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Bishop Sees Little Improvement In Senates Latest Effort On Health Care

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Republicans’ latest effort to overhaul the Affordable Care Act is “unacceptable”
and shows little improvement over the lawmakers’ first attempt to reform the
federal health care law, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee.

“On an initial read, we do
not see enough improvement to change our assessment that the proposal is
unacceptable,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of
the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and
Human Development.

“We recognize the incremental
improvement in funding the fight against opioid addiction, for instance, but
more is needed to honor our moral obligation to our brothers and sisters living in poverty and to ensure that essential protections for the unborn remain in the bill,” he said July 13.

Bishop Dewane said the USCCB “is
reviewing carefully the health care bill introduced by Senate leadership
earlier today.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell, R-Kentucky, introduced the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act.
The measure needs 50 votes to pass.

In his July 13 statement, Bishop
Dewane referred back to his June 27 letter to senators that said any health care reform bill must uphold several moral principles: affordability; access for
all; respect for life; and protection of conscience rights. The bishops also
have stressed the need for U.S. health care policy “to improve real
access” to health care for immigrants.

The U.S. Senate must reject any
health care reform bill that will “fundamentally alter the social safety
net for millions of people,” he said in the June letter. “Removing
vital coverage for those most in need is not the answer to our nation’s health
care problems, and doing so will not help us build toward the common good.”

Bishop Dewane also said in that
letter the U.S. bishops valued the language in the earlier Senate bill that
recognizes “abortion is not health care,” and that it at least partially succeeded on conscience rights. But he said it had to be strengthened to fully apply “the long-standing and widely supported Hyde Amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill.”

The June 27 letter reiterated
points the U.S. bishops made in reaction to a June 22 draft of the Better Care
Reconciliation Act. Bishop Dewane had warned that the bill’s “restructuring
of Medicaid will adversely impact those already in deep health poverty. At a
time when tax cuts that would seem to benefit the wealthy and increases in
other areas of federal spending, such as defense, are being contemplated,
placing a ‘per capita cap’ on medical coverage for the poor is unconscionable.”

The revised GOP bill introduced
July 13 retains big cuts in Medicaid funding and in subsidies for low- and
moderate-income people. It also scales back the federal portion that covers the
cost of Medicaid, leaving states to pay more and find new funding and/or reduce benefits and limit who can enroll in the program.

The measure provides for $45
billion in grants to help states combat abuse of opioids and other drugs; the
first version allowed $2 billion. It also would let people use money from their
tax-exempt health savings accounts to pay for insurance premiums.

In addition, people would be
allowed to buy just a catastrophic health insurance policy to cover serious
accidents and diseases, like cancer. Insurance companies also would be allowed to sell policies that do not include all the coverage mandated by the ACA, such as preventive care and mental and substance abuse treatment — as long as they sell one policy that includes those requirements.


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