Health Care Reform Talking Points For The Faith Community
Points the faith community seeks to reinforce:
- The deep support among religious voters for health care reform and for a civil debate
- The moral urgency of reform
- The need to make health care more secure and affordable for all families - those with and those without health coverage stand to benefit from reform
- The debate is about people trying to get the care they need for their loved ones, not about ideology or partisanship
- Everything that the faith community is doing to support reform – we are powerful
The success of our national call with President Obama has given us a tremendous platform to reinforce the central role of the faith community in powering reform forward. The number of people on the call (140,000) and the diversity of speakers, including Catholic, Evangelical, Muslim, Jewish, Mainline Protestant, gives us the ability to make the case that we represent the vast middle of America and are playing to win on health care reform.
Why is health care reform a moral issue? Why is religion relevant?
We all have different versions of an answer to this question. Here are some examples: "We are all made in God's image and God wants us all to have health and wholeness. It's our moral obligation to make that vision a reality..." "Jesus' short ministry was all about healing and wholeness and he never denied care because of a pre-existing condition! The Bible teaches us that these are individual and communal values..." "All of our faith traditions teach us about our responsibility to pursue justice and compassion. Our current system is grossly unjust..." “Almost all religious communities in America are involved in ministries to care for the sick, but we know that faith groups cannot meet all the needs.”
Do you support the House legislation?
Our focus is on making sure that health reform happens this year and that it covers everyone, is truly affordable to families, and controls rising costs. There is no one final bill in either the House or the Senate. We want Members of Congress to finish work on health reform legislation when they return after Labor Day. We’ll assess their work based on our three criteria: (a) does it guarantee quality affordable coverage to families; (b) does it cover everyone; and (c) does it rest on a sustainable financial foundation?
What is your position on whether there should be a “public plan option” in health reform?
Our focus is on making sure we cover everyone with high quality affordable insurance. Every reform approach being considered by Congress -- including those with and without a public option -- would provide people with a choice of high quality private insurance plans. Many people support also giving people the choice of a public option. We want to make sure that however the debate ends up all families have the ability to access the care they need to stay healthy, and are protected from unfair and discriminatory insurance company practices.
Why isn’t the single payer position being represented?
There are people of faith who are very passionate about the single payer idea and it merits discussion. However, it has received limited support in Congress, just 86 co-sponsors in the House and one in the Senate. Our focus is on bringing the faith community together to make our voice heard on the legislation that is likely to pass this year.
What do you think about all the shouting and protesting at town hall meetings?
As faith leaders, we are calling for a debate over health reform that is both vigorous and civil. It is time to ratchet down the shouting. We need to listen to one another and have a rational discussion. People are rightfully passionate about health care because it directly affects their lives, but we don’t want to see public meetings descend into people screaming at each other or at elected officials.
What’s the rush?
Healthcare reform is a life and death issue, and we can't put it off when the going gets tough. People in my congregation who are uninsured or straining to pay their premiums or being denied treatment by health insurance companies can't wait for reform. 14,000 people lose their health insurance every day, and they can't wait for reform. We need leadership and we need to keep moving forward on our commitment to make quality healthcare affordable for everyone. Congress has been debating health reform for most of the year and, as a country, we’ve been trying to reform our health care system to cover everyone for more than 75 years. We are concerned that opponents may be trying to delay, so they can kill reform. We cannot let that happen.
What is your position on abortion? Doesn’t health reform mandate abortion?
There is broad consensus in the faith community that health reform legislation should not be sidetracked by abortion and should not be used undermine current federal rules that prevent the use of public dollars for abortion. We are confident that a solution can be worked-out that enables people on both sides of the abortion debate to support health reform without violating their fundamental beliefs.
Will health reform require religious hospitals or individual health care workers to perform abortions or other activities that violate their religious beliefs?
The White House and Congress have agreed to maintain existing policies that protect religious hospitals and health care providers from performing services that would violate their religious beliefs.
How do you respond to claims that health reform legislation would promote euthanasia? Wouldn’t it put the government in charge of deciding who gets treatment or not? What about talk of death panels?
These claims are false. They’re meant to scare people, especially older people, which is wrong. There is no legitimate place in the debate for these scare tactics. The non-partisan Pulitzer Prize winning fact-check service of the St. Petersburg Times has called Governor Palin’s “death panel” claim a “sci-fi scenario not based in reality.” The AARP called these statements “not just wrong, but cruel.” The reality is that there is a provision in the draft bill being considered in the House that would allow Medicare to reimburse doctors for counseling sessions about living wills and end-of-life planning. These are entirely voluntary. Nothing in health reform would take away the right that people have to decide with their doctor what care is appropriate for their needs.
Do you support a government takeover of the health care system? Isn’t that what this is about?
There is no proposal being considered for a government take over. This is a tired accusation. The reform under consideration would put new regulations on the insurance industry. It would prevent insurers from denying people coverage due to pre-existing conditions, charging women more than men or jacking up rates when people become sick. It would provide subsidies to lower-income families to be able to afford to buy coverage. This is about better regulating insurance and providing help to people so they can afford coverage. We shouldn’t be fooled by the efforts to scare people into thinking that government is taking over their health care.
If health reform is being paid for through cuts to Medicare, won’t that hurt older people?
Proposed Medicare savings will improve the benefits seniors receive, by making prescription coverage more affordable and putting Medicare on a sounder financial foundation. The savings come from better coordinating care, so that doctors and hospitals are rewarded for making people healthier not for the number of tests and procedures they perform. Special interests are pouring millions of dollars into scaring seniors into thinking that the Government is going to take away the care they need. Health reform would do the opposite, make health care more secure for older and younger Americans.
With the economy in trouble and the deficit rising so fast, can we really afford massive health reform legislation?
Both the President and Congress have agreed to finance health reform through savings and new revenues without adding to the federal deficit. The reality is that if nothing is done to reform health care, skyrocketing costs will balloon the federal deficit and squeeze out other spending. We cannot let that happen, which is why health reform is so urgent.
Have you read the bill?
I’ve been following the debate closely. We’re watching efforts to write legislation in both the Senate and the House and know that there is not a final bill. Many of our denominations and organizations are also closely monitoring the process in Congress. We rely on them for reliable information. We want people to know that they don’t have to read every word of every proposed bill to have their voices heard on this important issue.
Why are you and President Obama demonizing the insurance companies when they are trying to support health reform?
Insurance practices are a big part of the health care problem facing the country. Each year insurance companies deny millions of people health coverage because they have pre-existing conditions. A recent Congressional study found that three insurance companies actually revoked coverage for more than 20,000 people over the last five years when they found out they were sick. These kinds of practices make Americans angry and are a big reason why people want to reform health care.
How about the undocumented? Won’t they be covered?
Neither the White House nor Congress has proposed covering undocumented immigrants as part of health reform. Several Gamaliel affiliates are seeking to eliminate the five year wait for documented individuals to be eligible for services.
Won’t health reform result in rationing care?
To the contrary, health care reform would end rationing by cost, which is what happens to millions of Americans each year who delay or do not get the care they need because of cost.
Tell me more about this call with the President and the 40 Days Campaign?
40 Days for Health Reform is a massive faith campaign to make sure that Members of Congress return to Washington, DC after Labor Day committed to move ahead with heath care reform. Our efforts to support reform include: 35 religious denominations and organizations sponsoring a huge nationwide call in with the President that put the focus on real people, answered commonly asked questions and empowered 140,000+ people of faith to take action in their own communities; large-scale public events, meetings with Members of Congress in key states; prayer vigils in more than 100 Congressional Districts, and call-in days to Congress, all during the next 40 days.
This effort is strictly non-partisan and is not allied with any political party, special interest group or ideological position. We encourage people of faith to study the teaching of their own faith traditions on health care and ground their work on the issue in that teaching.