Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, no friend to President Obama, published a column last week restating the larger Catholic Bishops’ stance on health reform. For Chaput and his fellow bishops, avoiding all government coverage of abortion is an expected high priority, but the rest of their ideas, including support for universal access to care, which would mean access for immigrants and the poor, seem a pretty strong rebuff to any of the non-solutions so far proposed by the right.
In his discussion of priorities, Chaput underlines a subject the raucous national debate has failed to address head on. Health-care reform, he writes, “should provide access to basic, quality health services for all persons, from conception to natural death, with a special concern for the poor, elderly and disabled, and the inclusion of legal immigrants…”
The “inclusion of legal immigrants.” Chaput is not talking about hot-topic illegal immigrants. He mentions legal immigrants because they are part of the vast underserved of our present system, subject to a variety of humiliating and life-threatening restrictions on care.
According to a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops letter on health reform sent to lawmakers last month:
Access for all: Reform efforts must begin with the principle that decent health care is not a privilege, but a right and a requirement to protect the life and dignity of every person. All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage of life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born….
The Catholic bishops renew our appeal to provide equity for legal immigrants in access to health care. This can be accomplished, in part, by repealing the five-year ban for legal immigrants to access Medicaid; repealing the applicability of “sponsor-deeming” for Medicaid and CHIP; and ensuring that pregnant women in the United States, who will be giving birth to children who are United States citizens, are eligible along with their unborn children for health care regardless of their immigration status. Immigrants pay the same taxes as citizens and their health needs cannot be ignored. Leaving them outside a reformed system is both unfair and unwise.
Health care is not just another issue for the Church or for a healthy society… The Church provides health care, purchases health care and picks up the pieces of a failing health care system. The Catholic community encounters and serves the sick and uninsured in our emergency rooms, shelters and on the doorsteps of our parishes. One out of six patients is cared for in Catholic hospitals. We bring both strong convictions and everyday experience to the issue of health care.
Consider the case of an illegal-immigrant pregnant mother in Colorado, that she and her unborn child should have access to U.S. health care is a no-brainer for a Catholic bishop. How do Catholic voters and conservative politicians feel about that?