Pacem in Terris is “to be informed truthfully about public events” (#12). Respect for human dignity means that a person must be treated justly. Charity and basic respect are also owed to people as part of respect for their dignity.
The early experience with the ACA shows disregard for human dignity in all these ways. In its very conception, it reduces freedom in an unprecedented way: by forcing people to purchase a product or face an increasingly steep financial penalty if they don’t. It refuses to allow them to choose how to go about taking care of one of the most personal of commodities: their bodily health. They may do it only by purchasing health insurance (which, by the way, is not synonymous with health care). Further, they may for the most part purchase only the kind of insurance coverage approved by the federal government. It is likely to reduce their health care choices further by limiting who can be their medical practitioners. In effect, the ACA tells people that they are unintelligent or ignorant; they cannot be trusted to make their own health care decisions.
Truthfulness has been in short supply all along in the push for Obamacare. We went from Nancy Pelosi telling us just to wait and see what was in the law to the recent admission by HHS that it wanted people to find out about their eligibility for government subsidies before telling them what the policies would cost. All the Democratic rhetoric leading up to the passage of the ACA said that it would make health insurance less costly. As mentioned, however, the reality is very different. In most states premiums will rise, often considerably and in some cases by over 100%. Premium costs will make it difficult for some individuals and families to meet their other expenses. They face a decline of their overall standard of living—their temporal well-being, a basis for a dignified life—because of the demands of Obamacare.
Obamacare was also supposed to make coverage available to everyone, but it looks like thirty million will still be without. Some are losing the plans they already have.
Some surveys are suggesting that the ACA could result in many physicians leaving the profession. That will obviously have implications for the state of people’s health, the very aspect of temporal well-being it was supposed to improve.
The favoritism shown to members of Congress and their staffs, the members of big labor unions, and various big companies hardly bespeaks just treatment; they are treated differently than the average citizen. This is a violation of commutative justice akin to the unequal bargaining position of employers and workers alluded to by Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum (#43-45).
The ACA’s assault on privacy has been much commented on, from the stream of private medical information people must submit to sign up to the ready dangers posed by the ACA’s requirement of computerization of everyone’s medical records. If anyone believes that this is crying wolf, he should consider the leaks of confidential tax information by the IRS (the ACA’s enforcement agency) and the revelations of the near-universal NSA spying on citizen communications.
Then, there is the simple matter of the poor treatment and abject frustration faced by most people who try to sign up at the ACA websites—and the almost indifferent shrugs about it by officials. A government truly respecting its people would not have let such foreseeable systemic failure occur. We can recall John Paul II’s observation in Centesimus Annus that the welfare state is dominated more by “bureaucratic ways” than concern for serving its clients (#48).