All this spring and summer, the Republican-controlled Congress and President Trump have been engaged in a contentious debate over their attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). President Trump has announced certain principles and the House and Senate have put forward various plans but there have been many objections from both the conservative and moderate wings of the Republican Party (as well as the president himself) to all of these plans and nothing has been able to be agreed upon yet. It has even been proposed that the Congress simply repeal Obamacare now and adopt a replacement bill sometime in the indefinite future in the fond hope that Republicans will somehow be able to settle their differences then. Is there no way to solve the Republicans’ dilemma?
Perhaps a simple solution can be found if we look at the principles of Catholic social teaching. As analyzed in my recent blog, “A Catholic View of Health Care,” many aspects of the complicated health care problem—such as the federal/state/private structure of the health care system and the way of dealing with its costs–can arguably be addressed in various ways according to Catholic social teaching. These are matters of prudence rather than definite right-or-wrong answers. However, that analysis suggested that Catholic social teaching did provide definite answers for some health care issues. First, it showed that all people whether wealthy or poor had the right to basic health care. Since Obamacare had the objective of providing basic health care to all Americans, in this aspect at least it was in accord with Catholic social teaching. Second, it showed that Catholic social teaching would hold that it is immoral to have mandates that all health insurance cover contraception and abortion and to require that all taxpayers contribute funding via the government for Planned Parenthood (the United States’ largest abortion provider), as is the case under Obamacare.
Thus, the solution to the Republicans’ health care dilemma is simple. For now, postpone attempts to solve the complicated structural and cost aspects of health care reform, which are matters of prudence anyway. Keep Obamacare as it is for now, because at least it attempts to fulfill the desirable objective of providing basic health care for all Americans. Most importantly, immediately repeal the contraceptive and abortion mandates and defund Planned Parenthood. This is the single most objectionable feature of Obamacare according to Catholic social teaching. This is a political objective that the Republicans—so divided over other aspects of health care reform—can probably rally around and achieve. The House is controlled by a sizeable Republican majority. In the Senate, the Republicans have 52 Senators, and need 50 for passage of a bill because Republican Vice President Mike Pence can break any tie. Almost all Republicans in Congress are pro-life—a majority in the House and all but about two in the Senate (Maine, Alaska). In addition, there are two pro-life Democratic Senators (West Virginia, Indiana) who may vote to remove the contraceptive, abortion, and Planned Parenthood aspects of Obamacare if the rest was left alone. This would seem to be politically achievable right now. This would accord with the principles of Catholic social teaching. This would seem to be a simple, immediately-achievable solution to the health care debate!