U.S. Congress Urged to Expand Health Coverage to the Uninsured

Bishops’ Panel and 2 Other Groups Send Letter to Leadership

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WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 17, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Three national Catholic organizations are asking Congress to increase access to affordable health care to the one in every seven Americans who are uninsured.

In a letter to the leadership of the Senate and House Budget Committees, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Health Association of the United States urged Congress to dedicate at least $89 billion over the next decade to expand coverage for the uninsured, the amount set aside by President George W. Bush in his fiscal 2004 budget proposal.

«We consider access to adequate health care to be a basic human right,» wrote Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, of the Archdiocese of Washington, and chair of the bishops’ Domestic Policy Committee, along with other officials.

«A just society is one that protects and promotes the fundamental rights of its members — with special attention to meeting the basic needs of the poor and underserved, including the need for safe and affordable health care,» their letter said.

In their letter, which was copied to all members of the committees, the organizations also called on Congress to provide immediate fiscal relief to states for their Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provide health coverage to millions of low-income adults and children.

Fiscally strained state and local governments are slashing their Medicaid and other health care budgets. «We urge Congress to act quickly to provide immediate relief for these programs and prevent the erosion of coverage to our most vulnerable beneficiaries,» said the letter.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 42 million Americans did not have health insurance in 2001. Eight out of 10 were from working families.

The letter is available online at www.chausa.org/publicpo/030305Budget_Uninsured.pdf.

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