Politically active Catholics who take the teachings of their Church seriously often turn to the body of papal and conciliar teachings known as Catholic Social Teaching (CST). While conservatives often emphasize the principle of subsidiarity found in these teachings – the idea that the organization closest to a problem is usually best able to solve it – the principle of solidarity is crucial as well.
Solidarity can be defined as the virtue or habit of recognizing our duties to the common good and arranging our social and political institutions so that basic human needs can be met.
One obvious example of how the principle of solidarity affects community life is health care.
In their landmark 1993 statement on healthcare reform and Catholic Social Teaching, A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops insisted that the principle of solidarity in Catholic Social Teaching (CST) requires that quality healthcare be available to everyone regardless of ability to pay.
Basing their analysis on Jesus’ admonition to care for “the least of these (Matt 25:40),” the bishops insisted that “genuine health care reform must especially focus on the basic health needs of the poor…” They even went so far as to say that the poor have a compelling claim to “first consideration” and access to “comprehensive benefits.”
These mandates do seem at least partially fulfilled by 2010 Obamacare system.
Yet others clearly are not.
Solidarity with our fellow humans also requires respect for life, the bishops said – and it was Obamacare’s provisions on abortion and birth control services that led the bishops to reluctantly refuse to endorse the system once it was finally passed.
Moreover, the mandate for serving the poor has to be balanced by other considerations of justice, the bishops said, including cost containment and controls and what they termed “equitable financing.”
“We have the best health care technology in the world,” the bishops observed, “but tens of millions have little or no access to it and the costs of the system are draining our nation, our economy, our families and our Church to the breaking point.”
Indeed. In late January 2019, two weeks after the close of the Open Enrollment period for health care insurance, we received our dreaded annual notice from Anthem Blue Cross: the monthly premiums for our family would increase 25% over the year before, from $1,445 per month to $1,800.
When the comically misnamed Affordable Care Act first went into effect in 2010, our premiums were $350 per month for a high-deductible policy ($5,000 per person) roughly equivalent to the Bronze Plan on most exchanges.
The new price of $1,800 per month represents a total increase of 414.2% — or about 22.7% per year over the past eight years.
This is a far cry from the $2,500 annual savings that President Obama promised.
Like thousands of others, my family is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place when it comes to health insurance: we earn too much to qualify for Obamacare subsidies… yet the price of even the cheapest Obamacare plans are increasingly out of reach.
With five children and two in college, paying $1,800 per month means hard choices.
And we’re constantly told we’re actually lucky.
Were we to pay for one of the ADA-compliant policies on the exchanges, we’d be paying $2,500 per month in 2019 – or $30,000 per year.
That’s more than our mortgage. And it’s a lot more than we pay in Social Security, State Income Taxes or even Federal Income Taxes.
Right now, health insurance is our single greatest expense outside of college tuition.
And to make matters worse, there is no escape: in many blue states, such as California and Washington, the Democrat-controlled legislatures quickly outlawed the short-term and other co-called “catastrophe” plans that would allow families to access affordable coverage even temporarily.
This is a deliberate attempt to force everyone into a “one-size fits all” Obamacare system.
All this is further complicated by a healthcare delivery system built on outright greed:
The Democrats sold their healthcare plan to the insurance companies with the promise that it would mean billions in additional profits.
To pay for the uninsured poor, the Democrats promised a system that would force everyone to purchase the insurance companies’ products – with temporary cash infusions from the government until the insurance companies could raise premiums to a maximum level.
Since buying into the system was mandatory, the insurance companies had an artificial monopoly: consumers could choose between two or three similar plans all equally expensive.
And the Democrats certainly delivered on their promises to the insurance companies: Anthem’s Executive Chair, Former President and CEO Joseph Swedish, earned $18 million in 2017.
Long Beach, Calif.-based Molina Healthcare’s new CEO, Joseph Zubretsky, earned $19.7 million in total compensation the same year.
To be fair, Obamacare did result in extending healthcare coverage to roughly 20 million people who lacked coverage before – but at the cost of making healthcare insurance beyond the ability of many middle class families to pay.
Instead of funding coverage for the poor from general tax revenues, the Democrats created a new, regressive tax – a kind of second income tax — that specifically targets middle class families and allows the fraud, waste, overbilling and greed of the existing insurance system to remain in place.
Twenty-five years after the Catholic bishops outlined a statement of basic principles of healthcare reform based on Catholic Social Teaching, the cost of health care in the U.S. is still skyrocketing.
Worst of all, the burden of paying for health care increasingly falls disproportionately on middle class families who, increasingly, cannot afford it.
Many Americans now must deliberately reduce their work hours or incomes so they are eligible for Obamacare subsidies, making it difficult to save for retirement or send their children to college.
Even Americans who receive their health insurance through their employers often do so at the cost of stagnant or reduced wages and shortchanged retirement programs.
The lesson of the Obamacare disaster is that, if solidarity means anything, it means burdens must be shared equitably – not merely shifted from one group to another.