Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2288)
Health care reform is a hot topic in Harrisburg and Washington, DC. There is much debate about how to provide access to comprehensive, quality health care for adults and children who remain uninsured, how to manage rising costs and who will pay for it.
The Catholic Church has a lengthy tradition of involvement in health care. The Church considers health care to be a basic human right which flows from the sanctity of human life. In communities across Pennsylvania and throughout the nation, the Church and its health and social services ministries have served the sick and those in need for more than 275 years. In many cases, these ministries have picked up the pieces of a failing health and social services system.
A task force of representatives from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) and the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association (PCHA) articulated a Vision for Health Care Reform to evaluate health care reform proposals in Pennsylvania. The Vision outlines the values and essential criteria that should serve as the framework for a reformed health care system.
The Vision’s values remind us that health care is a ministry based upon Christian charity and justice, not simply a commodity exchanged for profit. Every person, including the poor and vulnerable, has a right to adequate health care, a right that flows from the sanctity of life and human dignity. We have a duty to care for others and a responsibility to care for ourselves.
Human dignity is realized in the context of community. A health care system must strive to serve the common good. Charity and justice require that special attention be given to adequately meeting the health care needs of the poor. As a society, we have an obligation to use natural and social resources on behalf of all.
And, a reformed health care system shall honor religious and ethical values of persons and institutions in the provision and reception of health care services.
These values give way to these essential criteria:
- Universal Access – Universal access is fundamental to a reformed health care system.
- Standard Benefits – A standard benefit package for persons living and working in Pennsylvania must be guaranteed.
- Delivery Reform – Delivery reform requires a team effort coordinated among providers.
- Expenditure Control – Responsible health care reform requires credible expenditure control.
- Long-Term Care – A continuum of long-term care services should be included as an integral part of the benefit package.
- Mental Health and Behavioral Health – A standard benefit package includes mental and behavioral health parity.
No health care reform plan proposed right now meets all of these essential criteria; but, PCC and PCHA agree that the debate on how to ensure access to health care for all, restrain costs and increase quality is timely and imperative. We must continue to advocate for a health care system that upholds the sanctity of human life and guarantees access to essential health care services for all.
PCC Column November 2007 by Amy Beisel, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.