Boston, MA - Leaders from Catholic Democrats are applauding the passage of the final version of health care legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives this evening after more than a year of debate and wide public discussion.
"This is an exhilarating accomplishment for us as Catholics. Our Church has been at the forefront of the movement advocating universal health care for nearly a century," said Dr. Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats. "We salute the courageous Catholic members of Congress who worked so hard to craft and pass this landmark legislation. And we laud those Catholic individuals and organizations that led the fight for expanded health care, including the Catholic Health Association and the thousands of women religious who stood in solidarity with the most vulnerable in our society. In particular, Speaker Nancy Pelosi frequently mentioned her Catholic sensibilities as a motivating factor in her determination to pass this bill. And we applaud President Barack Obama, who has spoken forcefully about finding common ground and about the Gospel theme of being our brothers' and our sisters' keeper."
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will expand health insurance coverage to millions of Americans while reducing the budget deficit, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Limits on coverage for children with pre-existing conditions will be eliminated within six months, and for adults within 3-1/2 years. It will expand eligibility for Medicaid, provide federal subsidies to low income individuals to purchase health insurance on newly created health insurance exchanges, and increase funding for community health centers. The economic impact of the bill will bend the cost curve down - making health insurance more affordable, reducing personal bankruptcies, and making our economy more competitive in the global marketplace.
Catholic Democrats supported the passage of this legislation last December and has advocated for the passage of health care reform since its founding in 2004. At the beginning of Lent, Catholic Democrats wrote every Catholic member of Congress, asking them to give up divisive partisanship for Lent to pass health care. Thousands of the organization's supporters have signed the Catholic Democrats Lenten Intention to contact their Representatives in support of passing the legislation.
In the last week, the organization generated new data on the relationship between universal health care and abortion. This past week, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article written by Dr. Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats, which offered data that showed abortions in Massachusetts went down after universal health care was implemented. Additionally, the organization issued a policy brief crisply defining the terms for maintaining the status quo under the much-discussed but poorly understood Hyde Amendment.
"Today is a day of Thanksgiving for the American people," said Steve Krueger, national director of Catholic Democrats. "For those who are not rejoicing today, we hope they will in the years ahead when the divisive politics that threatened a stronger life-affirming future for our nation is a distant memory and their children and grandchildren have health security - and health costs no longer threaten our free market economy. The vision of Democrats to protect human rights has prevailed once again, helping define the character of our country. As the nuns told us this week, 'health care reform is a faith mandate for life and dignity of all of our people.'"