Wednesday, November 16, 2005

"Catholic" health care

More for U.S. bishops' meeting agenda: A press release from Consejo de Latinos Unidos, a Hispanic advocacy group, is demanding that the U.S. bishops tackle price gouging of the uninsured by Catholic hospitals. Some disturbing facts about Catholic health care in the U.S.:

More than $2 billion in profit in 2004 – all tax free; total includes charity care.
More than $1 billion increase in profits from the previous year.
More than $20 billion in cash and investments – all tax free.
More than $1 billion in profit from interest and capital gains income alone – all tax free.
Up to 700 percent price markups for uninsured Hispanics.
More than $1 million a year in total compensation for individual executives.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary increases from the previous year.

Add to that that most Hispanics are Catholic and that one-third of U.S. Hispanics are uninsured and you get a big unjust mess. The bishops are always on Catholic hospitals to steer clear of anything close to abortion, birth control, in vitro fertilization, and euthanasia, but why they aren't on the Catholic health care system on this issue is beyond me. After all, Catholic social teaching identifies health care as a fundamental human right.

A personal note here: I went without health insurance for one month and paid cash for treatment of a throat infection. My total bill, including a generic prescription for antibiotics: $375. The cost to my insurance company for a similar treatment this year: less than $150. Once again, "economies of scale" screw the poor, since they only work if you can get access to them, and that usually costs money.

Wouldn't it be great if all 65 million U.S. Catholics could get together and agitate for a fair heath care system? Wouldn't it be great if the Catholic health care system actually embodied Catholic social teaching, known more for the services it provides to all--primary care especially--rather than those it doesn't (abortion and the rest)?


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