WASHINGTON, D.C., June 29, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Sr. Carol Keehan, the president of the Catholic Health Association, has said her group is “pleased” that the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In a separate, simultaneous response the U.S. Catholic bishops pointed to the bill’s “fundamentally flawed” treatment of conscience rights and urged passage of legislation to fix the massive reform bill.

“We are pleased that, based on an initial read of the ruling, the ACA has been found constitutional and will remain in effect,” said Sr. Keehan in a statement Thursday. She noted that CHA supported the health care law so strongly that “we signed onto amicus briefs encouraging the Court to find in favor of the ACA’s individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion.”

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The Catholic Health Association’s support of ACA deepens a rift between the hospital association and the Catholic bishops that traces back to at least 2009, when the group pledged its funding and support to the Obama administration for the reform effort. Since then, Sr. Keehan and CHA have repeatedly been used by ACA’s liberal supporters to downplay the strong protests of the Catholic bishops, who have blamed Sr. Keehan both for the passage of the bill and for the “wound to Catholic unity” caused by her dissent on the issue.

CHA recently reversed its position on the controversial HHS mandate to comport with nationwide Christian protest against forcing religious employers to cover contraceptives and abortifacients, but began pushing a compromise that U.S. bishops had deemed inadequate last September.

CHA concluded its Thursday statement by saying the group “will continue working closely with our members, Congress and the administration to implement the ACA as fairly and effectively as possible.” The group said its position may be updated as it “tak[es] time to carefully read and evaluate the decision,” although the CHA website showed no change as of Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued its own reaction on Thursday noting that, although the bishops had no position on the issue before the high court, the result ended in upholding a bill fundamentally flawed in other respects.

“USCCB’s position on health care reform generally and on ACA particularly is a matter of public record,” the group wrote. “The bishops ultimately opposed final passage of ACA for several reasons.”

The bishops go on to list the bill’s use of federal funds to pay for abortions and abortion insurance, emphasizing that “the risk we identified in this area has already materialized,” as well as the bill’s lack of basic conscience protection language, “illustrated in dramatic fashion” by the HHS mandate. The bishops also point to the ACA’s neglect of immigrant workers and families, including those using their own money.

Although they do not aim to repeal the entire health care law, the bishops said, “The decision of the Supreme Court neither diminishes the moral imperative to ensure decent health care for all, nor eliminates the need to correct the fundamental flaws described above. We therefore continue to urge Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, legislation to fix those flaws.”