Agudath Israel, Reform praise Obama on universal health care

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two Jewish religious streams praised President Obama’s efforts to achieve universal health care.

Statements this week from the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis and Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox umbrella group, praised the president for pressing toward universal coverage.

The Reform rabbis’ statement lambasted the distortions of some opponents of the plan.

"We deplore the spreading of calumnies by those who would falsely claim that proposed reforms would set up ‘death panels’ or would mandate government-funded abortions," the statement said. "The CCAR has long supported both reproductive liberty and early, proactive end-of-life decision making. We are pleased that proposed legislation would provide incentives to physicians engaged in critical conversations with their patients. We would oppose further restrictions to abortion care access in any health care reform package."

Agudath Israel’s letter to President Obama said efforts to "make health care more accessible to the uninsured and underinsured should be applauded."

It made the case for ensuring the continuance of the physician-patient statement under any system that emerges.

Bureaucrats, the letter said, may not recognize the priorities of patients as acutely as doctors: "What of the anguish of infertile husbands and wives? Will treatment be withheld if the ‘cost-benefit’ ratio is too high?"

The Agudath Israel letter also urged taking into account patients’ different religious outlooks.

"Jewish tradition places great emphasis on the preservation of human life, which retains its sanctity even under the most dire of medical circumstances," the letter said. "As such, Jewish law may require medical interventions that others might not regard as ‘quality enhancing’ or ‘cost effective.’"

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