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The Moral Dimensions of Health Care Reform

How Legislation Measures up to Catholic Social Teachings

SOURCE: AP/Catholic Health Association

An immigrant and her child receive treatment from a Catholic Health Association doctor at a mobile health clinic.

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Fact sheet: A Comparison of Catholic Teachings and the House and Senate Health Care Reform Bills (pdf)

The Catholic Church is a long-standing advocate for health care reform in the United States, leading the effort for nearly a century. Given the Church’s social justice tradition—with its principles of human dignity, solidarity, special status of the poor, and concern for the common good—the Church’s commitment to a more accessible and affordable health care system for all is grounded in centuries-old teachings and traditions. Among these traditions is a commitment to stewardship, which calls for responsible rather than wasteful spending on health care.

The Catholic Church believes that government has a moral role in society—a duty to “assure opportunity, meet basic human needs, and pursue justice in economic life.” The Church also understands that there are some measures of socioeconomic justice that are the proper responsibility of government. Health care is one of these measures. Because of these beliefs, the Catholic Church has been a consistent advocate for comprehensive health care reform, with the government playing a key role in the organization and provision of services.

The Catholic Church is also a key player in health care delivery. In fact, it is the largest provider of nongovernmental health care in the United States. The Catholic Health Association’s vision statement notes it aims to be “a vibrant presence in enhancing the health of communities and access to quality care for everyone, with special attention to those who are underserved and most vulnerable.” The Catholic Bishops have observed that this involvement in the health care system illuminates the strains and stresses related to inadequate health care and the human consequences of a failing system.

Much of the recent debate over health reform has focused on abortion funding and coverage. While both bills in Congress take steps to address the concerns of those who have a religious or moral objection to abortion—in particular the objections of the Catholic Church—it is helpful to consider the many other criteria presented by the Church for ethical health reform that the bills satisfy. It is also helpful to note that abortion is not the only legislative provision under debate. The Church also stresses the importance of universal coverage for everyone in the United States—including undocumented immigrants—which neither bill fulfills.

This fact sheet lays out in detail how the health care bills now under consideration in the House of Representatives and the Senate reflect the criteria laid out by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as important to health care reform. The criteria were taken from an official statement submitted by the USCCB to the Congressional Record on May 20, 2009.

Fact sheet: A Comparison of Catholic Teachings and the House and Senate Health Care Reform Bills (pdf)

See the health care policy page for more information on CAP’s proposals for health care reform.

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Katie Peters (economy, education, poverty, Half in Ten Education Fund)
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Print: Anne Shoup (foreign policy and national security, energy, LGBT issues, health care, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7146 or ashoup@americanprogress.org

Print: Crystal Patterson (immigration)
202.478.6350 or cpatterson@americanprogress.org

Print: Madeline Meth (women's issues, Legal Progress, higher education)
202.741.6277 or mmeth@americanprogress.org

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Tanya Arditi
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TV: Lindsay Hamilton
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Radio: Chelsea Kiene
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