Diocese of Lake Charles on health care reform

The Diocese of Lake Charles Friday released a statement from Bishop Glen John Provost on health care reform.

The Bishop's statement is as follows:

At the recent deanery meetings, I distributed to the pastors information from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the present Health Care Reform. In that information, I encouraged that contact be made with our Congressional Representatives to stress our serious concerns over certain provisions in the present health care bill before the Senate.

This effort becomes doubly important now because a vote is foreseen this weekend. Also, all of the bishops and many Catholics are concerned about certain Catholic groups and individuals who have made very public statements in support of this legislation. This effort by some is confusing the issue even further.

I would wish to be very clear about WHY the USCCB, namely the bishops of the United States, oppose this bill in its present form:

1. Families without health insurance from work can buy coverage on the exchanges set up by the legislation. But to obtain coverage that best meets their needs, they may have to purchase a plan that includes abortion. If they do so, then the law will require them to regularly pay a mandatory abortion fee just to fund other people's abortions.

2. While one plan in each exchange must be abortion-free, all the other plans may cover elective abortions and receive federal subsidies. Therefore, the federal government will be helping to fund plans that cover abortions, violating the current law (Hyde amendment) and the way that other federal health programs operate.

3. Billions of dollars in the bill for health services, such as funds for Community Health Centers, are not covered by the Hyde amendment or by any other provision against funding elective abortions. These funds must be used to cover abortion unless the law says they cannot.

4. Because the bill contains no protection for freedom of conscience outside the abortion context, Church organizations may have to provide benefits to their employees that are in conflict with Church teachings.

5. The bill does not change current law that denies legal immigrants access to Medicaid for five years even if they otherwise qualify for it. Legal immigrants who work and pay taxes should have access to health care.

6. Undocumented immigrants will not be able to buy health insurance for themselves and their families on the exchanges even with their own money, leaving them worse off, driving up costs for all Americans, and undermining the health of our nation. In short, the United States Bishops want health care reform, but the bill before the Senate is flawed for the reasons mentioned. I encourage our Catholics to make those calls and to pray that "Congress and the country will come together around genuine health care reform that protects the life, dignity, consciences, and health of all."