Proponents of Catholic Social Teaching Should Support Affordable Care Act

MAGGIE McCONNAHA | OPINION COLUMNIST

For old legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010) remains consistently in the news and controversial. Opposers generally assumed that the ACA was America’s first move into socialism, citing that being  forced to pay for another person’s healthcare violates America’s value of individualism. Disappointingly, many Catholics sided with the opposition of the ACA, despite the positive effects the bill had for the poor and its adherence to Catholic Social Teaching.

The progressive movement around the world has long said that quality and affordable healthcare is a human right, written explicitly in the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. This includes water cleanliness, public sanitation, adequate food and housing and medical care for any disease. Catholic Social Teaching echoes this and promises to adhere to the Life and Dignity of the Human Person. I have to wonder when this came to just mean fighting against abortion. The ACA has allowed multiple millions of people to afford healthcare—and receive life saving treatments from it—and lead dignified, independent lives.

The Call to Community and Family encourages each person to actively participate in vibrant, Catholic families and communities. It becomes the easiest way to support Catholic doctrine and values, as well as genuine spaces for dialogue of faith and moral understanding, as well as social change issues. In the global community, to which our world has now expanded, the Call to Community forces Catholics to see each person, our neighbors, as active members in this community. Each of those valued members deserves and ought to be afforded healthcare, whether or not their employment status makes that easily accessible or not. The ACA protects the community and gives each member the same privileges as the others, regardless of wealth.

Our Rights and Responsibilities call each of us to heft the moral responsibility of care, empathy, and stewardship for others, and it calls us to support the rights of one another. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, health care is a globally recognized right. More than accepting that the ACA is America’s first act to make healthcare accessible to the poor and vulnerable, Catholics need to stand up now that it is being threatened to be taken away. Becoming socially engaged citizens, calling senators and representatives, writing to media publications, and talking to family members are all ways we can engage in our community to save the ACA from being repealed.

Catholic Social Teaching demands a Preferential Option for the Poor. In terms of healthcare, this does not mean waiting until a health problem is so severe that it necessitates a trip to the emergency room, but covered preventative care that can catch conditions early, maintain a person’s dignity without exposing their income level and lead to a life more easily able to find employment. This mandate acknowledges the humanity and dignity of the poor and vulnerable, and the ACA acts as a preferred option to high-risk pools and last minute emergency services.

The ACA protects small business owners with pre-existing conditions and allows entrepreneurs who might have avoided opening their business because they could not afford healthcare. Catholics are called to protect the Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers, whether those workers are in offices with employee based coverage or family businesses. Many workplaces with employee-based health insurance, however, do contain a lifetime limits policy (abolished under the ACA) that cuts patients off of insurance if they reach a certain maximum. Individuals with hemophilia, certain cancers, and other conditions regularly reach this limit, and whether or not they have employee based coverage they are kicked off.

The St. Norbert motto this year is Solidarity. The ACA works to even the playing field of citizens across the country, and now that it is threatened to be taken away, we are seeing more and more people standing in solidarity with their neighbors. More people have started to confidently share their story of using the ACA, despite the connotations that come from government aid or assistance. We are called to stand up for those who are being told, essentially, that repealing the ACA without replacing it is more important than their continued coverage.

Lastly, the call to Care for Creation reminds us to be stewards of our resources: choosing to value the resources that are the most renewable and universal. We need to consider what practices and technologies are accessible to all people in the country and invest in those. We need to fight to make easily attained and created medicine more affordable. And, we need to care for the places and environments that help revolutionize medicine.