Joining America’s Catholic bishops, who recently described the measure as “unacceptable,” the NETWORK lobby for social justice led by Sister Simone Campbell is delivering a letter signed by 7,150 Catholics to senators, urging them “to reject the Better Care Reconciliation Act and any other legislation that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid.”
The women religious attempted to get their letter in the hands of senators Monday, the day before another vote is expected on the senate’s bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
In the countdown to the vote, President Donald Trump has pressed at least one senator who had stated that she would vote “no” to change course. Senator Shelley Capito from West Virginia announced over the weekend that she’s open to supporting the senate bill, after Trump “assured me we are on the same page.”
However, the president still supports major cuts to Medicaid, and Capito continues to say Medicaid expansion is very important to her state, so it’s unclear exactly what page they are both on.
The U.S. bishops’ conference announced in June that it opposed an earlier version of the Senate, and after some modifications in mid-July, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said there had not been enough improvement to change that judgment.
“We recognize the incremental improvement in funding the fight against opioid addiction, for instance, but more is needed to honor our moral obligation to our brothers and sisters living in poverty and to ensure that essential protections for the unborn remain in the bill,” Dewane said July 13.
The letter Campbell and others are presenting to senators states, “As Catholic women religious, we have witnessed firsthand the moral crisis of lack of quality, affordable healthcare in this country. We have seen early and avoidable deaths because of lack of insurance, prohibitive costs, and lack of access to quality care.
“We fought for the expansion of coverage in the Affordable Care Act because we saw the life-giving value of crucial healthcare programs such as Medicaid,” the sisters’ letter says. “This program covers over 70 million Americans, including children, pregnant women (and nearly half of all births in this country), people with disabilities, people struggling to get by, and senior citizens.
“Further,” the letter states, “some of our fellow women religious rely on Medicaid in nursing homes when we can no longer care for our sisters at home.”
Sister Carol Keehan, President and CEO of the Catholic Health Association is a signatory to the letter.
“After careful study, CHA is convinced that both the Senate and House bill would have incredibly negative consequences,” Keehan said. “Neither bill is worthy of the American people, and should be opposed.”
“We applaud legislators, both Republican and Democratic, who have called for a bipartisan effort to get a bill that truly helps this country have available, accessible and affordable health care for all,” Keehan said.
“We hope that Congress can now turn a page and open a new chapter,” she said. “This country needs and deserves a healthcare bill that truly delivers quality and affordable healthcare to all Americans. There is the competence and resources to do this if we work together. Health is too critical to be allowed to be a partisan issue. CHA stands ready to work with all members of Congress to achieve this.”
One of Keehan’s complaints about both the house and senate bills was that nobody consulted those who will be most affected by the legislation, and who have the most expertise on healthcare. The secrecy of both processes, and the fact that most of the senate itself did not know what was in the bill before it was brought to the floor, has been a running critique.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, for instance, said on Monday that she believed there would be a vote on Tuesday, but that she had no idea what they would be voting on.