Our friends at the Catholic Alliance for the Common Good are keeping busy in this final push for universal health care coverage. In a statement issued today, their new President, Morna Murray said, “Isn't it time we agreed it is simply unacceptable for anyone in America to be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition or arbitrary annual limits of what an insurance company decides is good for its own profits? Is such a system good for Americans? Is it good for vulnerable low-income and working class families and children? It is good for one thing and one thing only -- health insurance industry profits. This does not serve the common good.” The full statement is here.
Murray’s point is familiar to anyone acquainted with Catholic social teaching, but it was oddly lacking from the President’s speech yesterday in Philadelphia. There he focused on the outrageous increases in health care premiums at a time of record profits for the insurance industry - $12.2 billion in profits for the five largest firms last year to be exact. I confess that I love it when the President sounds a populist theme, but I wish he had been sounding that theme last summer. Now, it is too late.
Obama should have consulted Murray before his speech. The decisive votes at this point are a group of a dozen or so pro-life Democrats. I do not suspect they will be moved much from their commitment to the original Stupak Amendment, but if the President had made the moral case all along for universal health insurance, it might put the debate about abortion in perspective. No, there should not be any government funding of abortion, but there are many ways to skin that cat, and it is a crying shame to let health care reform fail because only one method of cat-skinning is viewed as permissible. The reason to enact universal health insurance is, as Murray suggests, because it is the right thing to do. Period. Yes, we need to dot the I’s on the abortion language, but achieving universal health coverage is – per se – a pro-life thing to do. Thousands die every year because they lack coverage. The status quo is unacceptable and it is morally wrong to block the best shot at reform in any of our lifetimes.