Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Center for American Progress Carries Water for USCCB?

A new fact sheet from the Center for American Progress puts a pretty face on Catholic provider refusals and involvement in health care delivery and reform. Called, "The Moral Dimensions of Health Care Reform: How Legislation Measures Up to Catholic Social Teachings," the article praises the church's participation in health care (a touting of influence that I have seen again and again the past few weeks since the USCCB noise over abortion) and perpetuates the idea that the Church is committed to social issues.

The introduction states, in part:

The Catholic Church is also a key player in health care delivery. In fact, it is the largest provider of nongovernmental health care in the United States. The Catholic Health Association’s vision statement notes it aims to be “a vibrant presence in enhancing the health of communities and access to quality care for everyone, with special attention to those who are underserved and most vulnerable.” The Catholic Bishops have observed that this involvement in the health care system illuminates the strains and stresses related to inadequate health care and the human consequences of a failing system.

Much of the recent debate over health reform has focused on abortion funding and coverage. While both bills in Congress take steps to address the concerns of those who have a religious or moral objection to abortion—in particular the objections of the Catholic Church—it is helpful to consider the many other criteria presented by the Church for ethical health reform that the bills satisfy. It is also helpful to note that abortion is not the only legislative provision under debate. The Church also stresses the importance of universal coverage for everyone in the United States—including undocumented immigrants—which neither bill fulfills.

This fact sheet lays out in detail how the health care bills now under consideration in the House of Representatives and the Senate reflect the criteria laid out by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as important to health care reform. The criteria were taken from anofficial statement submitted by the USCCB to the Congressional Record on May 20, 2009.

In other words, the report has no nitty-gritty in it. Check out the sections on "respect for life" and "pluralism." While I commend the Church's support for health care reform (why we all wouldn't support insuring every citizen, I don't know), I can't tell if this is progressives buying the myth that Catholic health care networks and hospitals do more for the poor than others (thus bolstering the church's influence on reform), or as Sarah Posner wrote this morning, was something written by the USCCB.

It looks to me like the barrel the Catholic church has been framing their participation in health care to place us over. This argument claims a number of untruths:

* the Catholic health entities do more for the poor than other hospitals (untrue, studies show they do the same or less than other non-profit hospitals; service of the uninsured at hospitals is a law; Church or Catholic donations make up the smallest percent of funding at these entities; the US government, through state and federal funding of Medicare and Medicaid cover 50% of their budgets.)

*Catholic hospitals support plurality of delivery (if this were true, they would better inform patients entering Catholic hospitals and health care facilities about the services they don't provide, and offer referrals to patients who disagree with their ERDs and seek services outside of what these hospitals provide.)

*by touting their size, Catholic entities are working to make citizens and the government make the either/or decisions we saw with the house health care bill: either let us operate the way we want to -denying routine services like tubal ligations, sterilizations, counseling on STD and AIDs prevention, denial of advance directives, and abortion services - or you cripple the largest provider of health care in the US. It's an argument for continued discrimination. There's nothing moral, pluralistic, or compassionate about it.

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