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U.S. Bishop Urges Senate To Remedy Health Care After Vote To Proceed

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U.S. Bishop Urges Senate To Remedy Health Care After Vote To Proceed

WASHINGTON (CNS) — After the Senate voted July 25 to proceed with the health care debate, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, urged senators of both parties to
“work together to advance changes that serve the common good.”

The statement from Bishop Dewane, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said the health
care reform proposals currently under consideration would “harm millions
of struggling Americans by leaving too many at risk of losing adequate health
coverage and continue to exclude too many people, including immigrants.”

“We are grateful for the efforts to include protections for the unborn, however,
any final bill must include full Hyde Amendment provisions and add much-needed
conscience protections. The current proposals are simply unacceptable as written, and any attempts to repeal the ACA (Affordable Care Act) without a concurrent replacement is also unacceptable,” he said in a July 25 statement.

During the procedural vote on the Senate floor, 50 Republicans voted yes and two GOP
senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — voted no,
along with the Senate’s 48 Democrats. The tiebreaking vote was necessary from
Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate.

The vote to debate health care legislation took place after months of ongoing
discussion and leaves Senate Republicans with a few options, including
completely replacing the health care law, or voting for what has been described
as a “skinny” repeal that would remove parts of the Affordable Care
Act. They also could pass a measure that would repeal the current law without
implementing a replacement.

Late July 25, the Senate voted down one of these proposals in a 57-43 vote with nine
Republicans voting against it. The proposal — an updated version of the Better
Care Reconciliation Act — would have done away with the ACA’s tax penalties
for those not buying insurance, cut Medicaid and allowed insurers to sell
cheaper policies with less coverage. It also included $100 billion in extra
funds to help people losing Medicaid.

Senators rejected a “repeal-only” proposal July 26; many in both parties have spoken against repealing the ACA without a replacement plan.

As votes were being cast July 25 on the procedural vote, all eyes were on Sen.
John McCain, R-Arizona, who returned to the Senate floor just days after being
diagnosed with brain cancer, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, who had not
assured the Senate of his vote prior to the tally.

Just prior to the vote, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, majority
leader, urged fellow senators not to let this moment slip by.

“All we have to do today is to have the courage to begin the debate,” he added
as protesters yelled in the background: “Kill the bill, don’t kill
us.” “Shame.”

“Will we begin the debate on one of the most important issues confronting America
today?” he asked before answering: “It is my hope that the answer
will be yes.”

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, minority leader, stressed that Democrats had been “locked out” of the recent health care debate and he warned that
the Republican plan will “certainly mean drastic cuts” in Medicaid
and would cause many to lose health care insurance.

McCain urged his colleagues to “trust each other” and “return to
order” after casting his vote to move the debate forward.

In his July 25 statement, Bishop Dewane said, “There is much work to be done to
remedy the ACA’s shortcomings” and he called on the Senate to make the
necessary changes.

He also stressed that “current and impending barriers to access and affordability
under the ACA must be removed, particularly for those most in need. Such
changes can be made with narrower reforms that do not jeopardize the access to
health care that millions currently receive,” he added.

Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, said in a July 26 statement that she was disappointed with the Senate’s vote to attempt
to repeal and replace the ACA “without a clear plan to
protect access to affordable health care coverage.”

She said that throughout the health care reform debate, Catholic Charities has
insisted that any reform must protect those who have health care coverage and
provide more health insurance to those without it.

“We urge senators to work together to reject dramatic cuts to Medicaid coverage and
provide a health care bill that truly expands coverage, reduces costs and
respects human life and dignity, especially for those who are most in
need,” she said.

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Mackenzie contributed to this report. Follow
Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.


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