Browsing The Northern Cross

Editorial: On health care, other issues remember the option for the poor

“This moment cannot pass without comment.”

The moment is a finding by the Congressional Budget Office that a proposed health care bill before Congress would cause millions of people to lose their health care coverage. The speaker was Bishop Frank J. Dewane, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

He’s right. We need to find a better way.

One of the most powerful and often overlooked principles of Catholic social doctrine is what’s called the “preferential option for the poor.” The idea behind it is that one of the true tests of any society is how the weakest, poorest, and most vulnerable are faring.

For every important policy, one of the aspects we need to consider is in this light: “How will this proposal affect the most vulnerable?”

When the answer is that millions of them will likely lose their health care, that should be a big red flag for us.

This is not a partisan thing. Church leaders have rightly praised other elements of the legislation, such as its prohibition of abortion funding. Those with sufficiently long memories will recall that the USCCB also very publicly objected to the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health care legislation. It failed this basic test too, leaving open the possibility of funding for abortion and not adequately protecting immigrants.

And it’s not just health care, either. Immigration policy, refugee policy, budget time — in all of these, we can and should pose that simple question, “How would this affect the most vulnerable?”

There is no doubt that many of these things are complicated and costly problems. There are legitimate questions about the sustainability of the ACA itself. But that is all the more reason we cannot solve them on the backs of those least able to afford it.

Good societies don’t do that.

Please, Congress, get health care right.