U.S. Bishops’ Conference Officials Voice Disappointment In Senate Finance Committee Health Care Vote

October 14, 2009

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the following statement on health care reform:

WASHINGTON—Spokespersons for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voiced disappointment in the Senate Finance Committee vote to approve its health care reform bill without first fixing problematic provisions.

On October 8, the bishops chairing the USCCB committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Pro-Life Activities, and Migration wrote to Congress that the bishops would have no choice but to oppose a final health care bill that fails to address key concerns and noted:

• Policies against abortion funding and in support of conscience rights must be in the bill.
• Health care should be affordable and available to the poor and vulnerable.
• The needs of legal immigrants and their families should be met.

Kathy Saile, Director of the USCCB Office of Domestic Social Development, said: “We remain hopeful that problematic provisions in the bills, particularly the Senate Finance Committee bill, can be worked out. But time is running short and if the provisions are not fixed, the bishops have been clear that they will have no choice but to oppose a final bill. The stated purpose of pursuing health care reform was to provide those without health care coverage access to quality and affordable health care. There is real doubt that this bill will achieve that goal.”

Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said, “No current health care bill approved by committee is consistent with longstanding and widely supported federal policies on abortion and conscience rights. Contrary to recent misleading comments from some sources, this and other health care reform bills appropriate their own funds outside the scope of the annual Labor/HHS appropriations bills, and so are not covered by the Hyde amendment that prevents those bills from funding abortion coverage. This legislation needs its own provision against such funding.”

Kevin Appleby, USCCB Director of Migration and Refugee Policy, said, “If the goal of health-care reform is to reduce significantly the number of uninsured, the Senate bill falls well short. As passed out of the Finance Committee, millions of legal immigrants and their families would be left outside the system, dependent on emergency rooms for their primary care.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has advocated for health care reform for decades. The bishops wrote in their October 8 letter that “Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity. Much-needed reform of our health care system must be pursued in ways that serve the life and dignity of all, never in ways that undermine or violate these fundamental values. We will work tirelessly to remedy these central problems and help pass real reform that clearly protects the life, dignity and health of all.”

The full text of the letter can be found online.

Susan Gibbs
Office of Communications
[email protected]