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Pope to lawmakers: Protect all people with health care laws

Pope Francis greets an unidentified man during a surprise visit to a small facility near St. Peter's Square where doctors on a volunteer basis give poor people medical exams, at the Vatican, Nov. 17, 2017. Francis on Thursday decried that, increasingly, only the privileged can afford sophisticated medical treatments, and he urged lawmakers to ensure that health care laws protect the “common good.” (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Thursday urged lawmakers to ensure that health care laws protect the “common good,” decrying the fact that in many places only the privileged can afford sophisticated medical treatments.

The comments came as U.S. lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have been debating how to overhaul the nation’s health insurance laws.

In a message to a medical association meeting at the Vatican, Francis expressed dismay at what he called a tendency toward growing inequality in health care. He said that in wealthier countries, health care access risks being more dependent on people’s money than on their need for treatment.

“Increasingly, sophisticated and costly treatment are available to ever more limited and privileged segments of the population, and this raises questions about the sustainability of health care delivery and about what might be called a systemic tendency toward growing inequality in health care,” the pope said.

“This tendency is clearly visible at the global level, particularly when different countries are compared,” Francis said. “But it is also present within the more wealthy countries, where access to health care risks being more dependent on individuals’ economic resources than on their actual need for treatment.”

Without citing any countries, Francis said health care laws must take a “broad and comprehensive view of what most effectively promotes the common good” in each situation, including looking out for society’s most vulnerable people.

The Vatican meeting explored end-of-life issues, and Francis repeated decades-old church teaching forbidding euthanasia.

He also reiterated Vatican teaching that says “not adopting, or else suspending, disproportionate measures, means avoiding overzealous treatment. From an ethical standpoint, it is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong.”

In addressing end-of-life issues, the pope said, countries must “defend the fundamental equality whereby everyone is recognized under law as a human being.”

Using his nearly 5-year-old papacy to highlight the plight of the poor, Francis later made a surprise visit to an area near St. Peter’s Basilica where volunteer doctors can give poor people medical exams as part of the church’s first-ever World Day of the Poor, to be held Sunday.

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Frances D'Emilio

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  • 1. Pope: “Health care laws for the common good”? Before meeting with the Little Sisters of the Poor to encourage them in their lawsuit against Obamacare, Pope Francis met with Hobby Lobby’s Green family and “asked how their Supreme Court fight against President Obama’s contraception mandate was progressing,” as reported by RNS. This was politically motivated since Romneycares’ coverage for abortion was unchallenged by the Church.
    2. “Plight of the poor”? I challenge any RNS reporter to try and find out how many hundreds of millions of dollars the pope received last year in donations. Also, how many billions the Vatican holds in investments, commercial properties and bank accounts.

  • Given the price of tickets and special services/ added fees to the museum in Vatican City, they are already making money off the art.

  • There is an amount of hypocrisy in challenging some parts of the ACA. (What if an employer is a Christian Scientist, do you get any trained medical care or just prayer? or a Jehovah Witness and no transfusions or transplants? ) All high income and many middle income countries now have universal health care except the USA. The pope makes a good point on these issues relevant to health care.

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