WASHINGTON, DC - After the U.S. House of Representatives withdrew the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on March 24 2017, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida urged members of Congress to "seize this moment to create a new spirit of bipartisanship" and make necessary reforms on access, affordability, life and conscience.
In a March 30 letter to Congress, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops chairmen noted that the AHCA "contained serious deficiencies, particularly in its changes to Medicaid, that would have impacted the poor and others most in need in unacceptable ways," but emphasized that withdrawal of the bill "must not end our nation's efforts to improve health care."
Cardinal Dolan is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Lori chairs the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Dewane heads the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
"[T]he AHCA did provide critical life protections for the unborn," the Bishops said. "By restricting federal funding for abortion, its providers, and the purchase of plans that cover it, the bill would have finally resolved a grave moral failing rooted within the very structure of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)." The need for conscience protections for those who participate in the delivery or coverage of health care services, problems like rising costs and premiums, as well as impediments to immigrant access remain to be addressed, according to the chairmen.
"Lawmakers still have a duty to confront these significant challenges. While a comprehensive approach is preferable, some of the problems can be fixed with more narrow reforms, and in a bipartisan way. Congress can pass the Conscience Protection Act, extend full 'Hyde Amendment' protections to the ACA, and enact other targeted laws that begin to remove current and impending health care barriers, if a more extensive effort is not possible," the letter urges.
The full letter to Congress can be found at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/joint-letter-to-congress-re-health-care-2017-03-30.cfm.