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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

March 23, 2010

The Health Care Reform Law and Catholic Social Teaching

The signing of the new Health Care Law has enormous implications for Catholic social justice in the United States.  Many social justice teachers have focused a large amount of time on the need for health insurance for the estimated 46 million Americans without medical coverage.  Below are some suggestions for teaching about this new law  in the context of Catholic Social Teaching. 

Objective:  Students will be able to decide if the new health care law is in accordance with the Catholic Social Teaching. 

Suggestions for Instruction: 

1.      Open with the Prayer for the Uninsured

2.      Introduce the topic of healthcare reform by showing a video depicting the stories of people who suffer without insurance (see below).  Also, show the statistics for the uninsured in America.

3.      Discuss what the students know and understand about the recent healthcare law.  Ask, “What can you tell me about the law?  What are the benefits?  What are its shortcomings?”

4.      Then, ask students whether or not they think the law lives up to the standards of Catholic social teaching on the topic of healthcare.

5.      Present students with information about Catholic social teaching on healthcare.  Start by reading or posting on the board the USCCB Position on Health Care Reform.  Have the students break into groups of 3 or 4. Distribute quote clippings from Vatican Documents Addressing Health Care and the USCCB’s Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform.  Have each group read and summarize their quotes to the class. 

6.      Create a two-column notes sheet.  Have the students fold a piece of notebook paper in half (long-way/hotdog-style).  Have them label the left side “Catholic Teaching on Healthcare” and on the right side “Health Care Reform Bill.”  Give the students five minutes to study the documents and information about Catholic teaching on health care and have them list points that summarize the Church’s position. 

7.      Present the Details of the Current Bill.  Use one of the news sources below or have the students research the details on their own.  Have them list the main points on the right side of their two-column notes sheets. (You may also want to compare the main points to the Bishop's statement prior to the House voting on the bill.  Specifically, did the new law eliminate the funding for abortion? Does the law provide universal coverage?)

8.      Direct the students to the two-column notes sheet.  Have them circle the similarities between the bill and the Church’s teaching on health care.  Discuss the similarities and differences. 

9.      Using their two-column notes sheets, have the students write a short essay on whether or not the new Health Care Law lives up to the Catholic Church’s teachings on healthcare.  Have them cite at least three reasons for their answers. 

10.  Close by inviting the students to write a letter or an email to their local U.S. representative, senator, or the President.  They can find their representative at

Disclaimer:  This is a very politicized issue.  We have tried to find unbiased representations of this topic.  Please use your judgment in determining which resources to use and be careful not to let your own personal political views in either support or opposition to the law stand in the way of presenting the issue to the students. 

Background Information for Students to Encounter 

The impact on the uninsured in America
·        YouTube Video on “The Uninsured” by CBS News:
·        St. Anthony Foundation in San Fransisco and the “Working Uninsured”:
·        The movie John Q

Catholic Church’s teaching on healthcare:
·        Center of USCCB resources on Health Care Reform:
·        FAQs on Bishops and Health Care:
·        Overview of Health Care Reform on USCCB website:
·        Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care Services (11/27/2009):
·        Recent letter to the House of Representatives (3/20/2010):
·        A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform (6/18/1993):
·        Quotes from Vatican Documents Addressing Health Care:

The details of the new Health Care Law:  
·        Health Care Reform Bill Summary (CBS News):
·        How the Health Bill Could Affect You:

Have other sources we should include?  Post the news stories or statements that you have found helpful for your students in the comment section below. 


1 Nick Senger

March 23, 2010
Great lesson! Lot of great resources on a complex issue. I'm spreading the word about it on Catholic School Chronicle and Twitter!

2 Jared Dees, M.Ed.

March 23, 2010
Here is an interactive timeline of health care reform in the U.S. from the New York Times:

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