Health bill must be amended to protect poor Print
Thursday, Sep. 28, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

Here we go again. The U.S. Senate may be voting on another health care bill this week designed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

The Senate hasn’t given much opportunity for the public to weigh in on the Graham-Cassidy proposal. There was only one public hearing scheduled on the measure, to my knowledge.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have apparently studied the proposed legislation, co-sponsored by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

Moral criteria

The bishops have emphasized that they support moral criteria for health care, including respect for life and dignity; honoring conscience rights; access for all; and a high-quality plan that is affordable and comprehensive.

The Graham-Cassidy proposal does not meet all of these criteria, the bishops said in a letter to all senators released on September 22. The bishops like the fact that the proposed legislation does “correct a serious flaw” in the ACA by making sure “no federal funds are used for abortion or go to plans that cover it.”

Some serious flaws

However, the proposal has some other serious flaws. The bishops criticized the measure’s Medicaid “per capita cap” because it puts an “insufferable burden” on poor and vulnerable Americans.

“The Medicaid caps will fundamentally restructure this vital program, which supports the medical needs of those most in need. Over time, these modifications will result in deep funding cuts and lost coverage for millions of people,” the bishops warned.

The Graham-Cassidy bill would repeal the ACA and replace it with block grants for the states to spend as they see fit. The block grants’ size, though, would shrink over time and disappear altogether in 2027.

The bishops called on senators to amend the bill to address its flaws but retain the pro-life provisions.

Action alert

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also launched an action alert ( urging Catholics to contact their senators to ask them “to protect health care for poor and vulnerable people.”

The action alert encourages people to customize their message to their senators. “Let them know how the proposed changes to health care would impact you and those you know,” says the alert.

The Senate is working under a September 30 deadline to pass the bill.

Concerned citizens don’t have much time to voice their views. I encourage people to contact their senators and urge them to amend the health care bill to protect the poor and retain provisions that respect life for all.