Monday, August 24, 2009
Constructive Dialogue in Health Care Debate
The summer months generally provide slower news cycles than other times of the year, but the debate over reforming our health care is providing plenty to talk about.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has put out a number of statements on health care reform, www.usccb.org and the bishops in Illinois are considering a brief statement as well that will draw readers to principals based on Church teaching rather than the latest sound bite from our favorite talk show host. USCCB does not have a hidden, partisan agenda, but I cannot say that about all those involved in this debate.
I trace the modern era of divisive, successful politics with the defeat of Judge Bork’s nomination to the US Supreme Court. We’ve seen it time and time again in the modern era. Perhaps it is not new, divisive politics has been around for a long time, but the advent of modern media and the ability to communicate instantly creates a sense of sensationalism that inhibits promotion of true discourse and discernment about political issues. People constantly criticize the bishops for various reasons, but their efforts to promote a constructive dialogue should be especially welcoming at this time.
The seeds of divisive politics are all around us. Too many are attempting to use this issue to bring down President Obama. The fact of the matter is that the health care system is broken and this issue needs to be addressed. Others, legitimately motivated are very concerned that the reform being discussed will only lead to a huge government bureaucracy with benefit packages that not only include public funding of abortion, but also inadequate end of life care. So the question for us is how do Catholics promote the common good in the health care reform debate without being dragged into the divisive nature of the political battles?
As a public, we need a better understanding of the problems. Few of us even really understand the true dimensions of the problem. Who is not insured and why? What are the true costs in health care? How does a cooperative health care system work? For those of us with health care why should we be concerned about the rising cost of providing health care? Also, why should we support reforming the system to allow more people to have access to care?
In the solution, what happens to other solutions such as decoupling health insurance from employment? It was discussed during the campaign, but recently the focus of the debate seems to be directed on the public option.
The bishops will be the first to say that they do not have all the answers, and, quite frankly other interest groups mired in this debate do not either. What we do have is a way to frame the issue to ensure we promote the common good. Now it’s up to the laity to work to get that message to our elected leaders.