Religious Groups and Health Reform

Article excerpt

Religious groups, which have long been in the forefront of both providing health care and calling for reform of the system, are generally supportive of President Clinton's ambitious health care overhaul which he outlined before Congress September 22. But a number of church groups have sharp disagreements with the president on several specific issues--ranging from abortion to the proposal's "managed competition" rather than "single-payer" approach to reform.

The Interreligious Health Care Campaign, a broad coalition of more than 75 national, state and local Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish groups, announced that it was pleased that Clinton "has embraced the goal of universal access to health care as the core of health care reform." According to United Methodist Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly, president of the interreligious campaign, "The president's proposal is a good-faith response to the identified health care needs of the nation. Now it is time for Congress to build on the proposal and enact legislation that is oriented to the needs of the people."

At the same time, the group, which has leaned toward a single-payer health care system, said it has "concerns about the workability of the proposed structure for organizing, delivering and paying for care." Auxiliary Bishop John Ricard, chairman of the U.S. Catholic Conference's domestic policy committee, called the Clinton proposal "a major step forward in several important respects, particularly in its commitment to universal access." Nonetheless, Ricard termed the Clinton plan "a tragic step backward in its inclusion of abortion coverage as an integral part of national health care reform."

Similarly, Thom White Wolf Fassett, general secretary of the United Methodist Church's General Board of Church and Society, commended the administration "for the historical work it has done in making national health care reform the number one priority in the United States." But he said the nation must "shed the tears of frustration," and he called for a "single-tiered system that puts everyone in the same plan."

Among conservatives, Gary Bauer, president of the Family Research Council, said Clinton "gave us nothing new and did not alleviate our concerns. …