Archbishop Hebda, Lutheran leaders oppose Medicaid cuts in health care proposals

| July 14, 2017 | 4 Comments

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis was among Lutheran and Catholic leaders who called for health care policies that wouldn’t leave Americans “uninsured or without access to health care” amid attempts from the Republican-led Congress to repeal and replace the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.

In a July 14 letter to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the leaders wrote that the two faith communities are committed to serving people in need — especially the poor, elderly, chronically ill, immigrants and disabled.

“As reflected in the hospitals and clinics established and supported by the faithful of our communities, we see caring for the sick and elderly as a core, not optional, component of living our faith and loving our neighbor,” the letter stated. “These long-held common values make us deeply disturbed about what is at stake this year as Congress prepares to overhaul our nation’s health care.”

Signing the letter with Archbishop Hebda were the Rev. Patricia Lull, bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Rev. Ann Svennungsen, bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Tim Marx, CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis; and Jodi Harpstead, CEO of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.

Specifically, the leaders said proposed health care reforms “suffer from a number of defects,” especially cuts to Medicaid, which they noted provides essential care and security to a variety of “vulnerable people” — from children to retirees.

The letter closed: “We acknowledge the difficulties associated with balancing competing interests and crafting legislation for health care that would be both accessible and affordable. We need to have legitimate, open debate about budgets in our democracy and about how to model our health care system for maximum cost effectiveness. But our faith, and in fact our American values, make it imperative that those models include the delivery of dignified health care even to those whose circumstances cause them to struggle to afford it.”

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  • Charles C.

    Three dioceses in Minnesota have cut staff, operations, and declared bankruptcy in the last few years. Churches and schools closed. They just didn’t have enough money. Operations weren’t “sustainable.”

    The following was reported in 2012, after the effects of Obamacare were becoming known.

    “Thirteen states are moving to cut Medicaid by reducing benefits, paying health providers less or tightening eligibility, even as the federal government prepares to expand the insurance program for the poor to as many as 17 million more people.

    States routinely trim the program as tough times drive up enrollment and costs. But the latest reductions – which follow more extensive cuts last year — threaten to limit access to care for some of its 60 million recipients.”

    As access to care is the one, major, sticking point for our good Archbishop, perhaps we can hear the condemnations he might have uttered at that time, or perhaps some of the solutions proposed? (How do I know that is the sticking point? Obamacare was supported by the bishops even without life or conscience protections.)

    How do we get a moral good from the idea of government health care for anyone who happens to be inside our borders? To pay for it, the government must go to it’s citizens and, with the threat of jail, force them to give the government money which it will use in a predictably inefficient manner to pay medical bills. That is, assuming enough doctors and hospitals are willing to accept the reduced payments.

    “There are a plethora of reasons why a Catholic citizen may choose not to support a government reform of health care. He might consider it a statist provision which robs him of his self-determination and chips away at his individual liberties. He may believe that it’s financially irresponsible. Maybe he’s lived for a time in a country that has government administered health care and knows, first hand, the disaster it is. He may be a small business owner who knows how it will destroy what he’s spent his life building. He may even have his own moral reasons for fearing it: the marginalization of the handicapped and elderly; government bureaucrats deciding what is or is not appropriate medical care, etc.

    “All concerns that the bishops—God alone knows how—have determined don’t matter to them, and which they have decided that we, as Catholic citizens, don’t have a right to be concerned about ourselves as they decree otherwise.”

  • Charles C.

    As an aside, this is the fourth article in three weeks showcasing a bishop opposed to the health care plan. Apparently, they believe that the increase in funding for Medicaid isn’t enough, or something.

    “The baseline spending curve for Medicaid points upward. In 2017, the program is expected to cost roughly $378 billion. A decade from now, the baseline spending for Medicaid rises to $688 billion — an 82 percent increase in nominal dollars. …
    Under [the Trump] budget proposal, Medicaid spending would rise from $378 billion this year to $524 billion in 2027. That’s a 38 percent nominal increase.”

    “What’s actually occurring in the Trump budget is baby steps toward desperately needed reform. Medicaid was created as a safety net to ensure the poor receive medical care; primarily poor women and children,those with physical disabilities, and the low-income elderly. As noted previously, Medicaid was passed in 1965 with a projected cost of $238 million its first year, but clocked in at more than $1 billion, rising to $6.5 billion barely five years later. Today, Medicaid spending is well over

    $400 billion.”

  • May I suggest that most bishops do not understand basic economic theories. Somebody always pays. Moreover, paying those who are idle makes them dependent, as addicted to a narcotic, on government aid. I do not oppose help to those in distress, but making one a dependent on the state is not helpful to able-bodied individuals. People come to expect their “free stuff” while those who pay taxes usually resent paying them. Those who receive true charity are usually grateful, and those who are charitable become more charitable.

    • Charles C.

      I agree with you on every point and without reservation.

      The principle of subsidiarity advises us to give “Power to the People,” place control of efforts at the most local practical unit. In the case of health care, the country seems too small a unit. Loving County, Texas has a population of 82 (2010 Census), the county is clearly not in a position to handle all needed health care. I would suggest that health care decisions, and the costs of implementing them, be assigned to the states. Except for some drastic situation such as a plague which would exceed any states resources, I see no role for the federal government.

      Your point about forced versus true charity cannot be made often enough. Only people can make moral choices. Freely choosing to be charitable helps everyone involved. Being robbed (taxed backed with the threat of jail) to provide money to some indifferent clerk in a sterile government building, who then hands it out to the person whose number is called next, provides no moral or spiritual value to anyone in the process. There is no free sacrifice, no Christian charity, no one for the recipient to be grateful to, no human touch. It is an ugly and cold charity, as bad as a slap.