Editor’s note: “Matters of Faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
I don’t think many people, including Catholics, understand the church’s stance on healthcare. It’s rather easy.
Healthcare is a right. It is for all people, and all people need healthcare during their lifetime.
People might ask the question about the Catholic bishops having certain problems with the Affordable Care Act. The bishops have no problem with the principle of it. Even the most conservative ones would agree that whatever policy provides the greatest amount of coverage for the greatest number of people is the best.
Catholic bishops have issues with requiring employers to provide services that include artificial contraception, sterilization, and abortion. Otherwise, they are much in favor of healthcare for all people.
Our healthcare system is the most expensive and inefficient in the world, and we Americans are unhealthy relative to all other wealthy nations. It’s amazing how little we get for how much is spent per person, and how much we pay out of our own pockets. All other wealthy countries pay less per person, and offer their citizens full coverage from womb to tomb.
We are the only developed nation that does not have universal healthcare. The Affordable Health Care Act is far better than what we have had; however, single-payer healthcare is preferred according to Catholic social teaching. Why? All who are sick should get the help that they need without worrying about having enough to cover the rent and grocery bills.
What are some of the effects of not having universal healthcare? It hinders our economy. People may choose not to develop their own small business because they are afraid that they or someone in their family may get sick. Instead of being entrepreneurs and growing the economy, they choose to find a job, working for some company that provides health benefits — if they can find such a job.
In addition, one would be more likely to go to school to pursue further studies for the same reason. Going without healthcare in your late teens and 20s is one thing. Most of us take our good health for granted when we are young. Going without it in your 30s and 40s is quite another when things start to fall off.
I am now 41 and parts are starting to hurt. In addition, we can’t quantify the stress paying healthcare bills places upon a person’s life. If a family or individual has gone bankrupt, most likely it involves healthcare bills that cannot be paid.
It is easy to imagine how quickly one could go through his or her savings, including losing his or her house, if one were to spend any length of time in a hospital room. The cheapest and most shabby hospital room costs more per day than a nice hotel room in mid-town Manhattan or Hawaii.
The Diocese of Salt Lake City covers its priests and the employees of the diocese, and it is paid for by the parish collections and school tuition. The cost for insurance has gone up over the years, the benefits have gone down, and we are getting to the point where it may be too expensive. The general cost for a not-so-great healthcare policy for one person (not a family) is at least $600 per month. This has been the experience of all employers.
The cost of health insurance is too high. Many large companies have chosen to stop providing healthcare, which puts more people in desperate situations. I had hoped that employers could buy into the exchanges that the Affordable Care Act provided. Having large pools of people would make health insurance more affordable for my church and for all small employers so they could provide more generous benefit packages to their employees.
This is not the case. Individuals may go onto the exchanges, but employers will only be penalized if they don’t provide benefits that are increasingly expensive and nearly out of reach. I am glad that individuals may purchase a policy at a cheaper rate; however, it does not help small or medium sized-businesses that would like to provide coverage for their employees.
In addition, we can just imagine all of the money that goes into administration for the insurance and healthcare providers. If you go into a doctor’s office, notice the army of people responsible for billing insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.
Healthcare is a big enough monster to hurt or destroy our economy, wreck our families, and force people to choose an early death instead of put their families at financial risk. It will become worse if we don’t fix it. Healthcare is a common good for all people. Every person’s health affects us as a society. If one is confident that they won’t die in a ditch with their family thrown out of their house, then one is more likely to take risks as an entrepreneur or to learn further skills that will help to find a job in the marketplace.
We are body and spirit. If our body is sick, our spirit is sick too. Healthcare is too important to leave to market forces and to the whims of politicians whose multi-million dollar campaigns are supported by drug, insurance, and various healthcare lobbies who wish to make the most for their shareholders and for themselves.
We are the only wealthy country that places profits over the health of its citizens and offers good healthcare only to those who are the most privileged. Eventually we will decide that universal healthcare/single payer is the only option for a democracy. It would remove unnecessary layers of bureaucracy.
Healthcare providers would benefit from greater economies of scale that will increase efficiency and aid future planning for anticipated health needs. What we have now is what I would think of as a bunch of fishing line that is wrapped around itself. There is nothing else to do, other than to throw out what we have and start over, following the good examples of every other industrialized country in the world. Others have done it well and they like it.
Why can’t we?
Rev. Dinsdale is the priest at St. Marguerite Catholic Church in Tooele.