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Protecting Access for Poor Patients, CMA Physicians Support Conscience Provisions in Alternative Healthcare Bill

by Staff
October 1, 2009
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WASHINGTON, (christiansunite.com) -- The 16,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA, www.cmda.org), the nation's largest association of faith-based physicians, today voiced support for the conscience-protecting provisions in the "Empowering Patients First Act," a bill introduced by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA 6th). CMA contended that the protections are needed to avoid a potentially catastrophic loss of faith-based healthcare on which millions of poor patients depend.

In a letter sent to Rep. Price today regarding the bill (HR 3400), CMA CEO Dr. David Stevens noted, "The Christian Medical Association is very concerned that some in Congress and the White House appear to be pursuing a conscience-hostile approach to healthcare legislation, opposing amendment after amendment that would provide solid--not rhetorically deceptive-- conscience protections.

"Lawmakers must realize that threatening or minimizing conscience protections holds the potential to create a catastrophic shortage of healthcare access, especially for poor patients. Our national polling (available online at www.Freedom2Care.org) reveals that 95 percent of faith-based physicians are prepared to leave medicine altogether rather than violate their conscientiously held ethical convictions."

Dr. Stevens wrote, "As you know, President Obama has announced plans to rescind the relatively new federal provider conscience regulation, which also provides for such a reporting mechanism. It is imperative, therefore, to enact legislation that protects conscience rights from the whims of any administration that might minimize the opportunity to address civil rights violations related to conscience."

Dr. Stevens thanked Rep. Price for recognizing the need for strong, true and broad conscience protections.

"The bill [Sec. 106 Part (d) of HR 3400] also provides a critical component of conscience protections. Many healthcare professionals encounter pressure to violate ethical codes on many issues besides abortion. HR 3400 addresses this reality by offering appropriately broad conscientious protection 'to accommodate the conscientious objection of a purchaser or an individual or institutional health care provider when a procedure is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of such purchaser or provider.'"

In his letter, Dr. Stevens also noted the benefit of designating the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a reporting outlet for healthcare professionals experiencing discrimination for their conscientious stance on ethical issues.

"Besides protecting any individual or institutional health care entity from discrimination 'on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions,' the bill also provides the crucial implementation avenue needed to make such protection effective."

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