US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Catholic conundrum on health care

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Most Catholics last Sunday had inserted into their bulletins an alert from the U.S. conference of bishops on pending health care legislation. (Read the CNS story here.) The insert--and I've never heard of a "national bulletin insert" before--notes the deficiencies in both coverage for the poor and immigrants and insufficient language for conscience clauses and restriction of federal funding for abortion. The bishops argue the bill should be voted down if these deficiencies aren't corrected.

I just noticed that the script for calling your member of Congress doesn't say anything about the inadequate coverage of the poor and immigrants, just the abortion-related items, which is telling. Most of the conservative orgs that sent out an e-blast about this added the word "legal" to immigrants.

I get the abortion/conscience provisions, but some of the language about health care for immigrants--I think even legal ones were forbidden from buying on the "exchanges" in some forms of the legislation--is criminal. I sure wish the bishops would make as big a deal about that as the abortion provisions.

In effect we are codifying the denial of coverage to an entire class of people. Are you telling me that the 10 or 12 million undocumented but working and taxpaying immigrants are still going to have to go to the emergency room for strep throat, in addition for their on-the-job injuries? Another bill to pay with the workers' comp and disability that they don't get.

As for abortion funding, I'm not sure the bishops are ever going to find a solution that satisfies, but it opens a larger question: If you have group coverage through work, you are likely directly or indirectly paying for abortion and in vitro fertilization through your plan, whether you use it or not. Even though my plan--I work for a Catholic org after all--doesn't cover abortion,  I'm sure that we are indirectly covering abortions by paying premiums to Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which of course has plans that cover abortion and fertility treatments.

It's tricky. I'm guessing that about 20 percent of my annual tax bill goes directly to the military, and I have profound moral misgivings about both how that money is spent (creating weapons of mass destruction) and how our military power is deployed. And yet I've never been encouraged by the bishops not to pay my taxes. And we're not even talking about my state taxes, which funds, for example, a grossly immoral and racially unfair prison system.

So we all have to do the moral calculus. I am convinced that another step toward universal coverage will, in the final analysis, reduce abortion, promote the well-being of children especially, and be a robust pro-life step in the right direction. But I have no doubt that some of my tax money, regretably, will end up paying for abortion. I'm pretty sure it already does in one way or another.