Religions leaders seek compassion for needyFour Wisconsin religious leaders are calling for the state to accept federal dollars to assure “that the most vulnerable individuals receive access to quality health care.”
By: By Matt Pommer, Superior Telegram
Four Wisconsin religious leaders are calling for the state to accept federal dollars to assure “that the most vulnerable individuals receive access to quality health care.”
Gov. Scott Walker has rejected hundreds of millions of dollars of additional Medicaid money, suggesting that after three years the federal government may not be able to finance such an expansion. Walker also says his goal is to reduce the number of people who rely on government assistance. He suggests that an expanded Medicaid will foster dependence.
The Medicaid expansion is part of what is known as “Obamacare,” which fully takes effect in 2014. Walker, mentioned as a possible Republican presidential hopeful, has stressed anti-Obamacare positions in repeated speeches across America.
The statement by the religious leaders does not mention Walker by name, but it is aimed clearly at reversing Walker’s budget position.
“In our respective faith traditions, a right is defined as a moral claim on the community to a good essential for human dignity. Access to affordable health care is such a right, and ensuring access is a common policy goal of long-standing for religious communities,” they said.
“God calls on us to care for our neighbors and to protect the most vulnerable members of our society,” they added, quoting from the Deuteronomy book of the Bible.
Signing the statement are the Rev. Scott Anderson, executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches; Michael Blumenfeld, executive director of the Wisconsin Jewish Conference; Amy Johnson, executive director of the Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin; and John Huebscher, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference.
They noted that “many people of good will” have concerns about the long-range future of available funds. They said they understand why some may be wary.
“At the same time we know from our own experience that new endeavors are always accompanied by risk and uncertainty,” they said.
But religious communities founded colleges, hospitals and charitable programs, “... fully aware that the future was uncertain and that failure was possible.” That also was true in the 1960s when religious hospitals began to participate in Medicare and Medicaid.
The statement also goes to the heart of Walker’s argument.
“We are also aware that some fear that allowing needy people to access Medicaid will foster dependency. We must disagree,” they emphasized.
“Those most reliant on Medicaid are those whose capacity to access health care is limited by disability, age or poverty. Many of them meet the definition of ‘working poor.’ Their lack of health care coverage is not due to a lack of character, but a lack of means,” the religious leaders wrote.
Accepting federal Medicaid dollars will impact the state’s budget in other ways, they said, suggesting it would “reflect sound stewardship of limited resources.”
State government, using the federal dollars if even for a few years, will allow reallocation of money to things like schools and tax relief for those in the most need.
“For these reasons, and because of our own experience in taking risks to help those in need tells us that such efforts to enrich all of society, we urge the Legislature to accept the federal financial support for expansion of Wisconsin’s Medicaid program,” they wrote.
The statement provides an interesting challenge to Wisconsinites, especially Republicans, who regularly attend church or temple.