Tag Archives: bishop nickless

The right kind of reform

The government has a less than stellar track record of running its programs . . .

Patrick Novecosky

I used to marvel at how the U.S. Post Office could move a letter from Miami, Florida, to Fairbanks, Alaska — more than 5,000 miles — for only 44 cents! After doing a little research, I wondered no longer. The post office can’t even move my utility payment half a mile down the street for the price of a stamp.

Most analysts estimate that the USPS will spend $7 billion more than it takes in this fiscal year. As a result, the government monopoly has floated the idea of a five-day delivery cycle. Although the Postal Service receives no tax dollars for its operations, it’s mandated to provide mail service to everyone in America, and Congress maintains oversight.

Similarly, most government-run programs are running massive deficits. The Government Accountability Office estimated that by 2027, the combined costs of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and net deficit interest will eat up all federal revenue. Furthermore, Amtrak would cease to exist without government subsidies. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Disasters.

Without getting into the minute details of ObamaCare, it’s sufficient to say that the government doesn’t have a good track record of running its programs. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the most popular reform bill will add $239 billion to the deficit over 10 years. That alone is enough to put the brakes on another disastrous government boondoggle.

President George W. Bush added $2.5 trillion to the public debt over his eight years. President Barrack Obama has more than doubled that in less than three months — and the meter keeps running.

However, I’m encouraged by prelates like Sioux City Bishop R. Walter Nickless, who wrote that “no health care reform is better than the wrong sort of health care reform.” He joins a chorus of bishops across the country who are calling for principled reform that will reduce wasted spending, increase access and help those most in need.

“The Church will not accept any legislation that mandates coverage, public or private, for abortion, euthanasia or embryonic stem-cell research,” Bishop Nickless writes. “We refuse to be made complicit in these evils, which frankly contradict what ‘health care’ should mean.”

As legislation begins to move through Congress, we must make our voices heard. Tea Parties and massive rallies have drawn national headlines, but we also have to make sure our congressmen know that health care reform has to respect all human life, include guarantees that it won’t add to our already crippling deficit, and that conscience rights are protected for health care workers who object to controversial procedures.

Massive government spending is not the answer to health care reform, nor is it the answer to the recession. Let’s work hard and pray for a solution that respects life and the private sector.

Patrick Novecosky is the Legatus Magazine’s editor.

Health care: a right or privilege?

A ‘right’ to health care completely skirts the issue of individual responsibility . . .

Deal W. Hudson

Deal W. Hudson

Our bishops want health care reform. They are advocating reform resulting in universal health coverage that respects “human life and dignity” and includes “freedom of conscience,” while restraining costs and applying “costs equitably among payers.”

The bills now before Congress give the federal government the commanding role in providing universal coverage; however, they also leave the door open to funding abortion and end-of-life care, which the bishops have loudly rejected.

The bishops do not consider a government-run program the only option for providing universal health coverage. “There may be different ways to accomplish this, but the bishops’ conference believes health care reform should be truly universal and genuinely affordable,” the bishops explain on their website.

“The Church does not teach that government should directly provide health care,” wrote Bishop R. Walter Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa. “The proper role of the government is to regulate the private sector in order to foster healthy competition and to curtail abuses. Therefore, any legislation that undermines the viability of the private sector is suspect. Private, religious hospitals and nursing homes, in particular, should be protected because these are the ones most vigorously offering actual health care to the poorest of the poor.”

Many Catholics are moved by the argument that health care is a “moral issue.” That claim, however, has to be rightly understood. Health care is not a moral issue per se. No one is obliged to pay for the sum total of all medical care either needed or desired by his “neighbor.” This is not the intent of Catholic social teaching regarding the “right” to health care.

As Bishop Robert W. Finn and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann wrote recently: “The right of every individual to access health care does not necessarily suppose an obligation on the part of the government to provide it. Yet in our American culture, Catholic teaching about the ‘right’ to healthcare is sometimes confused with the structures of ‘entitlement.’ The teaching of the Universal Church has never been to suggest a government socialization of medical services.”

The problem with talking about “rights” to things like health care is that it completely skirts the issue of individual responsibility. Why am I responsible for paying for another person’s medical care when that person has squandered their resources, abused their physical well being, or simply chosen not to make a contribution to work-based health care coverage? The latter is why well over 10 million Americans are uninsured.

There’s also the issue of making distinctions within the category of health care itself. No Catholic wants to pay for another person’s abortion, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, euthanasia or embryonic stem-cell treatment. To give the federal government control over medical care in this country will eventually result in all of these services, including abortion, being paid for by Catholics. Even if abortion funding is stripped from the current legislation, it will undoubtedly be added later on. All it takes is one vote of the House and the Senate and one signature in the Oval Office.

Clearly, any sort of national or state health care program is not going to delve into issues of a person’s use of their financial resources which could have been spent on health coverage, or their employment history which could have provided health coverage, or even the treatment of their own well-being. That’s why a citizen’s moral obligation should be limited to essential services. This “safety net” approach to health care means that those without insurance, and in real need of medical care to treat serious health issues, should receive assistance. In point of fact, our nation’s hospital emergency rooms already provide this assistance. It is federal law that no hospital emergency room can fail to find treatment for someone presenting him or herself for medical care. The number of children being born in U.S. hospitals to illegal immigrants attests to this.

There are many moral issues, but none of us is morally — in a financial way — responsible for assisting people in obtaining the goods associated with that moral issue. After all, the goods associated with our moral choices most often cannot be possessed without our serious commitment to them. The best example is with regard to education. No one is educated by virtue of sitting in a classroom or, as St. Thomas Aquinas put it: “The student is the primary cause of his education.” The same dictum should be kept in mind with health care.

The Catholic Medical Association (CMA) understands that individuals must be held responsible for their own health. CMA supports an approach to health-care reform “achieved by legislation that empowers people to own their health insurance policies (as contrasted with government- or employer-controlled health care insurance) and using targeted measures to help people who cannot afford the entire cost of their insurance premium.”

CMA’s recommendation points the way to an alternative solution — one based on the principle of subsidiarity — to reach the goals advocated by the bishops. Universal coverage can be achieved without handing health care entirely over to the federal government. This alternative vision of reaching the bishops’ goals for health-care reform should be put before the Congress as soon as possible.

Deal Hudson is the president of the Morley Institute & the former publisher of CRISIS Magazine. The director of InsideCatholic.com, Hudson has published articles in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, National Review and others.