With open enrollment for Obamacare now open, one health care organization is encouraging people to purchase insurance coverage that respects their conscience and religious beliefs.

CMF CURO, a Catholic living health care ministry offered by the Christ Medicus Foundation, gives customers coverage consistent with Catholic teachings, according to its website.

The organization hosted a panel Wednesday in the District of Columbia metro area featuring representatives from both the legal and medical profession.

“It’s open enrollment and millions of Americans will be making decisions for themselves about what health care program to choose,” said Louis Brown, director of CMF CURO. “We are here today to urge people of goodwill to make health care choices that respect life and human dignity.”

Brown said that it is the group’s goal for Americans across the country to choose plans “consistent with the culture of life.”

>>> Catholic Health Care Sharing Ministry Looks to Expand With Advent of New Obamacare Enrollment

While the Obamacare mandate is viewed in many respects as a negative presence in the health care industry, moderator Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor-at-large for National Review Online, said that it has strengthened the resolve of what health care is, specifically Catholic health care.

“One of the blessings of the Obamacare mandate is that it has forced us to look at the question, ‘What is Catholic health care now?’” Lopez said.

Dr. Lester Ruppersberger, the president for the Catholic Medical Association, said that Obamacare has essentially done the opposite of what it promised to do.

“Forty-six percent of uninsured adults say that they tried to get coverage, but could not afford it,” Ruppersberger said. “The miss-insurance of America is a universal phenomenon. This crisis is affecting the parent-physician relationship.”

According to Ruppersberger, he believes the Catholic Church is well-equipped to have a massive impact in the health care market.

“The Catholic Church is the largest provider of health care outside of the U.S.,” Ruppersberger said. “The [Catholic] Church manages 26 percent of the world’s health care.”

The challenge, according to Ruppersberger, is to create new incentives that work for families and individuals so that they can make decisions based on their conscience.

Ruppersberger believes there are six primary tenets to achieving this goal:

  • First is individual ownership of insurance. Ruppersberger said that customized plans help individuals get exactly what they want and cut out unnecessary fluff.
  • Second is freedom from health insurance mandates. Due to the fact that so many are losing coverage because of Obamacare, freedom from mandates allows people to keep plans that are consistent with their needs and desires.
  • Third is the ability to choose private health care policies. Ruppersberger referenced the fact that congressmen are able to choose their own health care plans.
  • Fourth is the usage of health care savings accounts, which can allow individuals to save money for a time when they may experience a medical emergency.
  • Fifth is the protection of conscience rights. Ruppersberger said that health care providers should never be forced to violate their conscience when caring for a patient.
  • Sixth, and finally, Ruppersberger said he would support experimenting in diocesan, or explicitly Catholic, insurance plans. He would even consider developing a national health care plan that would respect the conscience rights of people of faith.

Dr. Marguerite Duane, a board-certified family physician and adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University, said she believes the crisis in the health care community stems from the fact that the industry is grossly overpriced.

“Most of our health care costs don’t actually cover health care,” Duane said. “It covers the administrative bureaucracy within health care.”

The solution to this problem, according to Duane, is to offer the option of a direct primary care program that “restores the physician-patient relationship.”

Direct primary care, Duane said, removes red tape and makes the doctor-patient relationship extraordinarily efficient.

“When you actually spend time with your patients and get bureaucracy out of the waiting room … direct primary care works for everyone. It can be affordable,” Duane said.

Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, said he believes the issues of physician-assisted suicide play a significant role in the health care debate.

“In states where physician-assisted suicide is legal,” Bowman said, “patients with terminal illnesses are forced to see doctors who think death and life are options.”

Due to the high stakes of a new Congress taking over after the election, Brown, the CMF CURO director, emphasized that the health care debate is critically important regarding matters of religious freedom.

“We are losing our religious freedom at an amazing speed,” Brown said. “The issue of religious freedom is so important because it determines who people really are. As Americans, we are a people of freedom and a people of life … religious freedom is the first freedom.”