Crisis in healthcare – a Catholic perspective on reform
The healthcare crisis in America Today is twofold: ethical and economic.
The ethical crisis is the denial of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death that has resulted in the abortion of tens of millions of unborn Americans and the physician-mediated deaths of many seriously disabled and terminally ill patients by physician-assisted suicide in the nine jurisdictions where it is legal.
Additionally, the constitutional right to religious liberty and freedom of conscience is denied those who refuse to comply with federal mandates to provide patients with contraceptive/abortifacient drugs. No proposal for healthcare reform can receive Catholic support if it does not uphold the universal and inalienable right to life and religious liberty.
The economic crisis arises from control of healthcare financing by third parties, (government, insurance industry, unions, and large employers). For the last 50 years this system has insulated patients from the actual costs of care and removed the normal economic incentive to shop based on price and value, thereby contributing to the astronomical rise in costs. Although healthcare outcomes have certainly improved for most people, the rising costs have led to problems of affordability and access for too many Americans. This system is unsustainable.
Political decisions made over the next 12 – 24 months will likely determine the foreseeable future of healthcare delivery in America. The current national debate focuses on two fundamental proposals: a government controlled, single-payer system vs. a patient-controlled, competitive free-market system.
Those promoting a government-controlled system of healthcare delivery insist upon universal access to contraception and abortion. Based upon experience with the Affordable Care Act, no one would be exempt from compliance with the mandates for care determined by the federal government (i.e., one-payer, one ethic). In contrast, in a patient-oriented, free market system, options would be available to avoid cooperation with evil (room for pro-life ethics).
No government-controlled health care program has proven capable of “bending the cost curve” downward to rein in unsustainable rising costs.
However, evidence from a landmark 1982 RAND study demonstrates that giving patients freedom and choice to control their health care, including financing reduces costs. Also, newer innovations for financing care including health savings accounts, employer-sponsored health reimbursement arrangements, direct primary care, and healthcare sharing ministries, all show promise for lowering costs and increasing access while maintaining high-quality care and enhancing the doctor-patient relationship.
As Catholic lay leaders we have a duty to uphold our faith in our work and in the public square. If we come together to address this crisis in healthcare, and if every Catholic employer offered one or more of the above patient-centered, market-driven innovative options in a faith-based health plan, we would begin the transformation of our healthcare delivery system, defending human dignity and religious liberty while restoring a culture of life in America.
STEVEN WHITE, M.D. has been in the private practice of pulmonary medicine for 35 years. He is a past-president of the Catholic Medical Association and currently serves as chair of the CMA Healthcare Policy Committee.