Prayers for Our Sisters in Faith

April 25, 2012

~ by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

Recent news reports have called to our attention the Vatican’s reprimand of Catholic Women Religious in the United States.  Those of us who have worked closely with the nuns on a variety of issues of social justice are heartbroken by this action.   For those of us who have worked with them on health care reform, we are particularly grieved that the nuns’ faithfulness is being questioned.

After all, it was women religious who as nurses were among those who started the first hospitals in the United States.  The oldest free clinic still in operation in the U.S. is administered by an order of nuns.  Sisters are regularly found in volunteer settings where under-served persons receive a gift of medical care and a touch of compassion.  Because these women have been first-hand observers of the injustice of U.S. health care, they were logically at the forefront in working for system reform.  All of us know that their support was integral to getting the Affordable Care Act passed.

Unfortunately, the national health care debate coincided with a Vatican-ordered investigation into the life and practices of religious orders in the U.S.  The final report released last week cited the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR); NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; and the head of the Catholic Health Association, presumably for their support of the Affordable Care Act, in conflict with the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, said in a phone interview with the Christian Science Monitor that “I can only infer that there was strong feeling about the health care position that we had taken.  Our position on health care was application of the one faith to a political document that we read differently than the bishops.”  In a BBC News interview she said, “There’s a strong connection. We didn’t split on faith, we split on politics.”

When I asked Sister Simone what we could do to affirm their leadership and show our support in these difficult days, she responded:  “The Spirit has led us this far and won’t leave us orphans. We count on your prayer and acting in love.”  So now I invite you to join me in doing just that.

  • Offer prayer or reflection.  Later this afternoon, Washington DC-area nuns and their colleagues will gather for a time of prayer and dialogue.  Wherever we are, whatever our religious background, all across the country, may we give thanks for the ministries of the nuns and pray for peace for them in these days.
  • Offer words of support on this blog post.
  • Offer words of support via the Faithful Reform Facebook page.
  • Offer words of support to the nuns in your own networks and coalitions.

In addition, Catholics United has launched two social media options:

It is my prayer that even as all of us have been blessed by the women religious in our midst, our efforts will be a blessing to them in these difficult times.

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More detailed information may be found in the web links below.

NETWORK Press Release: NETWORK Responds to Vatican Report

Leadership Conference of Women Religious Statement: LCWR Statement from Presidency on CDF Doctrinal Assessment

Huffington Post: Sister Simone Campbell Fires Back At Vatican Criticism

BBC News (including a video): Leader of ‘radical’ US nuns rejects Vatican criticism

Christian Science Monitor: Vatican nun crackdown hits US group for ‘radical feminist’ ideas

The NY Times: Vatican Reprimands a Group of U.S. Nuns and Plans Changes

The NY Times Editorial:  American Nuns, Conscience and the Vatican

The Washington Post: American nuns stunned by Vatican accusation of ‘radical feminism,’ crackdown

The Nation Magazine: The Vatican’s Latest Target in the War on Women:  Nuns


Freedom, Patriotism — and, of course, Health Care

July 4, 2011

~by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

“… with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
~The Declaration of Independence”

Oh how we love our red, white and blue bunting, balloons, T-shirts and lapel pins to show our patriotism.  And there’s nothing like a good fireworks display synchronized to a rousing rendition of Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” to give rise to a few goose bumps!

But perhaps a more authentic expression of our love for democracy would be that of exercising our freedoms to reclaim the values upon which our nation was founded. Dare we forget our forebears’ declaration that in the sacred act of creation we are granted with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? And dare we forget that they constituted a government to promote the common good and secure the blessings of liberty?  Indeed, the ideals, the freedoms — and the responsibilities — crafted by those leaders are not to be taken lightly.

In the midst of the pomp and picnics of this holiday, just maybe one of our greatest acts of patriotism should be that of actively participating in the democratic process, and of calling upon our elected leaders to truly work for the common good.

The two cherished freedoms of religion and speech conveniently intersect in our health care work. We celebrate our religious freedoms, including the right to give voice to sacred values that guide how we live as individuals and in community: compassion, concern for those who are vulnerable, health and wholeness, and sanctity of life, to name a few.  Just as important, we celebrate our right to speak out in support of a health system that reflects those values — and to publicly oppose legislative proposals that undermine our collective vision.

Unfortunately, passing the Affordable Care Act did not end our work on health care reform.  The assaults on it continue daily as opponents work to repeal, de-fund, or dismantle it.  In addition, Medicaid and Medicare are under attack to address our federal budget and debt concerns. We know, of course, how important both programs will be in our health care future and that cutting benefits or restructuring either program will compromise the successful implementation of health care reform itself.

The assault on Medicaid and Medicare will reach fever pitch as both houses of Congress convene this week. Faith voices must help build the groundswell of opposition to using either program as the solution to solving our nation’s financial problems.

Send an email to the President, your U.S. Senators, and your U.S. Representative to show your support for Medicaid and Medicare.  Just a few quick clicks will send your message to each of these elected leaders.

Empowered by our commitments to social justice, let’s exercise our freedoms, our rights, and our responsibilities to make our democracy work for the common good.  Let’s raise our voices, inspired by the passion of our earliest leaders when they penned the final words of their declaration:  “… with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

May this be your most patriotic July 4th ever!  Take action today!

SEND your email to the President, your U.S. Senators, and your U.S. Representative.


MLK’s “Radical Revolution of Values”

January 17, 2011

by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling
Faithful Reform in Health Care

“…we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society.”  [Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, New York City]

In a recent gathering with Arkansas faith leaders, I listened as Rev. Wendell Griffen, the pastor of New Millennium Baptist Church in Little Rock, passionately proclaimed that what we need is the “radical revolution of values” of which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke a year before his death.  Absolutely!  Of all of Dr. King’s eloquent words, these are among the ones most needed now.

It was a very different time in our nation’s history, and Dr. King was speaking in opposition to the war in Viet Nam. But his words – a radical revolution of values – call us to the timeless need to turn to our moral values when deliberating over those things that define how we share life as an American family.  The revolution of values to which Dr. King called us still awaits the transformation of our hearts and minds – and our commitment to working for the common good… to building a sense of community that offers blessings for all… and to acting upon our concern for those who are most vulnerable.

The events of recent days demonstrate how little progress has been made in our ability to live together.  Senseless killings by a man presumed to be mentally ill have caused endless speculations about what led to these horrific acts. Was the killer incited by inflammatory political verbage?  Is security sufficient around public officials? Are our gun laws too lax?  Was this an anti-Semitic act? Is this a statement about inadequate mental health services?  Or was this simply a random act of evil which we don’t quite understand?

All of these potential explanations are woefully inadequate, perhaps because we are asking the wrong questions.  As people of faith, a revolution of values means that we have to challenge priorities that elevate politics over people… or protect the rights of gun owners over needs of victims and perpetrators of gun violence… or demonize rather than celebrate our diversity… or exclude those with mental illness from our system of health care.  If we were to engage in this deeper conversation about values, wouldn’t the teachings of our communities of faith lead to different conclusions about the Arizona shootings and our ability to live together as a national community?

The health care debate, which symbolizes our nation’s discussion on numerous social justice issues, was laden with what many called values-based messaging.  Economic values. Political values. Personal self-interest values. But people of faith labored on with messages about moral values which focused on the common good, compassion, concern for those who are most vulnerable, shared responsibility, and an equitable distribution of our abundant health care resources.  And we were right to do so.

In the midst of this tragedy, above the babble of blame, we are beginning to hear others join the call for a return to the values that bind us to one another.  And in that conversation we are called to commit ourselves to Dr. King’s “radical revolution of values” that will always put the needs of people – our brothers and sisters – above all else.  We do this believing that we can be instruments of healing as our country continues to dialogue about how to make Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community – and our vision of health, wholeness, and human dignity – a reality for all.

Health and peace,

Rev. Linda Hanna Walling

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Take action today in support of health care reform!

In honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., take action today to promote our faith-inspired vision for our health care future.  Send an email to your member of Congress — and then invite family, friends, and colleagues to join you!

Send an email now


“A Daily Dose of Truth” (#6): The “R” Word (rationing) in Health Care Reform

November 19, 2010

~by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

Daily DoseTruth is witness to the whole.  One short sound-bite taken out of context — even if it’s a fact — does not necessarily represent the whole truth. We denounce the use of such sound-bites (from any party!) when they are intended to pervert truth for electoral gain. In the end, we acknowledge that a manipulation of facts to frighten and confuse vulnerable populations is just plain immoral.

Efforts to help us make informed decisions about our health care are supported by the comparative effectiveness research (CER) that is conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), among others.

The AHRQ’s website states that “comparative effectiveness research is designed to inform health-care decisions by providing evidence on the effectiveness, benefits, and harms of different treatment options. The evidence is generated from research studies that compare drugs, medical devices, tests, surgeries, or ways to deliver health care.”

While CER has been a long-established but under-funded practice in the U.S., such research was propelled into national discourse when it received $1.1 billion in stimulus funds and the Federal Coordinating Council for CER was established. Now associated with the subsequent effort to reform health care, CER has become one of the targets of those who oppose reform – even though the results of the research will not be used to impose mandates on the delivery of health care.

For opponents to reform, this attempt to practice better stewardship in the distribution and use of our abundant health care resources has become synonymous with rationing.  But, truth be told, which is what this series is all about, is that rationing already happens in U.S. health care. 

We already ration health care when:

  • We exclude the nearly 50 million people who are uninsured from the system, leaving them without access to needed care in a timely manner.
  • Insurers can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, or deny payment for services, or cap annual or lifetime payments for claims.
  • Some communities have access to an abundance of resources that are under-utilized (such as MRI machines) and other communities have none at all.
  • Some employers offer health care benefits, and some do not.

Very simply, CER represents a commitment to REDUCE rationing because research will inform better stewardship in the use and distribution of our abundant health care resources. The commitment for greater funding for comparative effective research is intended to move us closer to a health system that includes and works better for all of us. 

When coupled with other provisions of reform, CER will help us achieve our vision of a society in which all of us are afforded health, wholeness, and human dignity — and will lead to successfully designing a system in which our health care resources are shared equitably.

Note: The latest flurry of emails about this issue seems to have emerged as a result of a speech by an orthopedist who supports a particular candidate in a Michigan electoral battle.  He specializes in sports medicine, not health policy.

For more information:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality – What Is Comparative Effectiveness Research?

Kaiser Family Foundation – What is Comparative Effectiveness Research?

PolitiFact – Analysis of claims made about comparative effectiveness research


“A Daily Dose of Truth” (#5): Making end-of-life decisions

November 19, 2010

~Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

Daily DoseTruth is witness to the whole. One short sound-bite taken out of context — even if it’s a fact — does not necessarily represent the whole truth. We denounce the use of such sound-bites (from any party!) when they are intended to pervert truth for electoral gain. In the end, we acknowledge that a manipulation of facts to frighten and confuse vulnerable populations is just plain immoral.

Since the beginning of doctor-patient relationships, doctors have consulted with families about treatment and care for patients who are faced with end-of-life decisions.  Clergy are often involved in these conversations, as well as attorneys, because families struggle with heart-wrenching medical and moral decisions when medical treatment can no longer contribute to quality of life and human dignity. Further, the recommendation that all patients have living wills or advanced health care directives have left patients and families with questions that are best addressed by their doctors and other professionals.

Medicare benefits do not include payment for the time physicians spend in such consultations. With the limits imposed on many doctors for how much time they can actually spend with us, a provision to provide an “advance care planning consultation” was included in health care reform to compensate physicians for these conversations with Medicare enrollees. 

However, after the August 2009 furor over “death panels,” as these doctor-patient conversations were labeled by the opposition, the provision was dropped.

Health care reform was passed without this change to Medicare benefits. But most of us, not just Medicare beneficiaries, will continue to seek the counsel of our physicians as we make our own choices about the final days of our lives – while we still have the capacity to make such decisions for ourselves. And physicians will continue to consult with us because of their commitment to health, wholeness, and human dignity for their patients. 

For more information:

FactCheck – False Euthanasia Claims

PolitiFact – PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year: Death PanelsSimply send an emailwith your suggestions.

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Make suggestions for future topics based on the mis-information you are receiving in ads, emails, and conversations.


A Daily Dose of Truth” (#4): A Lot to Like in Health Care Reform

November 19, 2010

~by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

Daily DoseTruth is witness to the whole.  One short sound-bite taken out of context — even if it’s a fact — does not necessarily represent the whole truth. We denounce the use of such sound-bites (from any party!) when they are intended to pervert truth for electoral gain. In the end, we acknowledge that a manipulation of facts to frighten and confuse vulnerable populations is just plain immoral.

Many people of faith have been guided by A Faith-Inspired Vision of Health Care as they have advocated for comprehensive and compassionate health care reform in the U.S. The statement envisions a society where all persons are afforded health, wholeness, and human dignity and a health care system that is inclusive, affordable, accessible, and accountable. Since health care reform became law on March 23, 2010, we already have made progress in working toward that vision.
 
VISION: An inclusive system of health care

  • Children under age 19 can no longer be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
  • Young adults up to age 26 can stay on parents’ policies that go into effect after 9/23/10, unless they are offered coverage at work.

VISION: An affordable system of health care

Senior adults are receiving rebate checks when they reach the gap (doughnut hole) in their prescription drug coverage.

  • Key preventive care, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, immunizations, pre-natal and new baby care will be covered without co-pays or deductibles in new plans after 9/23/10.
  • Prior authorization cannot be required for emergency care; higher costs cannot be imposed for out-of-network emergency care in new plans after 9/23/10.
  • Small businesses are receiving tax credits for providing health care benefits for their workers.
  • 46 states are using resources under the new reform law to pass or strengthen premium rate review laws.

VISION:  An accessible system of health care

  • Women now have direct access to OB/GYNs without a referral.
  • Enrollees in new plans after 9/23/10 must have a choice of primary care physicians.
  • Lifetime limits on insurance payouts will be eliminated, and annual limits will be greatly restricted.
  • Expanded funding for community health centers will increase access to medical care in under-served areas.
  • Persons who have been uninsured for 6 months because of pre-existing conditions now have access to Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans

VISION: An accountable system of health care

  • Insurance companies can no longer drop people from coverage because of illness.
  • Members of Congress and their staff members will receive their health insurance from the same exchanges.
  • Persons will have the right to external appeals of decisions made by insurers.

About the polling data:

Attack ads, debates, and press conferences feature the opposition saying that the American people do not want reform.  If just one aspect of polling is considered, it is true that many folks do not like the “caricature” of reform that is based on mis-representation and misunderstandings.  However, polling results on some of the benefits outlined above reflect a very different TRUTH about what the public thinks about reform.

There’s no question that the public is confused, in part because health care reform is confusing. But there are many benefits in reform that are crystal clear, and when those facts are known, who would want to give them up — either for themselves or their neighbors?

For more information:

Read What I Like about Health Care Reform from Faithful Reform in Health Care.

View the Kaiser Family Foundation YouToons video, Health Reform Hits Main Street, which highlights the benefits of health care reform.

Visit HealthCare.Gov, the website that was mandated by health care reform, which includes videos and fact sheets about health care reform.  Be sure to note the new section with information about finding affordable insurance and/or health care services by zip code.

Read an editorial in the Philadelphia Daily News, The Down-Side of Health Care Repeal: Which of These Features Would Opponents Be Willing to Lose?

Review Kaiser Family Foundation’s Data Note, How Popular is Repealing Reform, a compilation of polling data.

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Make suggestions for future topics based on the mis-information you are receiving in ads, emails, and conversations.  Simply send an email with your suggestions.


“A Daily Dose of Truth” (#3): The Requirement to Buy Insurance

November 19, 2010

~by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

Daily DoseTruth is witness to the whole.  One short sound-bite taken out of context — even if it’s a fact — does not necessarily represent the whole truth. We denounce the use of such sound-bites (from any party!) when they are intended to pervert truth for electoral gain. In the end, we acknowledge that a manipulation of facts to frighten and confuse vulnerable populations is just plain immoral.

Health care justice and the common good are best served when everyone is actually IN a nation’s system of health care.  And that’s the whole point of the health care reform requirement for everyone to have insurance.

With everyone IN, we’ll all have timely access to the benefits of health care coverage rather than waiting until too late, or worse, getting no care at all.  With everyone insured, society-at-large partners with the health care system, fairly distributing the responsibilities, costs, risks, and benefits.

The requirement for everyone to have insurance:

  • Protects all of us from the costs of medical care for patients who can pay for insurance but refuse to do so. The subsidies will be designed so as not to impose a burden greater than any one person or family can bear.
  • Affirms the government’s rightful role in regulation and oversight on behalf of the public good.  It is an effort to get everyone playing by the same rules, resulting in fair treatment for everyone fairly in return.

Exemptions to the requirement for insurance:  Persons exempt from the requirement to have insurance will include:  those whose faith communities object to insurance; those without coverage for less than 3 months; American Indians; undocumented immigrants; those with hardship exemptions (for whom the lowest cost plan available exceeds 8% of individual income); and those who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but earn too little to file income tax.

Penalties for not purchasing insurance:  The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Commission on Taxation estimate that by 2016 only about 4 million persons (1% of the population) will choose to pay the assessed penalty rather than purchase insurance.  Two-thirds of those would qualify for subsidies in the exchanges; the remaining third would be among the top 10% of income-earners in the U.S.

Those who choose not to purchase insurance will pay a penalty that will help cover the cost of maintaining the health system, including the cost of uncompensated care.  The penalties will begin in 2014 and increase each year:  2014 – the greater of $95 or 1% of taxable income; 2015 – the greater of $325 or 2% of taxable income; 2016 – the greater of $695 or 2.5% of taxable income; beyond 2016 – indexed to the cost of living.

What happens if the requirement to purchase insurance is repealed? 

Insurance costs would likely rise for everyone. In the negotiations leading to reform, this requirement was coupled with the ban on the insurers’ practice of banning persons from coverage because of pre-existing conditions. The costs for adding persons with pre-existing conditions will escalate if the enrolling the sick is not off-set with healthy enrollees.  (One interesting note:  Polls continue to show the usual split between supporters and opponents of reform.  However, once those who support repeal are told it would mean ending the ban on insurance exclusions for pre-exisitng conditions, only a quarter of repeal supporters hold their original position!)

The costs of uncompensated care will continue to increase costs system-wide. Very few people travel through life without accessing the health system at some point. The penalty for not purchasing insurance simply helps offset the medical costs for those who choose not to purchase insurance, but do not have the ability to pay for expensive care.

For more information:

Read the full statement from Faithful Reform in Health Care: Faith Values & Responsibility in Health Care Reform

View the Kaiser Family Foundation YouToons video, Health Reform Hits Main Street, which includes a section that clearly articulates the relationship between the requirement to buy insurance and the ban on insurers’ exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

Read the New England Journal of Medicine article, A Broader Regulatory Scheme – The Constitutionality of Health Care Reform, which discusses the constitutionality of the requirement to buy insurance.

Make a suggestion for future topics based on the mis-information you are receiving in ads, emails, and conversations.  Simply send an email with your suggestions.


A Daily Dose of Truth (#2): Health Care Reform & Home Sales

November 19, 2010

~by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care  

Daily DoseTruth is witness to the whole. One short sound-bite taken out of context — even if it’s a fact — does not necessarily represent the whole truth. We denounce the use of such sound-bites (from any party!) when they are intended to pervert truth for electoral gain. In the end, we acknowledge that a manipulation of facts to frighten and confuse vulnerable populations is just plain immoral.

Is there a new tax on home sales to help pay for health care reform?

Short answer: Beginning in 2013, there will be a 3.8% Medicare tax on the PROFIT in home sales for families making more than $250,000/year ($200,000/individuals).  If the home is a primary residence, per existing law, the first $500,000/families ($250,000/individuals) in profit will be exempt from the tax. Most home sales will not be affected by this provision in the health care reform law.

Longer answer:  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, amended by the reconciliation act H.R. 4872, provides for a 3.8% Medicare tax on unearned/investment income starting in 2013 (section 1402, revised to 1411, on page 33) for families making more than $250,000 per year ($200,000 for individuals). Investment income includes profit on property sales. 

A family that makes $250,000 ($200,000/individual) and sells a home for a profit will be required to pay a 3.8% tax on that profit (not on the sale price, only on the profit) as part of their capital gains taxes. However, if the home is a primary residence, per existing law, the first $500,000/families ($250,000/individuals) in profit will be exempt from the tax. It is estimated that only the highest earning 2% of families will be impacted by this provision.

Why the confusion?  Another example of a fact taken out of context, this myth about the impact on all home sales seems to have started with a March 28, 2010, Op-Ed written by Paul Guppy for a Spokane, WA newspaper.  The author is the Vice President for Research at the Washington (state) Policy Center, “an independent, non-partisan think tank promoting sound public policy based on free-market solutions.” The author’s claim was immediately refuted by the government affairs director of the local realtors’ association

For more information:

FactCheck.org provides a detailed analysis of this issue and numerous links to other sources of information.


A Daily Dose of Truth (#1): Medicare in Health Care Reform

November 19, 2010

~ by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

Daily Dose

Truth is witness to the whole.  One short sound-bite taken out of context — even if it’s a fact — does not necessarily represent the whole truth. We denounce the use of such sound-bites (from any party!) when they are intended to pervert truth for electoral gain. In the end, we acknowledge that a manipulation of facts to frighten and confuse vulnerable populations is just plain immoral.

When health care reform was passed in March 2010, our nation’s seniors became the beneficiaries of a strengthened, improved, and re-structured Medicare system.  A number of provisions will improve Medicare services for enrollees and extend Medicare’s solvency for another ten years.

Direct benefits of health care reform for  Medicare beneficiaries

  • Prescription drugs.  The prescription drug coverage gap (the “doughnut hole”) will be eliminated over ten years.  In 2010, the coverage gap will be reduced by $250 in the form of rebate checks that have already been sent to millions of beneficiaries who have reached the doughnut hole.  In 2011, program enrollees will receive a 50% discount off the price of brand name drugs during the coverage gap.  In ten years, the doughnut hole will be closed completely. Other provisions will expand assistance for some low-income beneficiaries enrolled in the Medicare drug program.
  • Preventive care.  For traditional Medicare beneficiaries, in 2011 co-pays and deductibles will be eliminated from most preventive services.  An annual comprehensive wellness visit and personalized prevention plan are added, which are not subject to coinsurance or deductibles.
  • Medicare Advantage plans. The private-for-profit Medicare Advantage plans will be prohibited from charging beneficiaries higher cost sharing for services than is allowed in traditional Medicare.  Plans that offer extra benefits will be required to give priority to wellness, preventive care services, and cost-sharing reductions over benefits not covered by traditional Medicare.
  • Physician incentives. Generous incentives are in the Affordable Care Act to increase the number of primary care physicians and to encourage primary care physicians to treat Medicare beneficiaries.
  • Low-income program. Outreach and enrollment assistance will be increased to beneficiaries eligible for the Part D low-income subsidy program.

$500 billion savings to the system

The $500 billion in cuts that are being denounced in attack ads are NOT cuts to benefits. They are cuts in waste, fraud, abuse, and government subsidies for private-for-profit insurance.  

  • Private-for-profit Medicare Advantage. Payments to private-for-profit Medicare Advantage plans will be restructured.  Excess payments will be rolled back, and performance bonuses will reward quality plans.  Part of the argument to privatize Medicare is that the private market can provide the same or more benefits at a lower cost than the federal government can do it.  Supporters believe that competition will keep the prices down and the quality up.  However, recent research is showing that the government is actually paying $1000+ more for Medicare enrollees in private plans than those in traditional Medicare.  Further, only 20% of Medicare beneficiaries are in the private plans subsidized by the government, but 100% of enrollees are paying for those subsidies!
  • Waste, fraud, abuse. Penalties will be enhanced on providers for waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • Hospital readmissions. Reimbursements to hospitals with excess preventable readmissions and hospital-acquired infections will be reduced.
  • Coordinated purchasing. Value-based purchasing for hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, skilled nursing facilities, and home health agencies will be established.

THE TRUTH (with the “big T”):  Because of the 2010 reform of U.S. health care, Medicare is strengthened; beneficiaries will receive increased benefits; and costs will be controlled by cuts in waste, fraud, abuse, and government subsidies to private insurers.


For more information:

Faithful Reform in Health Care: What Health Care Reform Means for Medicare

Kaiser Family Foundation: Summary of Key Changes to Medicare in 2010 Health Reform Law (Issue Brief)

AARP:  What You Need to Know about the New Health Care Law (webinar)

HealthCare.Gov: Health Care Reform for Seniors (video & other info)

Medicare Rights Center: Health Reform and Medicare (Issue Briefs)


A Daily Dose of Truth (Introduction)

November 19, 2010

by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling
Faithful Reform in Health Care

Daily DoseIt’s clear.  The attack on health care reform will continue and, in all probability, escalate as the new Congress convenes.  Why?  Because polls show that attacks work — even if they are not completely true or, worse, false. Shame on us!

As people of faith — trusted messengers — it’s our turn!  With fewer financial resources, but with relationships that reach into the depth and breadth of our communities, it is our job to transcend partisan politics and economic self-interests, and to be the truth-tellers in support of a compassionate health care future with a system includes and works well for all of us.

We begin with the declaration that “truth is witness to the whole.”  We know that one short sound-bite taken out of context — even if it’s a fact — does not necessarily represent the whole truth. We denounce the use of such sound-bites (from any party!) when they are intended to pervert truth for electoral gain. In the end, we acknowledge that a manipulation of facts to frighten and confuse vulnerable populations is just plain immoral.

We can change what’s happening, but it means each of us must be willing to share the TRUTH when we hear it.  We can and must make a difference because health care is, first and foremost, a people issue that should not be relegated to the caverns of political ideologies.  In sharing TRUTH, we are not supporting one candidate over another. We are simply making sure that people make their choices based on truth that witnesses to the whole — not on distorted perceptions based on mis-represented facts.

“A Daily Dose of Truth” will be published regularly to help you compare what you are hearing to the real TRUTH in the Affordable Care Act. Please help spread the message to the far reaches of our country — via viral email, Facebook, telephone calls, chats with neighbors, and discussions in your communities of faith.  Help us counter what is touted as true (with a little “t”) with what is actually the TRUTH!


Why is health care reform so difficult?

February 27, 2010

~ by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

Yes, we were the first to talk about it! Well, maybe not THE first, but pretty close in recent history. In our desire to encourage values-based dialogue among people of faith, Faithful Reform in Health Care has offered insights into our century-long struggle over health care for all. Our Seeking Justice in Health Care Guide, workshops, PowerPoints, and adult study materials, have helped thousands of people understand why health care reform is so contentious.  Now, in the wake of the Health Care Summit, the columnists and pundits are answering the same question we addressed long ago: Why is health care reform so difficult?  Our answers are framed as five challenges, hoping that they are not a permanent indictment on our ability to move forward.

Challenge #1 - Moral Vision. The underlying challenge is the absence of a strongly articulated moral vision.  Do we want a health care future that includes everyone and works well for all of us — or not?  Without a clear answer to that question, reform efforts remain locked in conflict over competing views of who we are as a nation and where our responsibilities lie in caring for those who live here.

Over the years, we have accepted a collective moral responsibility for our most vulnerable populations — those with the lowest incomes, our elderly, our veterans, and our Native American and indigenous populations. The crisis facing us now is what to do about the 123 persons who die unnecessarily each day, and the millions more who risk that possibility, for lack of health insurance.

While most members of Congress would likely profess a commitment to health care for all, the lack of a national moral vision becomes evident as proposals are developed. Deliberations are informed by questions that focus on how much money is saved or what industry is protected, rather than on those who are left out as a result of the negotiations. Whether our goal is everybody in (or just some people) impacts how all other questions are answered and how challenges are overcome.

Challenge #2 - Access or Costs. Is our goal to improve access inspite of costs, or to restrain the growth of costs by reducing access and/or quality? Historically and currently, because these goals are often seen as contradictory, legislative efforts usually have polarized around one or the other. And because we don’t start with a commitment to include everyone, we argue over just how many/few more can be covered, and at what cost.  If money were no object, increasing access would be much less troublesome. But resources, though abundant, are finite, which means we have to practice faithful stewardship in using them. The difficulty lies in how to distribute these resources equitably and in how to determine who will bear the burden for controlling the costs.

In spite of the politics that might suggest otherwise, the truth is that successful reform will encompass both goals: improving access and containing costs while maintaining a high quality of care.  Neither goal can be fully achieved by itself; comprehensive reform will be impossible without a commitment to both.  All other industrialized democracies have found ways meet both goals, and so must the United States.

Challenge #3 - Marketplace or Government. The moral dilemma informs differing perspectives around the relative roles of competition and regulation.  Are human needs better served by markets, individual ownership, competition and profits, or by governments and laws that guarantee access and a fair distribution of costs and services?

Extreme ideologies in our country have failed to recognize that modern health care systems actually exist somewhere between unfettered free markets and complete government responsibility. A system that consumes one-seventh of our economy yet fails millions of us would benefit from both increased public accountability to protect the common good and improved private initiatives to encourage quality, innovation, and efficiency in covering 300 million people.  The most reasonable voices for reform understand the need for partnerships among all sectors to make this system work. The attempts by both sides to polarize the debate must be transformed into expectations that lawmakers will find solutions that demonstrate a creative mix of effective government regulation and fair market incentives.

Challenge #4 – Political Partisanship.
The three previous challenges and how legislators respond to them feed the political partisanship that paralyzes our efforts to achieve major reform. In spite of an initial goal to make health care reform bipartisan, the decline in cooperation between the two major political parties has limited their willingness to seek consensus for the common good.  In spite of broad and deep public support for reform, and in spite of numerous bipartisan agreements and compromises in the bills, legislators continue to fall into the usual and comfortable circles of partisanship. Party loyalty helps guarantee upward mobility, leadership and membership on key committees, funding for upcoming electoral bids, and campaign contributions from powerful stakeholders.

Ultimately, it will be dialogue around shared values, rather than debate over competing ideologies, that will lead to the possibility of transforming the public concience and creating the legislative priorities for successful and sustainable reform.

Challenge #5 – Economic Self-interest of Key Players. Almost everyone in the United States would benefit from health care reform. Some groups — low-middle income workers, persons with pre-existing medical conditions, the uninsured, racial and ethnic minorities, people living in under-served areas — stand to gain a lot. But a number of well-financed, tightly organized health care industries and trade associations fear what they could lose.  In spite of concessions to keep them engaged as supporters, in the end, they are now using their influence and affluence to derail reform.

As long as the discussion is dominated by those who fear the loss of their profits, the rest who have so much more to lose will continue to be crushed by the inequities and injustice of U.S. health care. Ultimately, strong public demands for change, coupled with substantial campaign finance reform, will be needed to promote the common good as a benefit to everyone’s self-interest and to prevent special interests from blocking progress.

Living into Our Health Care Future.
Good people with good hearts and moral grounding sit on both sides of the aisle in Congress, seemingly unable to recognize the value in one another’s perspectives. In spite of agreement that health care is a people, not partisan, issue, the ideologies embedded in a two-party system make differences appear to be insurmountable.

Faith communities, however, with members representing the full spectrum of political views, are uniquely positioned to create the opportunities for dialogue and collaboration. In fact, in these moments, it is our calling to help move the debate surrounding health care reform from what is politically prudent or economically feasible to dialogue which embraces compassion and justice and the common good.  It is our task to transform these challenges into opportunities for moving forward by identifying the shared values that bridge the partisan differences.

In doing such work, it is in hopeful expectation that we will touch the hearts and minds of the American people so that together we may envision a health care future that fully embraces health, wholeness, and human dignity.  It is in transforming our collective conscience on the issue of health care that we eventually will make comprehensive, compassionate and sustainable reform a reality.


“A Faith-Inspired Vision of Health Care” delivered to Congress & White House

January 16, 2010

by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling

On January 12, A Faith-Inspired Vision of Health Care with nearly 200 organizational signatures and over 4000 individual signatures was delivered to all of Congress and White House staff.  The cover letter is printed below.

An Open Letter
to President Barack Obama and to
Members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives

At this historic moment in a century-long effort to make comprehensive and compassionate health care reform a reality in the United States, members of the Faithful Reform in Health Care coalition are praying for our nation and for you – our elected leaders. We offer these prayers recognizing that the arc of the moral universe does not bend toward justice on its own.  It bends only through the transformation of our hearts and minds as we commit ourselves to working for the common good… to building a sense of community that offers blessings for all… and to acting upon our concern for those who are most vulnerable.

People of faith have worked for decades in support of quality and affordable health care for all because we see it as a moral calling – and because we truly believe that our nation is endowed with the talents, wisdom and sufficient resources necessary to meet the health care needs of one another.  In these critical hours of deliberation, from now until a health care bill is signed, Faithful Reform in Health Care and its members will lift you in prayer around a moral vision for health care reform that guarantees affordable health care for everyone and lays the foundation for sharing our abundant health care resources in a spirit of generosity.

Through our Interfaith Virtual Vigil of Prayer, Hope, and Action, we will offer these prayers every day until health care reform is signed into law. We know that what is broken in U.S. health care cannot be repaired in one sweeping piece of legislation. At the same time, we believe that the first steps toward transformation can be addressed in the pending deliberations over the shape of our health care future.  We will pray that you take these steps with courage and in hope.

We applaud the actions and leadership that have brought us to this historic moment, and now pray that you will move forward with a vision that will bend the arc of our health care future toward justice.  While our individual organizations support a variety of policy priorities and strategies for incorporating our faith values in legislation, there is broad consensus around provisions that move us toward a more just system of health care that is inclusive, affordable, accessible, and accountable.

Read the full letter and view the Vision Statement and signatures.


The moral case for reform: Isn’t that OUR job?

September 10, 2009

~ By Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

Waiting in my email box early Wednesday morning was the article Once More, With Feeling: Will Obama (Finally) Make the Moral Case for Reform?.   Melinda Henneberger, Politics Daily Editor in Chief, was making the point that President Obama was going to have to make the all-out case for health care reform as the “right thing to do morally.”

Well, that’s exactly what the President did.  He made the moral case.  His remarks were laced with values like the compassion, common good, shared responsibility, concern for the vulnerable, and better stewardship of our abundant health care resources.  To drive home his point he shared thoughts from a letter written by the late Senator Ted Kennedy. “He repeated the truth that health care is decisive for our future prosperity, but he also reminded me that it concerns more than material thingsWhat we face, he wrote, is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.”

Well, my question is this:  Whose job is it anyway to be making the moral case for reform?  Why are political editors clamoring for the President to make the moral case?  Isn’t that OUR job?  The only reason I can think of for calling on the President to make the moral case is that those of us who are entrusted with such proclamation are not making enough noise. Like so many others, we’ve been sucked into other spheres of the debate, to the exclusion of the moral imperative.

The economic imperative is what has forced us into our current national discussion about health care reform in the United States.  As health care costs rise faster than general inflation, as medical expenses force families into bankruptcy, as businesses burdened with workers’ health insurance struggle to compete in the global marketplace, and as government resources are stretched thin to provide health care for vulnerable populations, we have finally acknowledged that we must travel into our health care future along a different path.

Likewise, the medical imperative for system reform weighs heavily as 20,000+ people die prematurely each year for lack of needed health care, as more and more people turn to emergency rooms for their health care needs, and as the impact of un-insurance and under-insurance becomes evident in the reduced quality of life for millions.  We know that planning for a health care future which includes everyone and works well for all of us cannot wait.

But moving forward on reform with just these two imperatives clearly isn’t working.  In spite of broad consensus on numerous provisions for reform, we are stymied. In part because of political partisanship, and in part because of ideological differences over how we approach this issue, we find ourselves embroiled in ugly and, at times, violent discord.

It is the moral imperative and the values found therein that can change the complexion of this raucous environment. Reflection around moral values and justice can help move us from a debate that focuses too much on government-run vs. market-driven health care toward one that evaluates public policy as a tool to serve the common good.

If we affirm that truth is witness to the whole, then we know that moving forward without considering the moral imperative will lead only to an insufficient solution for our nation’s health care future. It will be up to us to elevate that moral message.

Toward the end of her editorial Ms. Henneberger said of the President, He’s whispered that we are all our brother’s keepers and our sister’s keepers, but he needs to make it rain, for heaven’s sake; I wanna hear some thunder.  That thunder can be no less than millions of people of faith raising our voices around the moral imperative for health care for all.  It can be no less  than all of us coming together to proclaim that in the sacred act of creation we were endowed with the talents, wisdom and abundant resources necessary to meet the needs of one another — including the health care needs for all.


Fear, Facts and Faith

August 17, 2009

~ Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

Fear works. The opposition knows it.  And they are using it to their advantage.  Just a few short weeks ago our fear was the cost of doing nothing – in terms of both human suffering and economic peril. We were moving along a path toward health care reform legislation that wasn’t perfect but would improve health care for all of us.  Sure, there were some hurdles to be overcome, but an overwhelming majority of the American public was still on board.  The powerful and wealthy industry stakeholders who have the most to lose in terms of profits and control have responded to that level of support by promoting lies, distortions and disruptions to elicit fear about what is really in the proposed legislation.  Let us be clear — our greatest fear must remain over the cost of doing nothing, and now of those who seek to destroy legitimate civil discourse and the democratic process.

Facts work – for some. Thankfully, the folks who know the legislation inside and out are producing the fact sheets to help us understand the proposals. They are making available to us the truth and the intent behind the provisions that are being twisted for diabolical purposes. But we must remember that facts don’t matter to many of those who are easily swayed by fear-mongering tactics.  Very simply, we can’t argue our way out of this with the facts.  But… for those who WILL listen, we can use the facts to develop a better understanding of the proposals, to answer our legitimate questions and to bolster our efforts in pushing our elected leaders to do the right thing.  Go to PolitiFact.com for help with sorting out the truth!  To read how one clergy colleague responds to all of this with faith values read:

Talk-Show Falsehoods: Hysteria masks value of Page 425

Health-care rationing vs. abundance – The truth shall set us free

Faith works — when we try! For people of faith who care about this issue, we need to understand that our voices are needed more than ever to create a health care future that includes everyone and works well for all of us.  The members of Congress on Wednesday’s conference call told us quite frankly that the voices of faith are not being heard over the fray of the powerful and wealthy self-interests and their high paid lobbyists. The voices of moral persuasion and compassion are NOT what our elected leaders are hearing.  We can change that… one by one until millions of us pick up our phones and pens, raise our voices in town hall meetings, and hold our candles high in vigils to demand comprehensive health care reform this year.

There are more of us than “them,” but that won’t be obvious until everyone one of us makes a commitment to take at least one action (or more!) EVERY week until health care reform is passed — and urge others in our communities of faith to join us!  Cultural transformation is up to us! And we are at our best when that is at the heart of our work.

Make phone calls TODAY to your Senators and Representative using our toll free number: 1-888-797-8717. Urge them to ignore the lies and to make their decisions based on the truth. View talking points and print a flier to invite others to make calls, too.  Put this number on your speed-dial and use it often!

Send hand-written letters to the home offices of your Senators and Representatives while they are home on their August recess.  Better yet, set up a table at a gathering of your faith community this weekend and ask others to join you in writing letters! Find the addresses of the district offices. View a sample letter.

Plan a Let Our Light Shine event with others in your community during August.

Sign A Faith-Inspired Vision for Health Care” if you have not already done so, and urge others in your faith community join you.  It will be delivered to all members of Congress soon after they return to Washington in September.

Let Our Light Shine and Let Our Voices Be Heard!


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