When people hear that I, a Catholic Sister, work on healthcare in Washington, D.C., I’m met with mixed reactions. There is no doubt — many Americans have lots of feelings about the myriad issues under the healthcare umbrella. For me, it boils down to making sure that as many people as possible have access to life-saving healthcare coverage.
In 2010, I made sure that Congress knew that passing the Affordable Care Act was part of a pro-life stance, and now, over 20 million more Americans are covered because of this life-saving bill! But now, as Senate Republicans seek to rush through a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the most secretive manner, I want to call their bluff on their proclaimed pro-life stance.
I am outraged to see allegedly pro-life Republicans put forward a healthcare bill that will strip millions of people of their healthcare. Not only that, but this bill preys on the most vulnerable! This is antithetical to any faith. The House and Senate healthcare proposals are the antithesis of a pro-life stance and needs to be named as such. People will lose their lives if this bill becomes law.
It used to be very difficult for women to find insurance coverage for pre-natal and maternity care. Under current law, maternal health (pregnancy and postpartum services) is an essential benefit, which insurers must offer without charging extra. This is a pro-life benefit — but the GOP is set to eliminate the essential health benefits, including maternity care, for millions of expecting mothers.
This bill that the Senate is days away from voting on would bring us back to a time when “maternity riders” forced women to pay more than many could afford just to bring a child into the world.” This is not pro-life.
Even worse, the Republicans plan to cut and cap Medicaid funding for people with disabilities and those living below the poverty level in our nation. But what many don’t know is that 45 percent of births in the United States are paid for by Medicaid!
The Senate bill ends Medicaid as we know it, and as a result these “pro-life” members of Congress are actually disregarding the needs of moms and their newborn children. Supporting Medicaid funding is a pro-life stance.
Further, Medicaid dollars benefit seniors residing in nursing homes, including many Catholic Sisters who have served their entire lives tending to the most vulnerable. It also affects people with disabilities, whose care can be too expensive for a family to manage. But, Republican efforts to cut Medicaid funding arbitrarily will jeopardize their lives and wellbeing. Taking money away from seniors, people in poverty and people with disabilities is wrong. Everyone has a right to live in dignity.
I fight for healthcare because I fight for the lives of our people. But, I am angry that by moving ahead with their American Health Care Act spin-off, Republican Senators are only concerned with lining the pockets of the wealthiest and are doing so at the expense of Medicaid and our most vulnerable people. If Republicans are truly pro-life, then they will place people, not corporate interests, at the center of their decision-making. And, when people are healthier, we all do better.
So my pro-life colleagues: Listen up. To be pro-life requires us to care about ALL of life, not just birth or death. Mothers and their infants need medical coverage. The disabled and the elderly need the promise that they can live in dignity for their entire natural life. This means that we must not cap individual or state expenditures for Medicaid or remove services from the defined benefits. It also means that we must not block grant Medicaid to the states or institute a per capita cap.
As the richest nation on earth, we can care for all of life if we choose. All other developed nations have accomplished it. Do we have the will to put our people over yet more tax cuts for the 1 percent? As a person of faith, I say that we must. It is a mandate of my faith and a call to the common good. So Senators, please, reject the so-called “Better Care Reconciliation Act,” and let’s have a real conversation that doesn’t include 23 million Americans losing their healthcare.
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS is the executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and leader of the “Nuns on the Bus” campaign. She is a member of the Sisters of Social Service, an attorney, and a poet based in Washington, D.C.
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