USCCB v. Health Care Reform

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Anyone who imagines that the Catholic bishops will end up supporting health care reform should go over to On Faith and take a look at this post by their spokeswoman, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh. Insisting that her bosses have supported reform “for decades,” Walsh goes on to complain that

the present state of affairs is enough to make you sick. The
gamesmanship in Congress relates more to politics than health and has
created serious problems.

As things stand, Walsh claims, “health care reform it is not.” There follows a litany of what has the the bishops worried: abortion and “conscience rights”; a failure to provide for immigrants, legal and illegal; and too high costs for ordinary citizens. The bottom line:

We need health care reform in America and we’re close to attaining it,
but if decent health care becomes a matter of politics over the public
good, we’ll all lose. That’s enough to make you sick.

Whatever one’s views of the individual pieces, the critique as a whole is disingenuous nonsense. For example, on abortion, according to Walsh, the bishops want reform to include the current Hyde Amendment standard but insist on the Stupak provision of the House bill, which (as pro-lifer Michael Sean Winters points out) goes beyond Hyde in making it “impossible for women, with
their own money, to purchase health insurance that covers abortions.” At the same time, the Senate bill is criticized as unfair because it “does not allow undocumented persons to buy insurance with their own money.”

Beyond such deception and inconsistency, the refusal to acknowledge the signal accomplishments of the reform bills as they stand–the expanded coverage, above all–is striking. Health care reform “it is not”? Give me a break.

But worst of all is the claim that somehow what’s happened so far is “politics” undermining “the public good.” If anything is clear from this whole process, it’s that the bishops have been up to their eyeballs in lobbying for their positions on the life issues. And that their effective politicking has made it more difficult for progressives to advance the other items on the agenda that the bishops say they want–and has led to some unlovely compromises and concessions.

Like anyone else, the bishops are entitled to play the game as hard as they want. But not to acknowledge that they’re doing so is simple dishonesty. It’s enough to make you sick.