2017 Statements from Faith Leaders

Because of the numbers of persons who would lose access to affordable quality health care in the current proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the Washington Interreligious Staff Community (WISC) Health Care Working Group has been actively engaged in resisting repeal and replacement efforts. Statements from leaders of the organizations represented in these efforts are listed below.

Responses to the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA)
proposed by the U.S. Senate (June 22, 2017)

— Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice:  “The ‘plan’ unveiled by Senate Republicans today continues to be un-American. Their mission is clear: the GOP wants to push people off of healthcare coverage in order to give more tax breaks to the very wealthy. This bill is a crass political calculation carried out by 13 white, male Senators who are out of touch with the realities of millions of ordinary families in every state. They are about raw power – not working for the common good. Democracy works best when there are hearings, debate, and discussion to craft a bill that works for everyone, not just a few Senators. My faith challenges me to heal the sick and care for the widow and the orphan. This Republican bill does the opposite. This is not the faithful way forward. We urge a NO vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act.”

— Reverend Jimmie Hawkins, Director, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness: “The draconian cuts to heath care are an unacceptable threat to God’s people, particularly those who have the least access to resources in our society. Passing this bill means that people will die from lack of healthcare, a reality that we as Presbyterians cannot accept. We urge all Senators of good conscience to recognize their responsibility to vote NO on the Better Care Reconciliation Act.”

— Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism: “We vehemently oppose the Senate health care proposal released today. The bill’s devastating cuts and restructuring of Medicaid will profoundly and negatively impact our nation’s most vulnerable—low-income Americans, the elderly, children, and people with disabilities. Jewish tradition’s emphasis on caring for the sick and uplifting those in need inspires us to demand that the Senate reject this harmful legislation and work to expand, not restrict, access to affordable health care.”

— Reverend David Beckman, President, Bread for the World: “Ending the Medicaid expansion at a slower rate still means that millions of Americans will have their health care coverage taken away. Senators who support this bill will be voting to take away health insurance from the elderly, the disabled, and children. Medical bills often drive families, especially those who struggle to make ends meet, into hunger and poverty. Instead of making our health care system worse, Congress should strive to improve the system so that all Americans have the health care coverage they need.”

— Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland Tune, Director, Ecumenical Poverty Initiative: “We are deeply disappointed in the Senate version of the AHCA, which will negatively impact millions of Americans including the poorest in our nation, children and the elderly. The cuts to Medicaid are reprehensible and the planned phaseout will put people’s lives in jeopardy and make America sick again. It seems that the thirteen Senators who drafted this bill have had their moral compass demagnetized by political posturing, an unhealthy desire to dismantle, rather than fix, the Affordable Care Act, and to pay for tax breaks for the wealthiest in our nation– all at the expense of the American people. This is both shameful and unjust. We call on U.S. Senators to put people first. Reject this bill by voting against it. Lives are at stake and so is the moral fabric of our nation.”

— Rev. Jason Carson Wilson, Justice & Peace Policy Fellow, United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were promised to us all. Deep Medicaid cuts are destined to bring death and sadness to many. Children, seniors and people living with disabilities’ lives hang in the balance. As a follower of Jesus, I’m called to comfort the afflicted. Drastic Medicaid cuts will only create more chaos and pain for those already facing challenges. What would Jesus do? He would champion healthcare for all.”

— Diane Randall, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation: “The Senate version of the AHCA is beyond irresponsible; it is immoral. The draconian cuts and restructuring of Medicaid do nothing to address instability in the marketplace or lower premiums. Instead, states will be forced to eliminate health services, leaving millions without access to needed care. These Medicaid cuts will fall particularly hard on low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Never before have I seen legislation that would do so much harm to senators’ own constituents, especially for families struggling to make ends meet. Rather than cutting Medicaid in a rushed and secretive process, Congress should work in a bipartisan and responsible manner to truly address the real problems within America’s health care system.”

— Larry Couch, Director, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd: “This Wanton Disregard For Human Life Must Be Stopped.” “Learning about the proposed deep cuts in Medicaid passed by the House of Representatives, the American people looked to the Senate.  Sadly, the Senate plan proposes even deeper cuts in Medicaid.  This wanton disregard for human life must be stopped.  Millions of children living in poverty, people with disabilities, and older people in nursing homes will be denied life-saving medicine and care.  Call your legislators today to stop this vicious attack on the most vulnerable people in our communities.”

— Albert Pless, President of American Muslim Health Professionals: “As an organization that strives to care for the most vulnerable members of our society, discussions surrounding the repeal of the ACA have been deeply distressing. Given that ACA has impacted the lives of many – most notably, those hard-to-reach members of our community who would otherwise not know where to go to begin the process of obtaining health coverage, it is critical we oppose any bill that seeks to eliminate care. We urge all Senators to vote against the Better Care Reconciliation Act. ”

— Sister Carol Keehan, President & Chief Executive Officer Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA):  “CHA is strongly opposed to the Senate Better Care Reconciliation Act. Just like the House passed American Health Care Act, the Senate proposal will have a devastating impact on our nation’s most vulnerable populations. After weeks of working behind closed doors, and despite claims that the Senate would start over and develop its own legislation, there is very little that differs from the House bill. The small tweaks made in the newly released Senate bill do not change the fact that millions will lose their health care especially through a complete restructuring and deep federal funding reduction to the Medicaid program.

We can and must do better on behalf of all those who rely on our nation’s health care programs and providers. We recommend a new bipartisan focus to make improvements in our health care system that will stabilize the insurance market, improve affordability and strengthen and expand health coverage.”  Read the full statement

–Interfaith Disability Advocacy Collaborative:  The undersigned members of the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Collaborative (IDAC) share serious concerns with aspects of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) and its injurious impact on people with disabilities… As people of faith, we believe all people are entitled to receive the medical treatment they need. We are compelled to ensure that this is a reality for individuals with disabilities. Through our faith traditions, we learn to see the Divine image in every person. Disabilities affect all people—of all races, genders, incomes, ages, and religions— and nearly one in five Americans live with some form of a disability. Our religious traditions leave no doubt that providing for the health and dignity of people is among the most important duties of a just society. We cannot abide the harm that the proposed cuts to Medicaid would exact on millions in our communities. Read the full statement

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Responses to American Health Care Act (AHCA)
passed by the U.S. House of Representatives (May 4, 2017)

— The Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary, United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society:  “Tragically, we find again and again that health care succumbs to political gamesmanship rather than legislating for the common good – and health – of all people.”

— Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, Director, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness:  “The AHCA is not a practical response to the demand to repeal and replace the ACA. We can remedy high premiums without dismantling healthcare that millions of people from the margins rely on.”

— The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): “I am saddened that our elected officials played politics with and bargained away the lives of the 24 million Americans who will lose health care coverage under the American Health Care Act.  Hebrew and Christian Scriptures urge us to “rob not the poor” (Proverbs 22:22) and “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).  Jesus, whom we follow, made healing and wholeness a high priority in his ministry.  I join with other people from all faith traditions to pray that, unlike the House, the Senate will meet its moral responsibility to defend and expand affordable, quality health care for all.”

— Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis and wider Reform Movement:  “We are deeply disheartened by the passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in the House of Representatives, legislation that would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and cost millions of people access to the quality, affordable health care that should be a right. This reverses the tremendous progress that has been made in recent years to increase the number of Americans with health insurance. We urgently call on the Senate to reject this profoundly harmful legislation.”

“The stakes could not be higher. While Congress is rushing through this reckless legislation without an evaluation from the Congressional Budget Office, the last CBO scoring of the bill estimated that 24 million Americans would lose coverage by 2026 under the AHCA. Many of these losses would stem from an $840 billion cut to Medicaid—a measure that would force people with disabilities and low-income children and families into particularly perilous circumstances. The legislation also removes protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and allows insurance companies to provide health plans with insufficient coverage. Leaving millions of people without health care would be a moral failure.”

“We are inspired by the example set over many centuries in Jewish tradition, which instructs communities to provide health care to their inhabitants (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot IV: 23). Health care is a core aspect of a society of equality and justice. We are not deterred in our pursuit of affordable, high-quality health care for all Americans, and we remain committed to creating a world in which no one has to choose between their health and their financial stability.”

“We strongly oppose the AHCA, and we call on all Senators to reject this reckless and irresponsible legislation that would harm millions of Americans.”

— Institute Justice Team of the Sisters of Mercy:  The Institute Justice Team of the Sisters of Mercy is profoundly dismayed that the House of Representatives failed to uphold the human right to health care with passage of the American Health Care Act.

Independent analysis of the legislation when introduced earlier this year revealed that 14 million fewer people would have healthcare coverage in the first year of its implementation, with an additional 10 million people losing coverage over the next 10 years. Since then, provisions were added that weaken protections under the Affordable Care Act for people with pre-existing conditions. You may read here the Catholic Health Association’s statement of opposition to the bill.

Pope Francis, speaking to members of a medical missionary organization last year, said: “health is not a consumer good, but rather a universal right, and therefore access to health care services cannot be a privilege.” This legislation fails that test.

The process for rushing this bill to a vote to get a deal at any expense, this time without even the usual analysis of its cost and impact on healthcare coverage, is deeply troubling. And the focus of many too often seemed to be on politics rather than on the implications for vulnerable Americans.

The Institute Justice Team will work with our faith partners to lift up the concerns of those who stand to lose so much with this legislation, as the bill moves now to the Senate for consideration. We will not cease calling for an approach that lowers costs and increases access to health care for more Americans.

 — Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice:  “The blood of those who are denied coverage will be on the hands of those who voted for this bill.”

“The passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in the House is a dangerous and irresponsible step that threatens access to healthcare for at least 24 million Americans. It violates Christian and Catholic faith teaching and the values of our nation.

”The AHCA cuts $880 billion from Medicaid to give large tax cuts to the very wealthiest. This is far from the Gospel mandate to care for our most vulnerable sisters and brothers. It takes away access to healthcare for the most vulnerable and widens the gaps in inequality in our society. This vote was a vote against the millions of children, elderly, people living with disabilities, and people experiencing poverty who are supported by Medicaid.

“In order to appease the Freedom Caucus, the bill was amended to strip crucial protections for the millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions. The recent changes also gutted the Essential Health Benefit requirements that have expanded access to real, quality, health coverage. Despite these drastic changes, Congress rushed this terrible policy through without a Congressional Budget Office score to know the true consequences and without listening to the needs of the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose the AHCA.

“This was not the faithful way forward. We are hurting our people and rewarding the rich through tax breaks disguised as a healthcare reform bill. This is literal “blood money.” The blood of those who are denied coverage will be on the hands of those who voted for this bill.

“NETWORK published our 10 Commandments of Healthcare Reform based on our faith teaching to protect the most vulnerable. The bill that Speaker Ryan pushed through Congress today fails every single commandment. This is not faithful.

“The Republican party must change its priorities. Rather than preferencing the millionaires and billionaires, they need to begin to listen to their ordinary constituents. Ordinary people want to improve the healthcare we have, not destroy it.”