The U.S. Catholic hierarchy was one of the staunchest foes of President Obama’s signature health care law, nearly derailing its passage in 2010 over concerns about abortion funding and exacting a political toll that helped doom abortion-opposing Democrats who backed Obamacare while boosting Republican efforts to take control of Congress.
But faced with the prospect of the GOP following through on pledges to repeal health care reform, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is changing its tune.
On Wednesday the USCCB released a letter warning Congress not to overturn the law without providing an immediate replacement to provide continuing coverage for the millions who have been insured under the Affordable Care Act.
“We recognize that the law has brought about important gains in coverage, and those gains should be protected,” Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Fla., chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, wrote to House and Senate members.
He said the bishops will examine proposals to amend or replace Obamacare but said that “for now that a repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act ought not be undertaken without the concurrent passage of a replacement plan that ensures access to adequate health care for the millions of people who now rely upon it for their wellbeing.”
For those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, he said, such a move “would prove particularly devastating.”
The letter comes in the midst of an increasingly fierce debate in the Republican-controlled Congress over how and even whether to repeal Obamacare – a hallmark GOP talking point over the last six years – and just two days before Donald Trump, who also vowed to repeal the health care law as one of his first acts, takes the oath as president.
The law’s critics have been stymied by the fact that the law has covered so many people who had previously been uninsured – upwards of 20 million – and that repealing the law could have devastating consequences on millions more and on the entire health insurance industry.
Moreover, the law, like Obama, is proving to be more popular than ever. About 20 million Americans rely on it.
In addition, while pledging to repeal the law, Trump and Republicans have not agreed on anything to replace it, prompting questions on whether it will be repealed.