Revised health care bill still has ‘serious flaws,’ US bishops maintain
WASHINGTON D.C. — A leading U.S. bishop expressed grave concerns Thursday about a revised health care bill which the House may vote on within days.
The bill is an effort replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
“It is deeply disappointing to many Americans that, in modifying the American Health Care Act to again attempt a vote, proponents of the bill left in place its serious flaws, including unacceptable modifications to Medicaid that will endanger coverage and affordability for millions of people, according to reports,” Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, stated April 27.
Although the American Health Care Act was scuttled in March before a planned floor vote due to lack of support, an amended version of the bill was introduced in Congress this week, garnering the support of members of the House Freedom Caucus – which was instrumental in blocking AHCA last month.
The amended version includes allowing states to drop Affordable Care Act mandates that insurers cover “essential health benefits” such as maternity care, emergency services, and mental health and substance abuse services.
Bishop Dewane, who had serious concerns about the AHCA, said the new bill does not fix those concerns, especially regarding ensuring access to affordable health care for vulnerable populations.
“The House must not pass the legislation as it is. Members should insist on changes, especially for the sake of those who are struggling in our communities,” he said.
“Sadly, some of the recently proposed amendments – especially those designed to give states flexibility – lack apparent safeguards to ensure quality of care,” he said. “These additions could severely impact many people with pre-existing conditions while risking for others the loss of access to various essential coverages.”
The Christ Medicus Foundation (CMF) CURO, a Catholic health care ministry, called on Congress on Thursday to pass a bill that would honor conscience protections, respect the “sanctity of life”, and provide more “access to medical care for all, especially for the poor and single mothers,” as well as “empowering health sharing ministries as an affordable health care option for lower-income Americans.”
“We want to see an American health care system where people have access to care but where doctors and patients are making decisions consistent with their conscience and religious freedom,” Louis Brown, Esq., director of (CMF) CURO, stated, noting that premium increases and a decrease in the number of available health plans meant that “too many impoverished families do not have access to the quality medical care they deserve.”
In an earlier, March 17 letter to Congress, Bishop Dewane had outlined his chief concerns about the AHCA while praising certain aspects of it, including its barring of funding of abortions in tax credits and health plans and stripping funding from abortion providers.
However, the bill lacked sufficient conscience protections for doctors and health care providers, he said.
Additionally, the replacement of federal subsidies for purchasing health insurance with tax credits could disproportionately benefit the younger and wealthier while making affordability an issue for sicker and older populations, he said. Premiums for many elderly persons could rise significantly, he warned.
A 30 percent premium fine for a significant gap in health coverage could also persuade some not to purchase health insurance at all, he added.
Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who chairs the House Pro-Life Caucus, was also among the opponents of AHCA in March. He said he could not support the bill, despite its pro-life protections, because of how other provisions would “likely hurt disabled persons, the elderly and the working poor.”