The USCCB's Bulletin Inserts

The USCCB’s bulletin insert on health care reform is problematic in several regards. Unlike the video on their website, it does not praise the central objective of the bill, namely, extending health care coverage to more Americans. It notes that the bishops have long supported health care reform but they fault the current bill for a variety of reasons. Like the USCCB, I deplore the provisions limiting the access of immigrants to the new health care options the bill enacts. And, I agree that the conscience provisions could be tightened, though the current ones do not, to my mind, constitute a deal breaker and I suspect any language will be clarified by the courts.

There is one bullet point, however, that seems very arguable. The bulletin insert states: “On December 24, the U.S. Senate rejected this policy and passed health care reform that
requires federal funds to help subsidize and promote health plans that cover elective
abortions. All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions through a separate payment solely to pay for abortion.” It is true that the Senate bill allows federal funds to subsidize plans that cover elective abortion, but the bill requires anyone with such a plan to pay for the abortion coverage with a separate check, taken from their own bank account. What the House bill, which the bishops applaud, contemplates, namely the purchase of riders for abortion coverage, the Senate bill requires. How does that constitute federal funding?

The insert also fails to note that the Senate bill requires that every exchange set up to offer insurance offer at least one plan that does not include abortion coverage. Richard Doerflinger, who is the USCCB point man on pro-life issues, told me that market forces will likely result in many plans including abortion coverage and perhaps only one that does not, because abortion is cheaper than a pregnancy carried to term, so the insurance companies will want people to have the coverage and to use it. But, I suspect many people will be turned off by having to write a second check every month and many companies will not want the accounting headache. Even more to the point, prognostications about what market forces will and will not do is not a doctrinal matter and it is a shame that the bishops seem to indicate that they will oppose a final bill that includes the Senate’s language.

I understand that a bulletin insert is not the place for careful dissection of policy differences, but if I were a pastor, I would print three copies of the insert and put them in the back of the church if anyone wants them.

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