Health Care for Americans

Dear Colleagues in Christian Ministry,

I want to encourage you to be as familiar as possible with the implications of changes proposed to the current ACA provisions for healthcare for Americans. ACA never became a single payer healthcare plan as NY State is seeking to create. But after months of wrangling and numerous open meetings with healthcare professionals, insurance companies, Congressional leaders, President Obama signed into law a new way by which healthcare coverage could become available to more Americans--and many millions more are included. A list of pre-existing conditions would be covered by healthcare insurers. Perhaps many of you or people you know are recipients of this wider coverage. It has benefit clergy with young adult children, pastors themselves, congregants, and even my young adult son whose part-time employers never provided healthcare, particularly as a person with a life-long pre-existing condition.

However, since its inception a large clock of partisan Congressional representatives and senators have sought the appeal of ACA, notwithstanding months of hearings before the vote and compromises made. It might be deemed a work in progress. Some observers may point out the politics and economics at work in calls to repeal but if you look at the House and Senate bills proposed you can also find grounds upono which to call it racist, classist, and unjust for those who are eligible and ineligible. The very persons who approve or disapprove the bill lose nothing personally however the vote goes; Congress has its own separate healthcare coverage. It has no existential impact. Fro some of us, it will and it does upon children, young adults, parents, seniors, congregants, neighbors, persons in poverty or with pre-existing conditions. Some will not see the impact immediately of the proposed repeals but they will be coming as the years rolls on.

When we Presbyterians propose a change affecting the whole church or the social witness policies we ask the whole church to advocate, it does through months, sometimes years of discussion and review. Some view this as a slow process, but it is meant to allow the largest amount of voice--majority or minority--to participate in the decision-making. Some overtures may start with a single session, many presbyteries, a national church advisory committee. They still requiring open hearings and debate by the national assembly of elected commissioners before a vote is taken. It stands in stark contrast to 13 white men, meeting in secret, expecting in a few hours that 50 persons in a Senate chamber will approve a 138 page document few may have had time to personally read. It is an unconscionable way to rush through a national policy. We Presbyterians have something to say about openness and public participation and I hope all of you, if you have been able to read the bill proposed, can express the concerns of our own denomination, child and healthcare providers, the medical profession who see passage as damaging to the American public. States will have incredible rights to roll back coverage and Medicaid provisions as we know them will be reduced. It is an oxymoron to call this "national healthcare." It simply is unjust and sets the deserving vs the underserving against one another.

It is a tall order, yes.

While none of us will be free from the ills that can or will overtake us, as the cancer that claimed my 52-year old brother-in-law last week, God has called us to care for one another and to do so justly. The Scriptures tell us God shows no partiality, which challenges our humanly created barriers not only in healthcare, but in race relations, education, employment, housing, with immigrants and refugees. It is a tall order, yes. But the consequences of not doing so have resulted in widespread ill health, loss of life, warfare, depletion of resources and God sending prophets to warn us or calling us to repent. The intersections of systemic injustices in many areas cited above contribute to healthcare crises within human lives and the institutions and companies that serve persons. I pray we Presbyterians can address systemic injustices operating in church and society, and one place to act is with the healthcare policy the Senate proposes.


The Rev. Robert Foltz-Morrison
Executive Presbyter