Directors of the Alliance of Baptists described the expansion of Medicaid — a federal program that provides matching funds to states to provide health insurance for Americans who cannot afford to pay for it themselves — as a moral issue in a statement adopted Oct. 1.
“Health care is not a privilege for the wealthy but a God-breathed right for all God’s children as shown in the ministry and miracles of Jesus,” said the statement passed during a Sept. 29-Oct. 1 board meeting in Vienna, Va.
The expansion of Medicaid, the nation’s primary source of health insurance coverage for low-income populations, was intended as a key component in the Affordable Care Act plan to significantly reduce the number of uninsured Americans.
The law previously required states to expand coverage to everyone making less than 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level or lose federal funding to Medicaid. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2012 that part of the law was unconstitutionally coercive, and as of the end of 2015, 19 states had refused to expand Medicaid.
“This has left more than 30 million poor Americans — about 10 percent of the population — without any viable access to health care insurance,” Alliance directors said in the statement. “Of note, the majority of those uninsured are people of color and more than four million of these are children.”
“In order to reduce the anxiety, suffering and pain of the uninsured in our nation,” Alliance leaders urged all states to expand Medicaid so that all citizens earning up to 138 percent of the poverty line would have access to health insurance.
Alliance directors urged congregations to provide educational presentations and workshops in communities were Medicaid expansion has not occurred to provide accurate information on what health care is available to uninsured people in the area.
The statement urged partnerships between health organizations and faith communities to promote justice for individuals without health care and encouraged individuals to write state officials and governors asking them to expand Medicaid now.
Daniel Miles, an Alliance of Baptists hospital chaplain and member of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., said the bulk of money that comes from Medicaid goes to hospitals and health-care facilities that have depended on the money for years.
When state governors and legislators refuse to accept that money for fear the Affordable Care Act will require some politically untenable act in exchange, Miles said, they effectively cut millions of dollars from the operating budgets of hospitals.
“Medicaid money is used primarily to help support the health care of people who are poor, unemployed and uninsured, but because this amounts to money that hospitals can’t count on in their budgets, it ends up affecting all patients,” Miles said.
“I know that my hospital responded to the million-dollar shortfall by laying off staff, discontinuing non-essential programs like child life specialists, and raising the health-care costs for people who could pay.”
“The refusal to expand Medicaid negatively affects every citizen of the state, and it is a purely political move aimed at expressing displeasure with the Affordable Care Act,” Miles said.
Other resolutions adopted during the meeting by Alliance directors encouraged white Baptists to buy into the Black Lives Matter movement, called on the United States to increase the number of refugees allowed into the country and urged lifting the more than 50-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.