National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Cover story
Issue Date:  May 30, 2003

Health Beat: NCR delves into the issues

The National Catholic Reporter firmly believes that access to decent health care is a social justice issue. That belief is an element of Catholic social teaching. The U.S. Catholic bishops have declared access to health care a right co-equal to the right to decent housing, education and employment opportunities.

Forty-one million people are without health care coverage. One-quarter of all Americans, 70-plus million, annually experience periods without health care. For the government-insured elderly, more doctors are not accepting Medicare patients. For the insured poor, Medicaid is under attack. For the insured worker, employees and employers face unprecedented and continued premium cost increases.

With its new feature, Health Beat, this newspaper is making an ongoing commitment to the topic. The goal is to identify, through reporting and commentary, 1) the strengths and shortfalls of the American health care system overall; 2) the contribution of Catholic health care (one in six Americans receives care in a Catholic acute care facility), along with the serious and imminent threats to the Catholic hospital systems’ very survival; and 3) pathways to change and improvement in the national provision of health insurance and coverage.

In addition to interviewing those looking for a fresh way ahead, Health Beat -- which will appear every second week following the initial two-week launch -- will have a dual focus: crises in the system, and crises affecting individuals and groups.

Most people understand that in major measure, crises in the system means Medicare and Medicaid. But there are endless other facets of health care that decisions by Congress and the administration affect or influence.

Crises in the system -- and the benefits of the system, for they are legion -- will be examined in the challenges and threats to health care protection offered by the government, the insurance industry, the voluntary sector and employers.

Crises affecting people will frequently be rooted in reporting on the scene where agencies attempt to cope with the needs of the uninsured and underinsured. Though not exclusively, this will often be in Catholic settings.

Meanwhile, Catholic health care -- the bequest to the nation of almost two centuries of Catholic hospitals and social service outreach -- has its particular external and internal challenges. (These are listed in some detail in next week’s report on Catholic health care.)

Allied to the work of Catholic hospitals and health care systems, at every level, are the social outreach activities of Catholic Charities nationwide. Catholic Charities’ activities will be an integral part of Health Beat coverage.

NCR’s coverage intends to help keep alive the ideal of a national health policy resulting from a national discussion. In its editorials the newspaper will press for health care coverage for all Americans.

The two themes of system crises and people’s crises are not exclusive.

Health care delivery is complex, overlapping and interwoven with difficult moral complexities and ethical issues.

Our exploration of the issues will be done through both a “secular” and a “Catholic” lens . We’ll talk to CEOs and to clinic patients; we’ll look for answers in political corridors in Washington and state capitols, as well as in migrant streams and county nursing homes.

As NCR’s coverage develops it will delve into important ethical and moral topics such as end-of-life concerns, palliative care, contraceptive issues. The key moral and ethical issue -- the right to coverage and care -- will be paramount.

Articles on ancillary interests, such as alternative medicines, spirituality and health, profiles on individuals, boxes of statistics, insights into new development, will not be lacking.

Your observations and comments as readers and professionals are an essential element to this every-second-week coverage. Your views will be heartily welcomed.

The lead writer on NCR’s health care coverage will be Arthur Jones, NCR editor at large, but there will be many other bylines as the project progresses.

-- The Editors

National Catholic Reporter, May 30, 2003

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