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Obama Sends Clear Message to Congress on Health Care
Source: AmericanCatholic.org
Published: Thursday, September 10, 2009
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President Barack Obama speaks about health care reform before a joint session of Congress.
President Barack Obama, speaking to a Joint Session of Congress on Wednesday, September 9, sent a clear message that basic health care is a right, not a privilege, a position also held by the U.S. bishops.

Universal access to affordable health care and a respect for all life from conception to natural death are the two essential principles put forth by the bishops in their July letter to Congress on health care reform.

In laying out the details of his plan, Obama directly addressed two of the main concerns of the U.S. Catholic bishops: "And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up – under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place."

Referring to attempts since the time of Theodore Roosevelt to reform the health care issues facing Americans, Obama said, “I am not the first president to take up this cause,” he said, “but I am determined to be the last.”

Of the plan he is proposing, he says, "It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don't. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government. It's a plan that asks everyone to take responsibility for meeting this challenge – not just government and insurance companies, but employers and individuals."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued this response to the president's speech:
"We agree that 'no one should go broke because they get sick,'" said Kathy Saile, Director of Domestic Social Development at the USCCB. "That's why the U.S. Bishops have worked for decades for decent health care for all. The Catholic Church provides health care for millions, purchases health care, picks up the pieces of a failing health system, and has a long tradition of teaching on ethics in health care. Health care reform that respects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and urgent national priority. We welcome the President's speech as an important contribution to this essential national debate and task."
           
"We especially welcome the President's commitment to exclude federal funding of abortion, and to maintain existing federal laws protecting conscience rights in health care," said Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of Pro-Life Activities at the USCCB. "We believe that incorporating essential and longstanding federal laws on these issues into any new proposal will strengthen support for health care reform. We will work with Congress and the Administration to ensure that these protections are clearly reflected in new legislation, so no one is required to pay for or take part in abortion as a result of health care reform."
           
"We agree with the President that there are details that need to be ironed out," said Saile. "And with his address last night, we see the opportunity to work towards a truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity, access for all with a special concern for the poor, and inclusion of legal immigrants. We also see the possibility of meeting the bishops' goal to pursue the common good and preserve pluralism, including freedom of conscience and a variety of options, and restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of payers."




We will provide coverage of responses to the president's speech from the bishops and CNS throughout the day.


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