Posted tagged ‘kathleen sebelius’

Different Horses

April 12, 2014

The saying “different horses for different courses” came to mind yesterday when I saw President Obama introducing his new Secretary of Health, Sylvia Matthews Burwell, while thanking her predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius. Ms Sebelius had run the good race in the thankless task of implementation, that is establishing the Affordable Care Act following its passage into law.

She lead her organization through uncertainties ranging from the Supreme Court, State Governments’ confusion, and open hostility from the House of Representatives. She did this while the major cheer leader in chief, President Obama, remained too often in the background. This was dirty, tough, work requiring great patience and poise, (work that frankly bored the President).

Someone had to slog it out, and Ms Sebelius did with great dignity.

Her resignation, of course, was not a surprise. Following the near disastrous roll out of “” and the initial damage that the roll out did to ACA’s reputation, many had called for her resignation. The President stuck with her not allowing anyone the space to claim he had picked an incompetent Cabinet member.

In the end, Ms Sebelius has been exonerated. The ACA has added over 7 million people to the rolls of insurance holders despite the rocky start. Without a doubt, this was a mark of success.

Looking ahead, however, the challenges are different. The ACA must be managed in a way that it becomes user friendly and ultimately depended upon by enough Americans that repealing it will be a sure way to lose an election. The President’s choice of Mathews-Burwell signals clearly this recognition, less political, more management.

In an unexpected way, President Obama has steered this difficult situation so that there can be two cabinet winners. Oh, and don’t forget, the biggest winner will be all those who now have access to healthcare coverage.

Fighting For A Bigger Piece Of A Smaller Pie

May 18, 2012

There is no easy way to explain the Catholic Church’s consistent stand against public figures who support a woman’s right to choose.  The opposition is not limited to anti-abortion advocacy but deals with all aspects planned parenting, contraception, and STD prevention.  The Church’s policies, which they couch as long held theological beliefs, defy science and common sense.

The Church, after all is club, where one pays his dues and gets what’s offered.  The members don’t vote or decide on what will be the beliefs.  And so this is the way if often is in private organizations.

A perplexing situation develops when a church member is an elected or appointed official of the greater public community.  When that person does not toe the dogma line, there is a price to pay.

Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius is the latest target.  As head of the organization which crafted the Affordable Care Act, Sebelius has already earned the wrath of her parish’s bishop.  Today she will speak at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, but only after protests and demands to the University to withdraw its invitation.

The protests came from conservatives for example the Cardinal Newman Society and the Archdiocese of Washington and pointed to Sebelius’s role in legislation offering women birth control as part of their healthcare coverage.

These Catholics seem to fail to recognize that (1) Sebelius works for all Americans, (2) she is the mother of Georgetown graduates, and (3) silencing people you don’t agree with is a mark of fascist states, not place of higher learning.  Georgetown cannot continue being a great school if it only allows speakers who have “the approved” slant on life.

To the University’s credit, it refused to “disinvite” Secretary Sebelius.  Possibly the University considered the totality of Secretary Sebelius’s work.  The Affordable Care Act will bring healthcare coverage to millions of poor people and requires no one, catholic or non-catholic to use birth control.

In A Clear Conscience

February 6, 2012

Political pundits are predicting dreadful consequences for President Obama.  Their predictions actually have nothing to do with any of the GOP hopefuls.  Rather, it is the self inflicted wound delivered by the recent Department of Health and Human Services decision requiring birth control methods to be included in employee health care insurance.  Pundits are unusually good at boiling issues down but this time their analysis is lacking.

The Philadelphia Inquirer today carried three pieces on this subject, two opinions on the editorial page and a separate news article in the local section.  

The news article covered the reaction of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J Chaput.  If you have read or heard anything New York Archbishop Dolan has said on this subject, you have also heard what Archbishop Chaput has just said.  It is the Catholic Church line.  Briefly, no birth control, no way, no how.  It is a matter of Catholic doctrine.  End of subject… almost.

The Archbishop went on to dramatize his position by saying the HHS decision has put the Church in the position of either violating its conscience or no longer offering its employees (in hospitals and universities) health coverage.  

Imagine that position.  The Church feels so strongly about this issue, it would risk leaving thousands of employees without health coverage and left to fend for themselves in seeking health care insurance.  This decision could create situations where employees are priced out of the market and others with pre-existing conditions, would simply be denied coverage.  I hope this is not how they teach students to resolve moral dilemmas at Notre Dame.

Archbishop Chaput’s position seems so glaringly shortsighted when one reads a Catholic University study that estimate 95% of Catholics practice some form of birth control.  Attacking the HHS decision really is an attack on the less affluent members of society.  The poor is a segment the Church has always said it championed.

On the Editorial page a different discussion was taking place.  The Inquirer took the position that the HHS decision was just and necessary.  It based its opinion upon a government study which concluded access to affordable birth control was essential to assure women’s health.  The report observed that about half of all pregnancies are unplanned and over 1/3rd of these end in abortion.  The Inquirer said the new policy would have far ranging social, economic, and health impacts.

An opposing position was presented by James C Capretta who wrote the piece originally for the National Review.  Capretta castigates the Obama administration for ignoring religious objections.  His argument sounded more partisan than reasoned.  Capretta’s primary objection came out after first shedding a tear for the Catholic Church position.

Capretta holds that the Affordable Health Care Act should never have been passed in the first place.  He said the law places too much power in the hands of the government and by definition, this is a dangerous move.

This scuffle between supporters of AHCA and those opposed is reminiscent of children fighting and not remembering exactly why the fight began.  The US has a health care delivery system which is by far the costliest in the world, does not include everyone, and produced outcomes that vary widely and on average are just average when compared to other modern countries.  America’s health care system is badly need of repair.

The AHCA act fixes some of the short comings but does little to address the costs.  We must remember, however, that the AHCA was the best compromise the President could get.  That means that if the President had decided not to accept half a loaf, we all would have gotten nothing.  All the injustices of the previous health care delivery system would have been in place and just as costly as always.

The future lies not in politically driven government agency like the HHS deciding health care options for Americans.  We need a national, non-partisan, medically driven body.  The time is way overdue for America to join the modern world and provide affordable universal health care options to all Americans.

With a universal health care approach, the Catholic Church could continue to preach the absence of any types of birth control.  Its members as well as all other Americans could continue to decide for themselves.   Employers need not be involved.

Unfortunately the three articles I have mentioned from the Inquirer begin the conversation, but do not offer a path forward.  Maybe I just must be more patient.



Thinking Outside The Condom

February 2, 2012

The latest brouhaha over fundamental women’s rights has lassoed men too.  For unknown political reasons, but eminently sensible medical ones, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has issued on behalf of the Obama Administration a ruling which mandates that all employers must offer health care plans which include contraceptive methods free of charge to all employees.  The Catholic Church is up in arms about this, claiming it violates their freedom of religion.  Can you say that with a straight face?

Soon to be Cardinal Timothy Dolan can.  Somewhat like Bill Clinton, Cardinal Dolan expressively tells interviewers that birth control of any type, save abstinence, violates Catholic beliefs.  On this point there is no question the Cardinal is telling the truth.

On a visit to aids infested Africa, Pope Benedict told his hosts they should not use condoms and instead not engage in sex.  The Pope’s advice needless to say shocked the world and appeared totally out of touch with how the real world operates.  While theologically sound, the Popes words echoed an unreal quality.

In an ABC News report citing a Catholic University study, 95% of catholic women use birth control methods and 85% favor a change in church teachings.  We must also remember that the Catholic Church lobbied hard during the formation the Affordable Health Care Act to strike any provisions that might condone abortion rights.  To Catholic officials, no reform, meaning the continuation of 30 million without coverage and the arbitrary right of insurance companies to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions, was preferred over respecting a woman’s right to choose.

The Catholic Church should remember the government ruling applies to everyone and are not targeted at Catholics.  Individual Catholics are under no pressure to use contraceptives.

And most obviously, the end of the bus line is where the non-catholic (or catholic practicing) world begins.

A Laser Tax?

May 2, 2009

This past week Senator Bob Casey voted to approve Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. No big deal since Casey is a Democrat and Sebelius was Democratic President Barack Obama’s pick. No big deal except Casey is an outspoken pro-lifer, a Catholic, and a regular church goer. On top of that Scranton Catholic Church Bishop, Joseph Marino, had strongly urged Casey to vote against Sebelius. Bishop Marino used the old saw, “Casey might not be worthy to receive communion” if he voted for Sebelius.

Casey did vote for Sebelius and pointed out the larger picture. Kathleen Sebelius was a very qualified candidate and the work of the Department of Health and Human Services oversees a wide portfolio of activities and only tangentially gets involved with the pro-choice issue. Most urgent in Sebelius’s duties is the national response to the Swine Flu influenza.

Marino’s words are typical of most secular extremists. While I personally find it out of place for any man to speak against a woman’s right to anything and especially her right to reproductive health, Marino’s words go well beyond that. He was using the soft but real power of the Catholic Church to influence the direction and workings of the US Government. This is certainly Marino’s right when exercised privately within the voting booth. It is totally out of bounds, however, when he says it from the pulpit.

Religion is by definition a matter of faith. There is no proof that what ever the religion’s teaching might be are true or is there a stream of logic that can reach the teaching through a series of hypothesis and proofs. But for many people, their faith is miles deep and a very important part of their mental make up. Thinking Catholics need a “heads up” on the use of this type of tactic (denying communion) and recognize it for what it is, “psychological blackmail”.

Meddling into the public sector (with his religious robes on), could and should be punished quickly with measures the Catholic Church can understand.  A “laser tax”, aimed directly at the offending religious official that would in effect revoke for 60 to 90 days the tax free status of Bishop Marino’s Scranton church.

Woman Beating, Anyone?

April 28, 2009

Senate Republican leaders are taking aim once more at their feet, and it seems Governor Kathleen Sebelius may be in the way.  Sebelius has been nominated by President Obama to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services.  Kansas Governor Sebelius who was elected twice by Kansas voters, who usually vote Republican, has received high marks for even handed leadership.  What could be the reasons to threaten to derail her nomination?

Leave it to Republicans to rise high on their horse and cite Sebelius’s support of a womans right to reproductive health.  They posture and strut around, and then say things like, “we need to know about her views on abortion and her association with a late term abortionist?”  It makes no difference what Governor Sebelius thinks about either of these questions, she is being nominated to run a Government agency and is bound by the laws of the land.

There has not been a single issue around whether Governor Sebelius can lead the sprawling department.  There is also no argument that it is important to fill the Secretary position and get on with business, especially with a world pandemic raging with its ultimate impact still uncertain.

The Catholic Church has, on its own, spoken out against Governor Sebelius citing her pro-choice position as the litmus test.  How an organization that contains an estimated one thirds homosexuals (and denies it… gays must not tell!), continues to experience pedophilia (and claims it is just a few bad apples), and has consistently denied woman priesthood (and kept woman in as lowly roles as possible), can continue to speak on denying a woman a non-sectarian government role for her private views, is a lot to swallow.

This is an issue that the Obama Administration should fight to the end.  While Governor Sebelius is well qualified, she is not the only person for this job.  Rather, this type of obstructionism based upon sectarian views is wrong and dangerous to our Country’s future.