Iowa Catholic Bishops: "Health care is a natural human right"

Most Rev. Jerome Hanus,
Most Rev. R. Walker Nickless,
Most Rev. Martin Amos, and
Most Rev. Richard Pates

We, the Catholic bishops of Iowa, are grateful that the governor and the Iowa Legislature are debating how to make health care coverage more readily available to low-income Iowans.

The Catholic Church has millennia of experience as providers of health care for all, especially the poor. Among the causes that contribute to poverty are “inadequate measures for guaranteeing basic health care” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 447). It is in this spirit that we reiterate our Catholic tradition that teaches that health care is a natural human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity.

We believe there are several criteria that should be considered when evaluating a health care proposal. It should 1) ensure access to quality, readily accessible, affordable, life-giving health care for all; 2) retain long-standing requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions or plans that include them, and effectively protect conscience rights; and 3) protect the access to health care that immigrants currently have and remove current barriers to access.

Ultimately it is the role of our civil leaders to decide what is most practical in achieving the common good. Currently, the Medicaid public health insurance program is limited to very low-income adults who have dependents or a disability. One of the decisions facing the Legislature is whether to extend Medicaid with the assistance of additional federal dollars.

The proposed “Medicaid expansion” passed by the Iowa Senate would:

• Extend coverage to almost all people who earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level — projected to include 150,000 persons in Iowa.

• Allow persons whose income is from 138 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level to purchase private plans with the assistance of tax credits through a “health insurance exchange.”

• Declare that a person who qualifies for the program by reason of income is entitled to care.

• Declare there are no monthly premiums.
continue at Des Moines Register

Hmm, well, I'm all for everyone having access to healthcare, and at the state level is the right level to run these programs, but I'd have to say I don't think someone that disagrees with "Extend[ing] coverage to almost all people who earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level" is wrong either.  Or that "“inadequate measures for guaranteeing basic health care” = "there are no monthly premiums"...  One could say there are no monthly premiums for "basic" health care.... but contraception is probably considered "basic" health care. 


  1. I finally figured out why, despite my leanings in favor of taking care of people including basic health care, I'm not comfortable with this language, and it is this: health care is not a basic human *right,* it is a basic human *need.*

    We throw the language of "rights" around far too often when we mean "needs." People's basic needs include food, clothing, shelter, health care and employment, but we wouldn't expect the government to supply all of those things for every person. Rather than see this in the framework of "rights," I think that Christians should be reminded that we have a duty to help people meet their basic needs to the extent of our ability to do so, and that the government's safety nets should only come into play when the needs are too great for the community to handle.

  2. FYI: Most of these Bishops statements come out of the Iowa Catholic Conference office, & the Bishops just let their names be attached. Like the USCCB, there is a need for a huge overhaul to clean it up.


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