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Court Upholds Affordable Care Act; U. S. Bishops Will Seek to Fix the Flaws in the Law28 Jun

Supreme Court decision does not address fundamental flaws in the law
Legislation still needed to fix conscience, abortion funding, immigration problems

In a 5 – 4 decision handed down today, the U. S. Supreme Court has upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

For nearly a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have been and continue to be consistent advocates for comprehensive health care reform to ensure access to life-affirming health care for all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable. Although the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) did not participate in these cases and took no position on the specific questions presented to the Court, USCCB’s position on health care reform generally and on ACA particularly is a matter of public record.

USCCB ultimately opposed final passage of this legislation that the Court has upheld for three main reasons:

  1. ACA allows use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover such abortions, contradicting longstanding federal policy.
  2. ACA fails to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protection, both within and beyond the abortion context.  (This has been illustrated in dramatic fashion by the HHS mandate to force religious and other employers to cover sterilization and contraception, including abortifacient drugs.)
  3. ACA fails to treat immigrant workers and their families fairly, leaving them worse off by not allowing them to purchase health coverage in the new exchanges created under the law, even if they use their own money.

It is as true as ever that the nation needs affordable health care reform that ensures universal access to health care, protects human life and dignity, and respects the rights of conscience of all. The U. S. Bishops have not joined in efforts to repeal the law in its entirety and will not do so now.  Instead, USCCB will continue to urge Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, legislation to fix the three main flaws described above.

As work to amend the ACA continues, efforts by the government to infringe on the right to religious freedom will be strongly opposed, as will attempts to misinform others about this opposition. For example, see the response to the memo of  John Gehring, casting aspersions on the Catholic bishops and their educational project on religious liberty, the Fortnight for Freedom.

In Frankfort, the Catholic Conference of Kentucky will continue to work singly and with others to address  issues facing Kentuckians when it comes to accessing quality health care.

When fully implemented, the ACA will bring a number of important benefits to Kentuckians, including:

  • Approximately 300,000 additional Kentuckians will become eligible for Medicaid coverage in 2014;
  • Health plans will be prohibited from denying coverage to an estimated 920,000 Kentuckians with pre-existing health conditions;
  • Health plans will be prohibited from basing premiums on a person’s health condition;
  • Health plans will be required to cover important preventative services;
  • Tax credits will become available to help an estimated 221,000 Kentucky families and 51,500 businesses purchase health insurance; and
  • The Medicare “donut hole” in prescription drug coverage will be eliminated for an estimated 129,000 Kentuckians.

Although the ACA will go a long way in ensuring that all Americans have access to affordable health care, there are still roadblocks to overcome. Not only do Kentuckians need access to care, that care must be of high quality.  It is important that consumers become engaged and work with policymakers to ensure their voice is heard in the implementation of the law.

CCK is one of nearly 250 organizations and individuals which makes up Kentucky Voices for Health.  It is the hope of Kentucky Voices for Health that the implementation of the ACA will continue to support these four core principles:

  • assuring that all Kentuckians have access to high quality, affordable health care,
  • making prevention a priority for Kentucky’s health policies and programs,
  • improving the efficiency and effectiveness of health care for Kentuckians, and
  • improving the health of Kentucky’s children.

For full text of the USCCB response to the Court’s decision, click here.

Graphic: By Ipankonin via Wikimedia Commons

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