Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, is a Sojourners board member and the ninth president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA). She assumed her duties as of October 2005. She is responsible for all association operations and leads CHA's staff at offices in Washington, DC, where she is based, and in St. Louis.
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What's Right About Obamacare?
SEVERAL YEARS AGO, before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, many people were clear on the need to get health care for our brothers and sisters and joined in the push to reform the delivery system for health care in this country. When it was enacted, we were thrilled that those who had such difficulty getting even the most basic care for themselves and their children would finally have some health security.
But the notorious website problems—including the crashes, the inability to access it, the insurance programs that have been canceled, and the smaller-than-expected number of people who have been enrolled—have frustrated, discouraged and sometimes challenged us. This has been complicated by political bombast and in some cases, sadly, vicious character assassinations.
As people of faith, it is important not to be swept up in these problems, but to relentlessly pursue access to health care for the 48 million people who do not have health insurance today. We also need to remember that the ACA is more than a website. Think of the millions of young adults who can now stay on their parents’ insurance and the thousands of small businesses that have received tax credits for providing insurance to their employees.
The new rules that guarantee comprehensive insurance coverage, no barriers to preventive care, no pre-existing condition limits, and no lifetime limits on coverage have already made a huge difference in the lives of many families. The portion of the law that requires insurance companies to spend 80 to 85 percent of premium revenue on actual care rather than profits or dividends to shareholders will do much to make the cost of insurance more reasonable.
What About the Women?
POPE FRANCIS HAS created a new environment in the church. Beginning with asking all the people in St. Peter’s Square to bless him, living in a humble apartment and not the papal palace, placing his own phone calls, paying his own bills, giving simple daily homilies, having conversations with many people, and joyfully mingling with people: These all characterize an incredibly different pope. What has been even more attractive about Pope Francis than his style has been what he has said.
Pope Francis is clearly not on a mission to preserve the status quo. He’s been outspoken about the need for change in the world and in the church. In this he has not been a “professional denouncer.” Rather, he always contrasts what needs to change with the opportunity to be so much more than we are now. Whether it is oppressive global economic policy or clerical ambition, Pope Francis points out that we are called to something more noble and satisfying. The call of Christ is to be our best self. Francis reminds us, “God always forgives. Don’t forget this. God always forgives.”
Another striking aspect of Pope Francis is his constant and passionate concern for people who are poor and vulnerable and his reminder of our responsibilities to them. Whether he is talking to world leaders, bishops, or general audiences, his love of poor people and his firsthand knowledge of their challenges and how we should respond is profound.
Health Reform: A Major First Step
46 Million Reasons for Health-Care Reform
The moral imperatives for change.