Obamacare and the bishops: Sharing the blame…

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Sometimes The Motley Monk finds himself feeling irked when good intentions get translated into social policy and those good intentions end up hurting the very people who were supposed to be helped.

Why don’t the people holding those good intentions first consult competent economists about the unintended negative consequences that may follow once their much-cherished policy is implemented?

Consider the short-term negative consequences due to the roll out of Obamacare. Not the website, but what it has meant for real people. Like The Motley Monk’s retired priest-friend with advanced diabetes. His plan no longer will allow him to see his current doctor. Or, his neighbor who has a chronic illness. Her “substandard” policy was dropped. Now, she can’t afford the increase in the cost of her premiums if she were to sign up for what Obamacare calls a “standard” policy. Will The Motley Monk’s employer’s plan be cancelled next year when the mandate is implemented?

The Motley Monk recalls the testimony of the Chairman of the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Justice and Human Development, Bishop William F. Murphy, before the United States Senate on May 20, 2009. In that testimony, Bishop Murphy laid out four assumptions which, he asserted, the USCCB hoped would “bring true reform to the nation’s health care system.” Those assumptions included:

  1. a truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity;
  2. access for all with a special concern for the poor;
  3. pursuing the common good and preserving pluralism, including freedom of conscience and variety of options; and,
  4. restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of payers.

The Motley Monk shares those assumptions. But, had they been subjected to rigorous scrutiny by competent economists, the USCCB might not have been so quick to make the critical deal with then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that made it possible for Obamacare to pass the House of Representatives. According to an Accuracy in the Media report, all the USCCB wanted deleted from the bill was abortion and artificial contraception. And they got that…at least for a while.

Prior to the passage of Obamacare, eminent economists were sounding the alarm that the so-called “Affordable Care Act” would have deleterious consequences. It would end freedom of choice in healthcare. Large large numbers of doctors would have to leave the practice of medicine or form “concierge” practices catering solely to people of means. The health insurance market would be altered in such ways that carriers would have to drop individual policies in the short term and perhaps corporate policies in the long term. And, despite all of the promises, millions of Americans would be left without healthcare insurance. Some economists even warned that Obamacare had the potential to bankrupt the United States within a couple of decades.

Having fallen for a political promise that would translate their assumptions into law, the USCCB—similar to most Catholic members of Congress—either didn’t read the bill’s contents or allowed their experts to tell them that Obamacare presented no substantive problems. It’s also pretty clear the economists the USCCB may have consulted failed to warn that Obamacare would ultimately hurt the very people Bishop Murphy and the USCCB were lobbying so hard to protect.

The outcome of those efforts?

Currently, 4.8M+ Americans have lost or will lose their health insurance (with perhaps 100M+ more to come, if competent economists are to be believed). Thousands of doctors have been dropped by health insurance carriers, are leaving (or likely to leave) the practice of medicine, or forming concierge practices. The doctor shortage is expected to grow, perhaps creating long waiting lines for people who need immediate medical care. Untold numbers of Americans cannot keep their doctors or medical treatments, as the President himself promised on many occasions.

There’s certainly a lot of blame to pass around on this one. And the USCCB certainly deserves its share of the blame. Why? They didn’t heed the warnings of those economists who were predicting these deleterious consequences long before Obamacare was enacted. Worse yet, the bishops may end up having compromised their teaching authority in the process.

This issue is not one that’s going to disappear any time soon. The Motley Monk intends to follow up this discussion with an analysis of some European nationalized healthcare systems to provide factual information about what people should expect as Obamacare continues to be implemented. So far, everything that eminent economists have been predicting (and more) has already transpired across the pond, despite what those who want to “Europeanize” the American healthcare system are stating to the contrary.



To read Bishop Murphy’s testimony, click on the following link:

To read Accuracy in the Media’s report about the USCCB’s role in passing Obamacare:

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, the Omnibus, click on the following link:

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  1. “Why don’t the people holding those good intentions first consult competent economists about the unintended negative consequences that may follow once their much-cherished policy is implemented?”

    Words to live by MM! Then we wouldn’t have so many instances of: “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

  2. *applause*

    I’d also like to quote from this Australian immigrant.

    This attitude is remarkably common among Anglophones, especially Americans, probably because they haven’t been exposed to much else. My tentative theory is that it’s because of Americans’ almost total lack of exposure to public hospitals. Once you’ve seen doctors and nurses actively ignoring people screaming in pain, for hours, while they sit around having tea breaks and chatting, it changes your perspective on how people act when there’s nothing in it for them.

    But being so good-natured and trusting is part of what I like about Americans. Britain is full of public hospitals and everyone who lives there is a doom-cloud of suspicion, mistrust and LACK OF FUN. I don’t want Americans to be like that.

    I’m starting to get this theory that when one tries to make a system caring (or you know, more human) all you end up doing is making people more like the system (cold, uncaring). In trying to save society’s soul, we burn it out of the individuals. …Not sure how thrilled God is with that.

  3. the bishops like congressional liberals live and die by good intentions. the ideas expressed in a 2700 page bill called affordable healthcare would be like cheese to an angry rat. the bishops should have responsible staff to look at feel good legislation and ferret out impractical and immoral details. it would also help if their bent for those receiving public benefits are truly served along with the taxpayers getting the best bang for their buck.
    and next is the illegal immigrant solution.

  4. “Worse yet, the bishops may end up having compromised their teaching authority in the process.”

    In part because, in their headlong effort to get universal healthcare, they went beyond their teaching role and endorsed a specific political plan – something that is properly the role of the laity.

    The bishops sold their birthright for a mess of pottage.

  5. Though some bishops are beginning to realize their hubris. From several years ago:

    “But during the bishops’ semi-annual meeting in Atlanta earlier this year, a number of bishops expressed concern that such statements had been hijacked by partisan forces. They questioned whether the endorsement of specific policies went beyond their competence as teachers of faith and morals and whether the conference’s tendency to embrace government programs ignored a new reality of budget-busting debt.”

  6. Could it be that this is simply not a matter of good intentions gone awry? Could it be that they knew beforehand what the consequences of this would be? The bishops would have to be stupid to not know, or at the very, very, very, very least suspect that a government takeover of health care of the magnitude of Obamacare would result in things abortion coverage, the HHS mandate etc.

    Now, I have accused the bishops of many things (and will continue to do so), but I do not believe they are stupid. I believe that they view matters of this kind through an ideological, not a pastoral lens, despite their claims to the contrary . Or. as I put in motto form: Ideology Runneth Over Theology

    I too, was dismayed by what Pope Francis said regarding economics. But they are a regurgitation of the leftist claptrap put out the bishops of not only the U.S., but the West in general and beyond.

  7. There are two issues Catholic bishops should be restrained from speaking on, by force if necessary: economic issues and military issues. Having confused “social justice” with “socialism,” the Bishops are incompetent to address economic issues. Having abandoned the Just War Doctrine (see their War and Peace Pastoral of the 1990s), the Bishops have adopted a squishy pacificism. They are not to be trusted on either issue.

  8. Motley, I look forward to your analysis.
    The bishops got in bed with government, and Timothy Dolan woke up next to Kathleen Sebelius smoking a cigarette.
    Kathleen is smoking the cigarette.
    Just so there’s no misunderstanding. I’m not saying Timothy Dolan would smoke a cigarette. That would be an unhealthy choice, and I would never sink so low as to accuse a bishop of making an unhealthy choice.

  9. Has any bishop publicly gone on record to ask forgiveness of his flock for leading them to these wolves?

  10. I think you are correct Greg.
    And Joseph touches on it as well. The Church has always spoken out – from Rerum Novarum and before – about the Preferential Option for the Poor. That there are dangers in unfettered capitalism – but as the last 8 popes have pointed out, Socialism is much worse, and antithetical to Catholicism.
    So with the Church calling for lifting the poor out of poverty, and calling on society to uphold and practice the virtue of Charity through Subsidiarity, the bishops and many in the Church of a left leaning and liberal bent have mistakenly conflated Catholicism – what has been briefly described previously – with Socialism, because a few of the aims of Socialism are the same as the social aims of the Church.
    But as the Popes have said, even a mild form of Socialism is unacaeptable and totaly contrary to Catholicism, and the popes have condemned socialism in the strongest terms.
    And bye the bye, Greg mentioned his, and others, dismay at what Pope Francis said about economics. This interpretation is incorrect. Go read it again, in the light of Rerum Novarum and the other social encyclicals. The world at large has, as the pope says, made wealth a God; that is his point.

  11. Having not learned from the 2000+ page Unaffordable Care Act fiasco, Cardinal Dolan is pushing Paul Ryan and other Catholics to back another monstrosity the Senate’s illegal immigrant or so-called comprehensive immigration act. Even Marco Rubio is opposing it. One wonders when the Bishops are going to turn to issues like falling Mass and Confession attendance, closing rather than re-invigorating Catholic elementary and high schools, loss of Catholic identity in many Catholic universities in chasing government money and what Hendershott calls “status envy”, and flouting of the Church by so-called Catholic politicians who back abortion, almost all Democrats, whose agenda they espouse. Enough with the pronouncements on global warming, immigration, health care, economics and “socialismJustice”.

  12. Remnant Church being formed as the “leaders blindly follow.”

    ArchBishop Fulton Sheen used this; “tin gods,” as they didn’t know the God they we’re supposed to be serving.
    Sadly seems to fit.

  13. There are two issues Catholic bishops should be restrained from speaking on, by force if necessary: economic issues and military issues.
    You are out of luck.
    “3. Military chaplains, inspired by Christ’s love, are called by their special vocation to witness that even in the midst of the harshest combats, it is always possible, and only right, to respect the dignity of the military adversary, the dignity of civilian victims, the indelible dignity of every human being involved in armed conflict. In this way, moreover, the reconciliation is fostered that will be necessary for re-establishing peace when the war is over. ”
    Read (and praise) the whole thing:
    I think we would be at great loss if our bishops refrained from speaking out against war.
    Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

  14. Great discussion! Many of my exact thoughts. Last night I caught the rerun of World Over with a Bishop from Wi I think. Anyway I started yelling at the tv because “I might be able to faintly understand what the !!!###*** he was trying to say”, but in such a gobbledegook way that honest to God very few Catholics in the pew would even be able to follow along. I think this is done on purpose! You will never convince me that these “princes and shepherds” are so ignorant that they did not have the brains to know exactly what has been going on. They have fed into it, they have turned away from taking the hard stands that needed to be taken. Ha ha ha ho ho ho, Cardinal Dolan, jokes on us.

  15. The Bishops should not be endorsing specific pieces of legislation. Rather, they should stick to articulating general principles to follow, without getting into specifics.

  16. Well, Kiwi, I will begin with something EG says in #56:

    “While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.”

    Where are those who “reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control” and how has this had the effect the pope decries? Other than in people’s imaginations, nowhere. In fact, overregulation by the state has done far more to create such economic chaos.

    It is true that he acknowledges that the welfare solution is no real solution, at least long term. And I know of none of his conservative critics who acknowledge that.

    Unfortunately, he is not the first pontiff to create economic bogeymen of this sort. His immediate predecessor Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate #49 said the following with regard to the use of natural resources:

    “The technologically advanced societies can and must lower their domestic energy consumption, either through an evolution in manufacturing methods or through greater ecological sensitivity among their citizens.”

    Again, where does such need exist other than in the mind of Al Gore and others who like he does?

    So, yes I am dismayed when the Church hierarchy, especially the pope, uses official documents to expound on matters outside their competence, especially when they do so in such an ill-informed manner.

    It would be much better if they stuck with expounding moral principles that must govern the formation of our ideas and actions in the economic sphere. It would also be good if they exhorted the faithful to educate themselves on these matters in light of such principles. And in earnest seek out resources that can aid such effort. Toward that end, I would highly recommend the excellent online course Economics 101 put out by Hillsdale College. It is completely affordable. It’s free and you don’t get more affordable than that:


  17. There were no “good intentions” in any of this legislation from the Git-go. Their goal is complete and total Socialist existence!

  18. “There’s certainly a lot of blame to pass around on this one. And the USCCB certainly deserves its share of the blame. Why? They didn’t heed the warnings of those economists who were predicting these deleterious consequences long before Obamacare was enacted. ”
    You know, it goes even further than that. I was reading on line that–get this!–under the ACA, volunteer firefighters must be covered by the employer mandate. This could result in many departments being closed.
    So, as someone pointed out, why stop at volunteer firefighters? A lot of non-profits rely on volunteers; a lot of teens, unable to find employment, look to volunteer opportunities to help pad out that college resume/application.
    If my children are unable to find gainful employment in the not so distant future, quite honestly, I will blame the Bishops first.

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