.

“Most troubling are unacceptable changes to Medicaid that reports indicate will leave millions of additional people uninsured in the years ahead.”

The bishops suggested the new plan keep protections for the unborn; ensure affordable and adequate coverage for all stages of life; and increase the level of tax assistance, especially for low-income and older people, in the measure’s tax credit proposal.

The letter urged senators to recognize their “grave obligation” to come up with a fair health care plan. It included a quote from Pope Francis about health care saying: “When a sick person is not placed at the center and considered in their dignity, attitudes arise which can even lead to profiteering on other people’s misfortunes. The growing health poverty among the poorest segments of the population is due precisely to the difficulty of access to care.”

I urge concerned citizens to contact their U.S. senators encouraging them to amend the proposed health care law as the bishops suggest and not weaken the safety net for our poor, elderly, and other vulnerable citizens.