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May 2, 2005

MAY 1-8, 2005

The history of health care in the Philadelphia area reflects the essential role of faith-based institutions founded on the charitable motive to assist people in times of illness and serious need. Over the last two centuries, Catholic hospitals, nursing homes, shelters and emergency relief centers have worked together to provide compassionate and professional care for all, regardless of ability to pay. Through the various facilities and programs of Catholic Human Services the Archdiocese of Philadelphia continues the mission of Jesus by healing the sick and caring for the weak.

The costs of health care delivery have increased dramatically over the past few decades, and all institutions, including Catholic ones, have found it difficult to absorb the expense of providing care for ever larger numbers of uninsured and underinsured clients. The spiraling costs of quality health care often place health services beyond the reach of those without insurance.

Today some 45 million Americans (including eight million children) find themselves in the vulnerable position of being without health insurance. Here in Southeastern Pennsylvania, there are over 260,000 uninsured, with nearly one in five being a child, and the statistics are only getting worse. A problem of this magnitude obliges me as Secretary for Catholic Human Services to join my voice to those of other peoples of good will who are deeply concerned about this grave social problem.

Justice demands that something be done to assure all people can access adequate and affordable health care. The social teaching of the Catholic Church affirms this as a basic human right since public health is an essential social good. The Church teaches that every person possesses a fundamental human dignity, and that each has a right to basic and continuing health care. Such a right ought not to depend solely on having parents or spouse or even oneself in a job with an employer who provides "good" benefits.

The first week of May, 2005 has been designated as Cover the Uninsured Week. Together with leaders throughout the country, we once again advocate for health care coverage for all. Catholic institutions will continue to fulfill our special duty to care for some of the poor and most vulnerable, but it cannot care for all. I call upon political and business leaders to work diligently toward health care policies and systems that will serve the common good, with particular attention to the poor and weak. A respect for the dignity of all God's children means that there needs to be a "place at the table" for everyone.

Undeniably, health insurance for all is a challenging and complex issue, with many and varied proposals for addressing it. At its core, however, the deplorable number of uninsured is a crisis that is fundamentally a question of values. As Catholics solidly "pro-life" in all that adjective entails, we must be concerned for all the uninsured of our region. Our indignation at the status quo sends the message to the uninsured that "we care what happens to you, and will work for the day when you too will be covered."


Donna Farrell
Director of Communications

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