I have a confession to make. I am a news-aholic! As I am getting myself ready for the day every morning or getting myself ready for bed at night — I always have the news on!
These last few weeks, it has been quite an exercise watching the television reports on “town hall meetings” over proposed health care legislation. It seems that any number of legislators are getting an earful. More shouting seems to go on at these meetings than at a Steelers game at Heinz Field.
I empathize with both sides. I have been shouted at enough at meetings in my lifetime to know how frustrating it is from the perspective of legislators. It is impossible to engage in any kind of dialogue — or even learn much of what a person is really trying to say — when people are red-faced and shouting.
But I also clearly understand the frustration in those doing the shouting. When someone is not being heard, it is pretty natural and necessary to speak louder. In this instance, the issue at hand is about health care. But the issue at hand must also include the ethical and moral values that will be the foundation of health care. This important matter sometimes gets “lost in the shuffle.”
Don’t get me wrong! I don’t pretend to have the perfect solution to health care reform in America. So I will shout a little softer! But there are a few fundamental principles that must be a part of any discussion, and any legislation, on health care reform:
• Any health care reform has to be rooted in the sacredness and dignity of every human life;
• Any health care reform has to provide access to quality care and preventative care for every person in the United States;
• Any health care reform has to involve religious and nonprofit organizations that are at the core of American health care without forcing them to violate their conscience or compromise religious and ethical values.
We, the United States bishops, have for years called for health care reform that provides access to quality care for all, and I emphasize everyone, particularly the poor and immigrants, always respectful of human life at all stages. Health care reform is something that we must have so that no one — no one — in our great country is turned away at a time of medical need.
Clearly, however, concerns have to be raised, especially over health care reform legislation that could reverse the Hyde Amendment and make abortion a nationally subsidized norm in health care benefits. Justin Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, has written to the House that “much-needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an ‘abortion rights’ agenda or reversing longstanding policies against federal funding and mandated coverage of abortion.”
Cardinal Rigali pointed out that current House legislation would give to the secretary of health and human services “the power to make unlimited abortion a mandated benefit in the ‘public health insurance plan’ the government will manage nationwide.”
Cardinal Rigali notes that today “no federal program mandates coverage for elective abortions, or subsidizes health plans that include such abortions.” As Cardinal Rigali concluded: “By what right then, and by what precedent, would Congress make abortion coverage into a national norm, or force Americans to subsidize it as a condition for participating in a public health program?” These are serious and real concerns that cannot be dismissed as fabrications.
We must also and especially keep in mind that true health care reform must protect itself from the subtle pressure that can be exercised on the elderly and the seriously ill to avoid “costly” medical care. Already, the arguments are being put forth that about 25 percent of Medicare dollars is being spent in the last year of life — as if this is wasteful spending that could be saved!
Fears that euthanasia could become part of American health care are based on the fact that the so-called “right to die” movement has a lot of powerful support. Remember that assisted suicide — so-called “mercy killing” — is already legal in the state of Oregon! That is no fabrication! And when we want to find out how we are going to pay for universal health care, there is a very real temptation by the healthy to look at the “savings” that could be realized if the elderly would just stay out of the hospitals, and the dying would die a little quicker.
Cooler heads certainly need to prevail in the debate over health care reform. We need health care reform! Everyone — everyone — needs health care coverage! But health care reform and health care coverage must be rooted in respect for the sacredness and dignity of human life from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death.
If not, we all might just have to stop shouting a little softer and begin shouting a little louder!
When someone is not being heard, it is pretty natural and necessary to speak louder. In this instance, the issue at hand is about health care.
Already, the arguments are being put forth that about 25 percent of Medicare dollars is being spent in the last year of life — as if this is wasteful spending that could be saved!