CMA Issues Open Letter to President Obama and Congress
February 22, 2010
Open Letter to President Obama and Members of Congress
February 23, 2010
The Catholic Medical Association (CMA), the largest association of Catholic physicians in the United States, has been carefully monitoring the health-care reform debate. Now, given the clear lack of support from the American people, and given the substantial flaws that exist in House and Senate bills, we believe the most responsible course of action is to pause, reflect, and then begin the legislative process anew, working in a more deliberate and bipartisan manner. It is more important that health-care reform be done right than to finish the legislative process by a date certain.
Current health-care legislation is now opposed by a clear majority of the American people. A compilation of ten national polls, published at Realclearpolitics.com, shows that, on average, less than 40 percent of Americans favor current legislation while more than 52 percent oppose it. Not one of these polls shows majority support for current legislation.
We think this public opposition is well founded. Many objective analysts, including Richard S. Foster, chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, have stated that the House and Senate bills will increase health-care costs and total federal health-care spending. Jeffrey Flier, M.D., dean of the Harvard Medical School, has stated that there is near unanimity of opinion among analysts that the current legislation “would do little or nothing to improve quality or change health-care's dysfunctional delivery system.” Thus, this legislation not only will fail to bring about authentic reform, but will make the current challenges faced by patients, providers, and the American people even worse.
Now it appears that one last effort will be made to revive this flawed legislation in a February 25 televised summit. While we applaud Members of Congress and President Obama for being willing to meet together for a frank exchange of ideas, we think this is no time for political posturing or partisan gambits. Given the seriousness of the challenges we face and the shortcomings of current legislation, the best chance for achieving authentic health-care reform in the foreseeable future is to start the process of legislation over and avoid the mistakes of the last year. Specifically, we call upon Members of Congress and the executive branch to:
- Engage in a true bi-partisan process. Social legislation of this magnitude should not be enacted without a clear consensus among legislators of both parties and of the American people.
- Ensure that efforts to assist the poor and uninsured are effective and economically sustainable. In November 2009, CMS Chief Actuary Foster noted that H.R. 3962’s tactic of putting millions more people into Medicaid would make it “plausible and even probable” that Medicaid enrollees’ already unacceptable access problems would be exacerbated (p.15). Health-care legislation must be based on sound economic principles.
- Respect the physician-patient relationship. The excessive levels of governmental regulation and control evident in the House and Senate bills are detrimental to the effective practice of medicine.
- Respect fundamental human and constitutional rights. Health care serves many human goods and can be the subject of many rights claims. However, there is no right more basic than the right to life, and no right more central to American constitutional order than the right to freedom of conscience and religion. Legislation must not compel any public funding of, or provider participation in, abortion. Moreover, the rights to conscience and religious liberty of health-care providers must be more comprehensively protected as the power of governmental regulation grows.
We believe the American people will rally behind sound legislation. We face real challenges, and the status quo is not acceptable. However, we can make progress only if we respond responsibly to the current impasse and move forward in a constructive manner. We ask all of you to engage in a good-faith effort that respects the principles and the process required for authentic health-care reform. We look forward to the opportunity to contribute to this effort.
Leonard P. Rybak, M.D., Ph.D.
John F. Brehany, Ph.D., S.T.L.
Executive Director and Ethicist
CONTACT: John Brehany, Ph.D., S.T.L. Executive Director & Ethicist