On Thursday, September 12, 2019 the Christ Medicus Foundation (CMF) led a panel discussion entitled Life, Religious Liberty and the Survival of Catholic Health Care, hosted at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, DC. Catherine Hadro, host of EWTN’s Pro-Life Weekly, moderated the conversation between CMF Executive Director Louis Brown, Grace-Marie Turner, President of the Galen Institute, and Dr. Marguarite Duane, a Direct Primary Care physician and founder and Executive Director of FACTS. Through various exchanges, the panelists discussed the current health care landscape from their unique perspectives and experience in policy and practice and pointed out hopeful paths forward that would pave the way for a culture of life in health care.
Health Care reform is shaping up to be a key issue in the
2020 elections, and many Democratic candidates have put forth “Medicare-for-all”
type proposals. How these proposals and debates shake out will have vast consequences
on American life. “The outcome of the healthcare debate will determine whether
we maintain our God-given human and civil rights in the United States”, said
Louis Brown. Brown spoke of the impact that adopting a “Medicare-for-all” type
plan would have on religious freedom and Catholic health care, saying that “authentic
Catholic health care in the United States would not survive the government
At risk are not only pro-life or freedom of conscience
issues, but also patient freedom and the physician-patient relationship. “To me”,
said Dr. Duane, “the doctor-patient relationship is the most intimate professional
relationship a person can have…As a direct primary care physician, I work
directly for my patients, I serve the individual before me”. The system as it
functions today makes it difficult to serve the individual, often placing quotas,
time restrictions and insurance requirements above the individual’s well-being.
Government-run or single-payer health care will further strain this
relationship. “I do believe there should be a single payer” said Duane, “and that
single payer should be you, the patient”. Through models of care such as Direct Primary Care (DPC), doctors are able to provide tangible healing for
their patients as they are allowed to have a direct doctor-patient
While Medicare-For-All and government take-over is seen by
many as a solution to the unavailability and unaffordability of healthcare, the
panelists proposed a contrary solution—that reducing the role of the government
and insurance companies in our healthcare decisions would be more effective and
lead to better results. Quoting Paul Starr in The Social Transformation of
American Medicine, Grace-Marie Turnersaid, “Political leaders since
Bismarck, seeking to strengthen the state or to advance their own or their
party’s interests have used insurance against the costs of sickness as a means
of turning benevolence to power.” Politicians are deeply invested in being able
to use the cost of health care as leverage for political power, and because of
this the path to affordable Catholic health care will not be an easy road.
What Is the path forward?
While the current state of things may seem bleak,
organizations such as the Christ Medicus Foundation, CMF CURO, The Galen
Institute, and FACTS are a part of the effort to renew the United States health
care system and to present an authentically Catholic alternative to
Medicare-For-All. By offering innovative solutions to the health care marketplace
that respect the individual and the physician-patient relationship, models such
as Health-sharing and Direct Primary Care demonstrate a viable alternative to single-payer
care. On the legislative front, the Galen Institute has put forth the Health Care Choices
Proposalwhich devolves power to individuals and presents a
comprehensive solution to astronomical health care costs. “The beauty of this
is that it’s not over”, said Louis Brown. “We can do a lot. But we just have to
have a sober reality—it is your problem, it is my problem”. Medicare-for-all, loss
of patient choice, and lack of religious freedom are not an inevitable reality.
Building an alternative future, however, will require innovative, creative, and
dedicated work of each and every individual.