FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Jan. 20, 2011)
United Methodist social agency supports position of interreligious faith-based office and Faithful Reform in Health Care letter to members of Congress
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) has spoken out against efforts in the 112th Congress to repeal the “Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act of 2010” (ACA).
The United Methodist Church believes health care is “a basic human right.” The denomination’s Social Principles state that “it is a governmental responsibility to provide all citizens with health care (¶162 V. “Right to Health Care).
The General Board of Church & Society reiterated these positions of the denomination’s highest policy-making entity, the General Conference, this week.
The Faithful Reform in Health Care coalition, along with the Washington (D.C.) Interreligious Staff Community (WISC) that comprises many national faith-based organizations, signed a letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives reminding them of the important protections for Americans built into the new health-care law. The General Board of Church & Society is a member of both Faithful Reform in Health Care and WISC.
“People of faith have worked for decades in support of quality and affordable health care for all because we see it as a moral calling,” the coalition letter states. “We truly believe that our nation is endowed with the talents, wisdom and sufficient resources to meet the health-care needs of one another.”
Jim Winkler, GBCS’s chief executive, also writes this week in the agency’s e-newsletter, “Faith in Action,” that it is in the interest of society to ensure people continue to contribute to the common good. “After all, there are those among us who simply cannot carry as much weight on their shoulders,” he points out. “In a society that takes a holistic view of its citizenry these things are understood. But in an individualistic society, like ours, it’s another matter entirely.”
The United Methodist Church has consistently supported efforts to provide health coverage for those who do not have it as ACA intends, according to Winkler.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that repealing the 2010 health-care reform would increase the federal deficit by almost $250 billion over the next 10 years, Winkler emphasizes. He adds that the budget office predicts this deficit would then increase by more than $1 trillion over the following decade.
Winkler stresses that many ACA provisions increase efficiency and reduce waste. “They get health care to people early in the course of a disease when it costs the least and can do the most good,” he explains. “The alternative is to wait until an emergency exists that costs significantly more and has a greatly reduced prognosis of recovery.”
The letter from Faithful Reform and WISC tells the members of Congress their constituents are praying for them as they deliberate over the “moral values” that define how the American family shares life. The letter states that until ACA was passed, the moral vision and commitment to guarantee health care for everyone was lacking, along with “the political will to insist that we use our resources effectively, efficiently and equitably.”
“We know that no single piece of legislation is perfect,” the coalition concedes, “but we believe that we took a significant step forward in laying the foundation for a health-care future that affords health, wholeness and human dignity for all.”
Winkler lists setbacks that would result if ACA is repealed:
- Children will not be able to remain on their family policies until age 26.
- There will be no safety net for poor people so that they can receive adequate health-care coverage even though they earn a small income.
- There will be no tax credits to help small businesses, including local church congregations, provide coverage to their employees.
- There will be no opportunity for individuals and small businesses to obtain, through the exchanges, affordable health insurance on advantageous terms currently available only to large employers.
- There will be no “Early Retiree Reinsurance Program” that supports employer efforts to continue offering health insurance for early retirees not yet eligible for Medicare.
- There will be no help to states’ rate review systems to help them control unreasonable premium hikes by health insurance companies.
- There will be no provisions to add solvency to Medicare as well as new benefits such as those intended to eventually close the infamous “doughnut hole.”
- There will be no tough anti-fraud provisions of the ACA.
- There will not be an additional $3 billion for community health centers.
- There will be no funding to train 16,000 new primary-care providers by 2015.
- There will be no requirement that 80% of the hard-earned money spent by health consumers for insurance premiums be actually spent on medical services.
Winkler points out that the prophet Ezekiel denounced the leader of ancient Israel whose failure of responsible government included failure to provide health care: “You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.”
Faithful Reform in Health Care and WISC attached to their letter “A Faith-Inspired Vision of Health Care,” which was signed by nearly 200 national, state and regional organizations. This vision statement “guided our deliberations about the provisions of health-care reform,” they explain. “This same vision statement guides us now as we consider how the Affordable Care Act will create a more inclusive, affordable, accessible and accountable system of health care. It informs our concern for what will be lost if health-care reform is repealed.”
The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center at the United Nations.
Faithful Reform in Health Care is a faith-based organization working fulltime with and for the faith community to help strengthen the moral and prophetic voice in support of affordable health care for all in the United States. It is a non-profit organization incorporated in Ohio. More about the coalition, the letter to Congress and “A Faith-Inspired Vision of Health Care” are available on its Web site at www.faithfulreform.org.