Chaput’s Strange Sense of Balance

Chaput’s Strange Sense of Balance March 17, 2010

In opposing the current healthcare bill, Denver’s archbishop makes the following argument:

“the health-care reform debate has never been merely a matter of party politics.  Nor is it now.  Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak and a number of his Democratic colleagues have shown extraordinary character in pushing for good health-care reform while resisting attempts to poison it with abortion-related entitlements and other bad ideas that have nothing to do with real “health care.”  Many Republicans share the goal of decent health-care reform, even if their solutions would differ dramatically.  To put it another way, few persons seriously oppose making adequate health services available for all Americans.  But God, or the devil, is in the details — and by that measure, the current Senate version of health-care reform is not merely defective, but also a dangerous mistake.”

This is strange. If you oppose the Senate bill, then oppose it, and state your reasons for doing so. But I do not understand this desire to stand above the fray and make elaborate “bi-partisan” gestures. Because in this area, the two sides could not be more unequal. Chaput says Republicans “share the goal of decent health-care reform, even if their solutions would differ dramatically”. That may or may not be true. But I can look at what they actually propose in terms of policy, and there the answer is a but more cleartheir proposals do next to nothing to reduce the number of uninsured. It’s not that they take a different route to the same endpoint, it’s that they walk around in a circle and end up where they started!

More fundamentally, Abp. Chaput’s main reason for opposing the Senate bill is because of what he regards as defective language on abortion. I think he’s wrong, but that’s not the point I want to make here. The point, rather, is this – on the criteria of promoting abortion, the Republican proposals would be far worse than anything that has emerged from the House and Senate. Why? The Republican health programs are built on three fundamental pillars – tort reform, tax credits to encourage individuals to purchase their own insurance, and letting insurance compete uninhibited for business across state lines. The first doesn’t affect abortion, but the two others do. A huge expansion in tax credits to purchase private plans that cover abortion is tantamount to a huge expansion in the federal subsidization of abortion. And the “across state borders” criterion would effectively gut the Senate provision that allows states to ban insurance plans offering abortion from even accessing the exchanges. Not good. Oh, and I doubt they’re any better on covering immigrants either!

In short, Republican health care plans might not be very good, but they certainly are real. It would be useful to compare them with the Democratic proposals. The devil most certainly is in the details.

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