I have written a number of posts about resolutions to General Convention that related to health care, or that might be of interest to chaplains. To this point, those resolutions have been “A” resolutions coming from one of the Commissions, Committees, Agencies, and Boards (CCAB’s) of the Church. However, I have continued to review resolutions as they are posted on the General Convention’s web site to note any others that would be relevant.
To date I have discovered two, both “C” resolutions submitted by the Diocese of East Tennessee. The first is C071, titled “Health Care Coverage for All.” As I have noted, the Report of the Standing Commission on Health did echo the consistent statements of the General Convention in support of universal access to health care. However, the Report did not include a resolution on the topic. Thus, Resolution C071 speaks again to that concern. It reads as follows:
Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 76th General Convention call on its congregations to undertake discussions within the parish of the issue of health care coverage in the United States, including:
a) recognition that health is multi-dimensional, with spiritual, social, environmental, and mental elements as well as physical,
b) reminder of personal responsibility for healthy life choices and concern for maintaining one's own health,
c) proclaiming the Gospel message of concern for others which extends to concern for their physical health as well as spiritual well-being,
d) responsibility as a parish to attend to the needs (including health-related needs) of others, both other members of the parish family and those of the wider community, the nation, and the world,
e) recognition that there are limits to what the healthcare system can and should provide and thus that some uncomfortable and difficult choices may have to be made if we are to limit healthcare costs; and be it further
Resolved, That, following up on the discussions within the parishes, communicants, individually and congregationally, be urged to contact elected federal and state officials encouraging them to:
a) create, with the assistance of experts in related fields, a comprehensive definition of "basic healthcare" to which our nation's citizens have a right,
b) establish a system to provide basic healthcare to all,
c) create an oversight mechanism, separate from the immediate political arena, to audit the delivery of that "basic healthcare,"
d) educate our citizens in the need for limitations on what each person can be expected to receive in the way of medical care under a universal coverage program in order to make the program sustainable financially,
e) educate our citizens in the role of personal responsibility in promoting good health with provisions of restricting to some degree treatments for disease in which the patient fails or refuses to comply with good medical practice; and be it further,
Resolved, That this resolution be distributed to all dioceses of the Episcopal Church of America for their consideration and support; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention call upon the Episcopal Church to establish and fund a task force to develop action plans and educational materials for dioceses and parishes to conduct the above-described activities; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance to consider a budget allocation of $5,000 for the implementation of this resolution.
Past General Convention resolutions have addressed standards for universal access, including some understanding of what "quality health care" might mean, and approaches to political leaders. This resolution has some distinctive features. First, it focuses first on educating and involving members of the Church. Involving individuals in discussing these issues and contacting their political issues encourages ownership and accountability.
Second, this resolution calls for a specific action in establishing a task force to develop materials. With funding expected to be tight in the next Triennium, I don't know whether actual dollars will be approved.
Finally, this resolution addresses specifically and explicitly rationing of health care. While it doesn't use the term, it does speak of the necessity of limiting and restricting treatments. It speaks especially of educating both church and community members that some limitations will be necessary and expected if we are to accomplish universal access to health care. For many this has been a challenge, but the recognition that some personal responsibility and some limits will be necessary.
With its call for a task force and funding, and its acknowledgement of rationing, I will be interested to see how this resolution progresses. It is, however, consistent with the past resolutions of General Convention in calling for universal access to health care. It is timely, inasmuch as universal access to health care, or at least to health insurance, is a central goal of the Obama Administration. How much impact this specific resolution has won’t be known for a while. At the same time, it doesn’t hurt for General Convention to say it once again.