The organization representing Catholic hospitals across the country says it no longer objects to the Obama administration’s mandate that all employees receive free birth control coverage.
The decision by the Catholic Health Association puts the hospitals at odds with the Catholic hierarchy, which last week rejected the White House’s final regulations on an issue that many church conservatives view as evidence of the administration’s hostility to Catholicism and religious freedom.
Sister Carol Keehan, head of the CHA, disagreed. “If you look at the final regulations it is very clear that we do not have to contract for, or pay for, or arrange for” contraception coverage, Keehan said in an interview on Tuesday.
ON A WINDY morning this March, as the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments about the health-care reform law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), hundreds of people of faith gathered in front of the court building. As part of a public witness, they prayed and carried signs that proclaimed “People of Faith for Health Care.” Participants came from various faith traditions and denominations, many of which also signed an amicus brief in support of the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid to cover more low-income adults. The event was organized by two interfaith coalitions, Faithful Reform in Health Care and the Washington Interreligious Staff Community (WISC) Health Care Working Group.
The groups involved were motivated not by political beliefs but by a moral imperative, shared across faith traditions, to build a just society that cares for the poor, the sick, the widow, the orphan, and “the least of these.”
Those who gathered believe that their prayers on behalf of the uninsured were heard when, almost three months later to the day, the Supreme Court upheld the ACA. Chief Justice John Roberts’ vote with the more liberal justices led to the unlikely majority that provided a major step forward in the century-long struggle for health-care justice in the U.S.
Numerous faith groups praised the decision. Faithful Reform in Health Care and the WISC Health Care Working Group issued a joint statement, signed by 53 national, state, and local faith organizations, saying that “people of faith have worked both individually and collectively to move our nation toward a more inclusive and just system of health care,” one “that offers health, wholeness, and human dignity for all” and is “affordable, accessible, and accountable.” They added, “We applaud the U.S. Supreme Court justices for upholding the law.”
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Florida governor Rick Scott says he won't take the federal money that would enable Medicaid to be expanded in his state, The Nation's blog reports:
"Nearly 1 million Floridians will be denied access to Medicaid they would have otherwise received under the Affordable Care Act if Governor Rick Scott gets his way. The Supreme Court ruling last week on the law made it easier for states to opt out of an expansion, and Sunday night the governor’s office e-mailed a statement from Scott that 'since Florida is legally allowed to opt out, that’s the right decision for our citizens.'”
This choice is particularly ironic, given that Scott was CEO of Columbia/HCA in the 1990s: that company was found to have defrauded Medicare on his watch. Eventually the company pled guilty to 14 felonies and paid fines of $1.7 billion. Scott denied knowing what was going on when he was in charge of the company. As the Miami Herald reported:
"He has denied knowing frauds were taking place while he was there, and he was never charged with any crimes.
"However, federal investigators found that Scott took part in business practices at Columbia/HCA that were later found to be illegal -- specifically, that Scott and other executives offered financial incentives to doctors in exchange for patient referrals, in violation of federal law, according to lawsuits the Justice Department filed against the company in 2001."
I considered the passage of the Affordable Care Act as an indication of human moral evolution. For the first time in its history, the United States was going to set down a marker on health care and join the nations of the world that consider it a right not a privilege.
Now, those opposed to the law are in the process of taking it apart piece by piece through lawsuits in federal court and in a ballot initiative in Ohio next Tuesday.
Issue three in the Ohio ballot would allow the people of Ohio to opt out of the individual mandate to purchase health insurance in the Affordable Care Act. If this initiative passes, it would be unfortunate for the people of Ohio.
[Editors' note: Today we remember Elizabeth Edwards who was an outspoken advocate for health-care reform and used her position of influence to speak out for those who could not get the care they needed. Our thoughts and prayers are with her friends and family.