The U.S. Capitol is seen prior to an all-night round of health care votes on Capitol Hill July 27 in Washington. The Senate rejected legislation to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act. CNS photo/Aaron P. Bernstein, Reuters

After repeal fails, 'task remains' to reform health care, says bishop

  • July 31, 2017

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After the Senate Republicans failed to get enough votes to pass a "skinny" repeal to remove parts of the Affordable Care Act in the early hours of July 28, the U.S. Catholic Church's lead spokesman on the issue said the "task of reforming the health care system still remains."

The nation's system under the Affordable Care Act "is not financially sustainable" and "lacks full Hyde protections and conscience rights," said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

It also "is inaccessible to many immigrants," he said in a statement.

"Inaction will result in harm for too many people," Bishop Dewane added.

The failed repeal bill was a pared-down version of earlier bills. It would have repealed both the individual mandate that says all Americans must buy health insurance or pay a penalty and the requirement all large employers offer health insurance to their workers. It would have expanded health savings accounts, delayed a tax on medical devices and increased funding for community health centres by taking defunding Planned Parenthood by $400 million.

The vote was 51 against, and 49 in favour. All the Democrats voted "no." Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, joined two other GOP senators in rejecting the measure, Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, had pushed the latest version forward in hopes it would be passed and lead to a conference with the House, which May 4 passed the American Health Care Act to replace the ACA, to hammer out a compromise measure.

The Senate vote is over, but the need to reform health care remains, said Bishop Dewane, who urged the two political parties to get past their divisions and work for "the common good."

"A moment has opened for Congress, and indeed all Americans, to set aside party and personal political interest and pursue the common good of our nation and its people, especially the most vulnerable," he said.

obamacare repeal fails webSen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks with reporters ahead of a health care vote July 27 on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Senate rejected legislation to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, with McCain casting a decisive "no." (CNS photo/Aaron P. Bernstein, Reuters)

He laid out four action items he said are essential to any bill to be considered in the future:

– "Protect the Medicaid program from changes that would harm millions of struggling Americans."

– "Protect the safety net from any other changes that harm the poor, immigrants, or any others at the margins."

– "Address the real probability of collapsing insurance markets and the corresponding loss of genuine affordability for those with limited means."

– "Provide full Hyde Amendment provisions and much-needed conscience protections."

"The greatness of our country is not measured by the well-being of the powerful but how we have cared for the 'least of these,'" Bishop Dewane said. "Congress can and should pass health care legislation that lives up to that greatness."

In response to the Senate's July 28 vote, Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity and president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, said her organization is "pleased and relieved that we will now have an opportunity to work together in a bipartisan way to improve the ACA."

In a July 28 statement, she said the CHA "looks forward to working with all the members of Congress and the administration in the process moving forward and will continue our efforts to protect and improve the Medicaid program."

Jim Sedlak, executive director of the American Life League, was disappointed in the final vote. He said in a July 28 statement that he hopes the House and the Senate would "put politics aside and pass a simple bill to take all taxpayer money away from Planned Parenthood. "

Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service and executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, personally delivered a letter to U.S. senators July 24 signed by 7,150 U.S. women religious urging the senators to reject the Better Care Reconciliation Act and any proposals that would repeal the Affordable Care Act or cut Medicaid.

After the Senate failed to repeal its health care reform legislation July 28, Sister Campbell said she was relieved for the sake of all the people she knew "who were terrified that their health care would be taken away."

"The road ahead is not likely to be straight or easy, but we must work together to improve health care for our people," she said.

On July 26, when senators rejected a repeal-only proposal of the Affordable Care Act, Students for Life said the senators who voted against it blocked defunding of Planned Parenthood and removing taxpayer funding for abortion. "There is still a long way to go in this process and pro-lifers everywhere are going to work even harder to make sure our voices are heard," the group said.

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