Next time you go to Mass, look around you. Ask yourself, who among these churchgoers is uninsured? The young family with two squirming toddlers, the middle-aged empty nesters in the next pew, or the recent college graduate singing in the choir; are they covered?
Nearly 90% of Pennsylvanians are lucky enough to have health insurance paid by their employers, themselves or other programs. Be thankful if you are in that group. However, more than one million men, women and children in the Commonwealth lack health insurance coverage. Many more are underinsured; their coverage does not go very far in the event of a serious illness or accident.
The Vision for Health Care Reform by the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania affirms that, “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. The dignity of the human person requires pursuit of the common good.” We have a moral obligation as citizens to pursue this common good.
Health care reform competes with many issues in Harrisburg and Washington, DC. Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly are considering numerous proposals. The Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association (PCHA) and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) will evaluate each one carefully.
PCHA and PCC will measure each proposal utilizing the principles of the Vision:
Public policy must ensure broad community participation in identifying health care needs, in establishing priorities to determine basic comprehensive benefits, and in creating standards and mechanisms for assessing the health care system’s responsiveness to these priorities.
Does the plan give everyone access to a standard health care benefit package, especially the poor? Is there coordination among providers?
To help promote the common good, the benefits provided should be sufficient to maintain and foster good health, and to treat disease and disability. Educational programs that encourage health and wellness should be mandatory components of the health care delivery system.
Will mental and behavioral health services be treated like other health care services in the plan? Does the plan include a continuum of long-term care services?
Financing the delivery of comprehensive health care services is a societal obligation. The government must ensure that a financing mechanism will be based on an equitable formula for providers, consumers and as necessary, taxpayers.
Does the plan include credible expenditure controls?
Will the plan respect human dignity and the religious destiny of a person?
The debate on how to ensure access to health care for all, restrain costs and increase quality is timely and imperative. The Church and all the Faithful must continue advocacy for a system that upholds the sanctity of human life and guarantees access to essential health care services.
Cover the Uninsured Week will be observed March 22-29 to raise awareness that living without health insurance is a risk no one should have to take. On behalf of the young family, the empty nesters, the recent graduate and all our uninsured friends, neighbors and relatives, we must urge our elected officials to pass legislation to provide meaningful health coverage for everyone.
PCC Column March 2009 by A.B. Hill, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.