Pro-life liberal Catholic writer Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter argues that because Catholic conservatives find themselves opposed not only to a universal health care bill that funds abortion, but also to the idea of centralized health care in general, they are in fact playing into the hands of the pro-abortion lobby.
It is strange indeed to see conservative Catholics unwittingly aiding and abetting the agenda of the pro-abortion organizations they oppose. And stranger still that conservatives who spent the last election cycle saying that no political issue mattered as much as abortion are suddenly putting their idolatry of the market before adopting a sound strategy for keeping abortion coverage out of the health care reform effort. They have provided ample reason for the administration and Congress to ignore their pleas on abortion. The may see themselves as the “loyal opposition” but they are not being loyal to the pro-life cause they espouse. They are undermining it.
His argument is basically that since health care reform is currently on the table, if conservative pro-lifers do not promise to support it if it doesn’t fund abortion, then they are therefore helping those who want it to fund abortion. I can’t help like feeling that this is a bit like the old National Lampoon cover: “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.”
In this case: You would disagree with this approach to reforming health care even if the abortion issue wasn’t in play, but since my friends over here will kill babies if you won’t jump on board, you’re now obligated to support it.
Clearly, this is not an approach that I’m impressed with. However, since the follow up is often, “If aren’t totally indifferent to the sufferings of the uninsured, why don’t you have any plan,” the following are three approaches which, from what I’ve read thus far, I would have no problem supporting at all. Perhaps now the question could be: If progressives are indeed to passionate about helping people who currently don’t have access to health care, why don’t they abandon the idea of a progressive style reform and adopt one which conservatives would love to sign onto?*
1) Quick and dirty: Develop clear definitions of what it means to be too poor to afford coverage, or to have pre-existing conditions which preclude coverage, and simply provide a subsidy to all those people to purchase care from existing providers.
2) Mild change: Authorize purchasing health insurance across state lines, and change regulations and taxes to give health care through pools set up by voluntary associations (think Knights of Columbus, churches or dioceses, unions, lions, rotary, masons, elks, what have you) the same benefits as employer based plans. In all likelihood, this would result in many people moving from employer-based care to voluntary association-based care — which would solve the problem of some people not being able to get into big pools (which gets rid of the pre-existing condition problem) and would make the actual costs of insurance more visible to people. It would also be a great way to tie solidarity and subsidiarity. Either provide vouchers for those who can’t afford to pay premiums through such a pool, or else create tax incentives for better off members of such a pool to pay extra to cover those who can’t afford it. The final landscape (twenty years down the line) would probably be very different, but the initial changes would not necessarily be all that great.
3) Major change: Set up a national system in which everyone has a health savings account and a high deductible catastrophic insurance policy. People can choose how much to put in each month, with a required minimum. A small number of approved options on the deductible of your insurance and the type of investments your savings account contributions go into. The unemployed and poor have money put into their accounts by the government on a sliding scale to make sure they continue to meet the minimum monthly contributions. Encourage people to contribute more rather than less by making left over money inheritable without taxes up to $1mil and low taxes above that. Attach a low interest line of credit to the savings account for unexpected early-life medical expenses. For pro-life/pro-family brownie points: deposit a “child credit” in the account of every person under 18 each year in order to cover preventative care and reduce the financial burden of having a family.
*Yes, the question is tongue in cheek. I do not in fact require that progressives cease to be progressive in order to believe that they care very much about health care — I’m just getting a little tired of being told that I don’t care about people’s health because I’m not progressive.