The paper, "Fifteen Principles for Successful Health Care Reform," outlines criteria it says are needed "to achieve the desired result of affordable, high quality, universal health care." The document was produced by the Research Institute of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). The Research Institute is an evangelical Christian think tank of 25 fellows, including seminary presidents and ethicists.
The principles, available at www.erlc.com, were released as the health-care debate in Congress moves from the House of Representatives to the Senate.
The Senate is expected to begin debate on health-care legislation Nov. 17, according to The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper.
On Nov. 7, the House voted 220-215 for a health-care bill that includes a government-managed option. The representatives did so only after approving in a 240-194 vote a pro-life amendment barring federal funds from paying for abortions in the public option and from subsidizing private plans that cover abortions. Exceptions are made for abortions in the cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.
The ERLC document rejects government-run health care as an option, with the Research Institute fellows saying reform of the private health-care system is the best alternative.
"The goal of this reform should be to reduce the cost of health care and health care insurance while maintaining the highest possible standard of health care for all, thus increasing the quality of health care for more and more Americans," they say.
"While a perfect system is not attainable, there is much room for improvement," the document says.
Regarding their first principle, the fellows say about the sanctity of human life, "Every stage of life, every type of disability must be treated with utmost reverence for every life. Abortion must not be mandated in health insurance plans.... Every treatment must meet a rigorous pro-life standard that refuses to value or respect one life more than another life. Covered treatments must not be denied by insurance companies due to unrelated issues in a person's medical history. The right of conscience of health care providers and pharmacists must be guaranteed."
Among the other principles offered:
-- Tort reform that limits monetary awards in lawsuits. "Laws should be enacted to discourage frivolous lawsuits," the paper says.
-- Competition in which there is a "free-market approach that rewards those who offer the best product at the best price and frees companies to reward healthy lifestyle choices with substantially lower costs."
-- Accountability for patients and doctors. "Responsible behavior should be incentivized. Health lifestyle choices should be rewarded with lower insurance premiums, and certain unhealthy choices should result in higher insurance premiums."
-- Careful government regulation that still assures doctors will make treatment decisions in consultation with patients, not government authorities.
-- Affordability in which low-income Americans "have subsidies in order to help them afford coverage on a sliding fee scale."
-- Portability that enables coverage to continue for a person when he loses his job.
-- Protection from discrimination on the basis of disability or age. "Pre-existing conditions must be treated realistically, not a cause for denial of coverage."
After the House's passage of health care reform, ERLC President Richard Land applauded the pro-life amendment but said the overall bill "brings us one step closer to government-subsidized and eventually government-run health care in America."
He said, "We need health care reform, but this isn't it."
As the issue moves to the Senate, Land said the ERLC "will continue to press for health care more in keeping with the 15 principles laid out" in its document.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. The ERLC paper can be read online at
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