Monday, March 22, 2010

Considering the New Health Care Legislation...

My head hurts! That's probably not a great way to start this piece on health care legislation -- feeling the need for medical intervention.

219 votes to 212, not a single republican vote in support. No bi-partisanship on the passage of this issue; no crossing the aisle to make sure that all Americans have a representative voice. Tyranny has taken hold, and life for the most vulnerable, which inevitably becomes all of us, hangs in the balance.

An executive order will make a difference if President Obama will sign one, right? Catholic Bishops Join Pro-Life Groups Against Abortion-Executive Order Idea, a piece by editor, Steve Ertelt, at, points out that a Presidential executive order is limited in its ability to prevent the legislation from providing funding for abortion. The article quotes Richard Doerflinger of the USCCB:
We've consulted with legal experts on the specific idea of resolving the abortion funding problems in the Senate bill through executive order. We know members have been looking into this in good faith, in the hope of limiting the damage done by abortion provisions in the bill...Unfortunately,this proposal does not begin to address the problem, which arises from decades of federal appellate rulings that apply the principles of Roe v. Wade to federal health legislation.
What does this say about the executive order provision? Basically, it's pointless. The legislation takes precedence over an executive order and would be overturned in federal court. Thus, another deception for the American people to have to cull out of the legalese that has engulfed their health care.

Abortion isn't the only life issue in question with passage of this bill. Government mandates to own insurance, provide coverage, etc., will come with penalties for non-compliance. Otherwise healthy young people will be forced to maintain insurance that they will rarely use or pay a stiff fine. That sounds like taxation to me, as do penalties that will be assessed on employers who fail to comply with the current legislation for their employees. This penalty levied on business owners will increase with continued non-compliance. Read the bill. In effect, this action takes away the ability to make health care decisions on one's own, for individuals or employers. Choosing coverage will not be an option because insurance companies will not be able to afford the cost of providing health care coverage, either. (This is sounding an awful lot like a path to a single-payer system.)

The idea that Americans are capable of making or effecting change in this arena is summarily wiped away. Government controls have now effectively disengaged the ability of an individual to make choices in accord with their human dignity; with their God-given ability to reason. It is now mandated, and we are force to comply or pay the penalty. I don't like the way that sounds.

It is obvious, that in issues other than health care, you and I become among the most vulnerable. Our personal freedoms are being eroded. And, while I agree, reform is necessary, tyrannical control is not. Yet, it is what we have been dealt. Our health care options have just been limited, our employers have just had their hands tied, our compliance has been dictated, our providers have just been given their directives.

And, what if the executive order cannot protect those providers whose conscience cannot conform to the new legislation? Dr. John Bruchalski, pro-life OB/GYN and founder of Tepeyac Family Center, said last year, in the Arlington Catholic Herald, with regard to FOCA legislation:
There is no other safety net for me, he said, adding that he’s not sure what he would do if he couldn’t follow his conscience as a pro-life physician. It is not about a structure. It’s about the salvation of souls.
This sums up the predicament in which pro-life health care providers currently find themselves. They are placed at a crossroads in their profession. (By the way, they do profess to first do no harm in the Hippocratic Oath, but that Oath has morphed into many different forms over the years at various institutions -- an issue for another piece perhaps.) Apparently, there is no longer a need to worry about the conscience clause. The legislation passed last night takes care of that. No need for FOCA, when H.R. 3590 mandates that compliant practitioners will be liable to provide all services -- to include abortion -- because the executive order will hold no sway in Federal court.

I have spoken nothing about the specter of rationed care and the horror of health care decisions that are cost-based versus what is in the best interest of the patient. The erosion of consumer protections as a result of this legislation leaves many people vulnerable. What of children with special needs? Who will determine if spinal surgery for severe scoliosis for a child who presents as non-verbal, with moderate to severe cognitive impairment, a rare seizure disorder and hypotonic cerebral palsy should be authorized? Would he be deemed appropriate to undergo such a surgery? And, what of the 84 year old grandmother of 18 beautiful grandchildren who must have a very expensive treatment each month to keep her kidney damage in check? Will she, at her advanced age, continue to be found suitable for this level of costly treatment? (If you think these sounds like issues in my family, you are right.) Or, will both the child with special needs and the grandmother's conditions preclude them from such elaborate means of preserving their lives because of the cost to benefit ratio? I just can't go any further along that vein right now. Forgive me.

Here, I think it is imperative to reflect upon the dignity of the human person. Each and every person has value. The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers this insight about the human person:
The human body shares in the dignity of the ‘image of God’: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by the spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit. (CCC, 364)
Further, it makes clear that:
With his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul.(CCC, 33)
These statements of the Church are critical to understanding that man is more than just a sum of his parts. He is body and soul that work in unison; that he is able to sense his own dignity based on Divine revelation and the magnificence of what he is, what he can do and what he is entrusted to do as a human person. This dignity must be respected from conception to natural death. Dignity is not a mandate issued by a government, it is issued by God.

It is necessary to make provisions for those who need health care. We have an obligation to our brother to serve him in his needs. But, we cannot do so with a healthy conscience if the terms include immoral and unethical practices and procedures. Our current system of providing health care needs a face lift, not a bulldozer. We have the best health care available in the world; we need a more effective and efficient delivery system. Typically, government oversight is not touted as either effective or efficient. It's up to those now who think we can do better because people should serve one another better, without mandates or legislation, in an effort to ensure appropriate health care for all members of society, born and unborn.

And having examined all this for you and for myself, I still have a headache.


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