Thursday, June 24, 2010

Missouri Bishops on Federal Healthcare Insurance Mandate and H.R. 5111

In early May, the Missouri Legislature voted overwhelmingly to place a proposition on the State ballot which would reject the insurance mandates passed under the federal healthcare reform bill. The bishops of Missouri have issued a joint statement explaining their neutral stance on the measure and encouraging voters to “exercise their best prudential judgment as they vote on this issue in August.”

Further, the bishops of Missouri join the USCCB in encouraging support for H.R. 5111, the Protect Life Act, sponsored by Congressman Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania. Following is the bishops’ statement:

Joint Statement Concerning Proposition C Addressing the
Federal Healthcare Insurance Mandate

On August 3, 2010, Missouri voters will be the first in the nation to express their opinion about a provision in the new federal healthcare reform law that requires individuals to purchase healthcare insurance or pay a penalty. As passed by the Missouri General Assembly, the statute would state in part that: “no law or rule shall compel any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system.”[1] On the ballot the proposal will be known as Proposition C.

The Catholic Church in the United States has actively provided health care through its various agencies for the rich and poor alike since the early days of this great nation, and has consistently advocated for access to health care for all citizens and immigrants. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), however, opposed the federal healthcare reform bill in the form passed by Congress, because of its failure to honor existing restrictions on federal funding of abortion and failure to assure protection of the conscience rights of healthcare providers and individuals.

We believe Catholics can differ on whether a federal healthcare insurance mandate is an appropriate means to ensure access to health care for all. We think that the insurance mandate in the new law is flawed, because it fails to respect the right of conscience of individuals to refuse to purchase insurance, if that insurance covers abortion or other unethical medical practices. From that standpoint, we oppose the federal insurance mandate in its current form.

We recognize, however, that Proposition C will not bar federal funding of abortions or address the shortcomings in President Obama’s Executive Order. If the constitutionality of the health insurance mandate is upheld in court, Proposition C will have no lasting legal effect, and Missouri citizens will be required to purchase healthcare insurance. For this reason, we are taking a position of neutrality on Proposition C.

In order to address the pro-life and conscience flaws in the federal healthcare law, additional Congressional action is needed. New federal legislation, H.R. 5111, has recently been filed in Washington to prohibit federal support or funding of abortion. We call on all Missouri Catholics to contact their Congressperson and U.S. Senators and urge support for H.R. 5111.

Some Catholics may view Proposition C as the best means to address the pro-life and conscience concerns in the federal healthcare reform law while other Catholics may conclude the only effective remedy is Congressional action to amend the federal law. We encourage Missouri Catholics to prayerfully consider Proposition C, follow a properly formed conscience, and exercise their best prudential judgment as they vote on this issue in August.


[1] The official ballot language, as prepared by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, reads as follows:

Shall the Missouri Statutes be amended to:

· Deny the government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance or infringe upon the right to offer or accept direct payment for lawful healthcare services?

· Modify laws regarding the liquidation of certain domestic insurance companies?

CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF MISSOURI

Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson
Executive Chairman
Archbishop of St. Louis

Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Vice Chairman
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Most Reverend John R. Gaydos
General Chairman
Bishop of Jefferson City

Most Reverend James V. Johnston, Jr.
Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau

Most Reverend Robert J. Hermann
Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis