Health Care

There is a health care crisis in the United States, and West Virginia has not escaped its effects. Despite the overall health of the economy, recent statistics show that an estimated 309,600 West Virginians (17.2% of the population) are without health insurance coverage. Approximately 34,000 of the uninsured are children. Most of the uninsured adults are working people who do not receive insurance through their employers, and cannot afford to purchase it themselves. The costs of lack of access to health care are considerable, and affect not only those denied access, but the rest of our citizens as well. Persons who do not have adequate coverage are less likely to receive appropriate preventive and primary care, are more likely to rely on emergency rooms for treatment, and are more likely to postpone needed treatment, which can result in more serious health problems. When they do receive care, its cost is likely to be shifted to other payers, increasing everyone's insurance costs. Recent significant cuts in Medicaid are contributing to the difficulty of our health care systems in providing critical services to all our citizens.

Principles for Action
The Bishops of this country have long called for American society to move toward the establishment of a national policy that guarantees adequate health care for all while maintaining a pluralistic approach. As this develops, the role of Catholic institutions in the health field will change. They will take an even greater responsibility in fulfilling the prophetic role of promoting basic Christian values, championing the cause of the poor and neglected in society, and finding new ways to blend personal care and technological skills in health care service. (Health and Health Care, A Pastoral Letter of the American Bishops, Nov. 19, 1981, p.13 )

Concerned about the increasing number of vulnerable Americans not covered by health insurance, the Bishops have inaugurated a "Health Care for All!" campaign. ( ) This initiative advocates an approach that respects life from conception to natural death, has a priority concern for the poor, includes universal access to comprehensive benefits, and preserves pluralism in health care delivery while pursuing the common good.

We call for policies that -

  • Work toward providing health care coverage for all West Virginians (i.e. which expand insurance coverage for children and adults by supporting employer-based plans, expanding public coverage, increasing options for self-employed persons, and expanding Medicaid to meet the needs of all the poor).
  • Address the fundamental inequities of health care financing in our country
  • Provide financial support for rural hospitals and clinics
  • Deal equitably with the "cost shifting" and medical malpractice issues