I have recently been working on the issue of Medicaid Expansion in my state. With a group of other faithful people, representing 8 very different denominations, we headed to Juneau to raise this issue on moral grounds with our legislators. Other groups approach them frequently with numbers and estimates that may be based outdated studies or on manipulated information. However, when we approach healthcare coverage for those who are often on the outskirts of society, numbers cannot define our morality. If we care for one another, then everything else will fall into place. This is the position of faith.
When the Affordable Healthcare Act was passed, it set into place some puzzle pieces. Those who made above 400% of the federal poverty level were expected to either 1) be offered healthcare through their employer or 2) be able to purchase it on the “open market. Those who made between approximately 100-400% of the federal poverty level were supposed to be able to buy insurance through the exchanges. Those people earning less than 100% of the federal poverty level for whatever reason were to be covered under Medicaid expansion.
When state governments rejected the federal dollars or the plans for Medicaid expansion, they left a very vulnerable population without healthcare coverage. People who fall into this gap may choose emergency rooms for care because they do not have other options. They often remain outside resources for mental health care, physical therapy, or treatment programs.
If you have found yourself trying to have a discussion about healthcare, especially Medicaid Expansion, with brothers and sisters and are seeking more support for your moral argument, I offer the statements below.
I wrote this to take to my state legislators, but I have modified to apply to any and all states. The statements could also be adjusted to discuss why your congregation offers food resources, clothing or school supplies, or rental or utility assistance.
COMMUNITY– All people are children of God (Colossians 1:16) and we are, thus, bound beyond our differences and disagreements. As brothers and sisters in this community, we are all entitled to the benefits of being together in a system that sees and treats all citizens as equal.
HEALTH– Healthy citizens are productive citizens. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19) We do not allow the desecration of buildings that glorify God. Thus, we cannot allow disregard or disrepair to the bodies of our neighbors, which are also God’s temple, due to lack of access to affordable healthcare.
FISCAL- Most state constitutions prohibit the creation of debtors prison. Failure to provide a community safety net for emergencies, regular checkups, mental health services, or treatment programs mean that many residents of our country are but an accident or a diagnosis away from serious debt or bankruptcy. Allowing this to happen creates a de facto debtor’s prison, which violates the spirit, if not the letter, of our constitution.
MORAL– Jesus leads his disciples’ into caring for one another by example. In John 13, he washes their feet, a very necessary task at the time, and commands them to do the same for one another. The commandment extends to any who will join them in their cause. Now we would dare to call ourselves disciples and must look to how Christ humbled himself, said how no person is greater than any other in word or deed, and calls us all to service in loving our neighbors by attending to their most basic needs.
LEADERSHIP- By expanding Medicaid in country, we can indicate to the rest of the world that the United States cares for its citizens. We can be part of leading the way, breaking the cycles of oppressive fear, lack of choice, and debt that characterize the lives of many in our state. We can heed the word of the prophet and align ourselves with God’s direction to “tear off every yoke” that constricts our neighbors. (Isaiah 58:6)
SPIRITUAL- St. Paul explains that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:37-39), yet we are all capable of causing others to feel separated from the love of God through our actions. Medicaid Expansion reminds a specific portion of our neighbors, brothers and sisters, and fellow human beings that they are not forgotten. They are not taken for granted. They are not outside of God’s love or memory, nor ours.
We are called upon, compelled by the Spirit, to lift up the understanding that all people are equal in the eyes of God. It is not out of the question to expect them to be equal (and treated as such) by our national and state legislatures and leaders.