Friday, June 23, 2017

Rev. Hawkins Speaks out on the Senate Health Care Bill

On yesterday, the Senate released its version of the Affordable Care Act replacement, which was prepared behind closed doors by just 13 Senators. It is called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, patterned after the House American Health Care Act. This is a greatly flawed bill rushed with the intent of getting it passed before there is a thorough examination of its contents.  Like the House bill which passed in May, the Senate version would take this nation back to the horrors before the Affordable Care Act. It would create enormous tax breaks for the wealthy, roll back Medicaid expansion in 31 states, block Planned Parenthood funding for one year, remove the requirement for Medicaid to coverage for mental health care, and end the coverage mandate for both individuals and employers. We can expect that passage of this bill would result in loss of healthcare coverage for millions of people.

This is a hard-hearted effort on the part of the Republican leadership to take control of the health care conversation and determine policy. It is an attempt to take the name of President Obama from healthcare reform and claim for themselves that legacy. But therein they will create for themselves a legacy of doing more harm than good. They will reduce greatly the number of people who have health coverage and give the power of life and death back to the insurance companies.

Senator Chuck Schumer said that this bill is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing with sharper teeth than the House bill. This bill will result in higher costs, less care and millions of Americans will lose their health insurance, particularly through Medicaid.”

Is this who we are as a nation? Have we been reduced to a country wherein the vast majority of our citizens are barely making it off of the scraps of the wealthy and politically powerful? Do we not have any compassion left for the unemployed poor, the working poor, the devastated poor? It is not as if we don’t have the means or the ability to strengthen the Affordable Care Act: it is simply that we don’t have the will.

Members of ADAPT staged a sit-in at Senator Mitch McConnell’s office yesterday to protest the Senate bill, after it was clear that politicians were not going to listen to the hundreds of thousands of people who have written letters, made calls and met with legislators to ask that their healthcare be protected. This group of people with disabilities, many of whom use wheelchairs, let their voices be heard loud and clear challenging this bill which will permanently damage lives. We respect the risk they took, and seek to follow the leadership of those who will be most greatly impacted by the loss of healthcare. ADAPT organizer Bruce Darling said that the Republican bill will "greatly reduce access to medical care and home and community based service for elderly and disabled Americans who will either die or be forced into institutions. Our lives and liberty shouldn't be stolen to give a tax break to the wealthy. That's truly un-American."

As Presbyterians we have always cared for others. The 218th General Assembly re-affirmed:
“Jesus Christ, who has reconciled us to God, healed all kinds of sickness (Mt. 4:23, par) as a sign of God’s rule. Isaiah speaks God’s word to say “No more shall there be … an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime” (Isa. 65:20a).  We, as Reformed Christians, bear witness to Jesus Christ in word, but also in deed.
As followers of our Great Physician Jesus, we have a moral imperative to work to assure that everyone has full access to health care.”

It is time that we take that concern to a higher level of involvement and action. The prophetic voice of the church, both collectively and individually, must be lifted high to oppose this bill. We must let our members of Congress know who outraged we are by this action. It is not too late. There is still a process which must be followed before it becomes law. Organize a letter writing campaign in your church, ask tough questions at your member’s town hall meeting, encourage your pastor to speak out, challenge your Session to overture your presbytery to make a statement. But first and foremost, begin and end with a prayer for the intervention of God’s Holy Spirit to soften the hearts to soften with compassion for the “least of these our brothers and sisters.”

Call your Senators, especially in key states where they are undecided:

Senator Alexander (TN): (202) 224-4944
· Senator Boozman (AR): (202) 224-4843
· Senator Capito (WV): (202) 224-6472
· Senator Collins (ME): (202) 224-2523
· Senator Corker (TN): (202) 224-3344
· Senator Cotton (AR): (202) 224-2353
· Senator Daines (MT): (202) 224-2651
· Senator Flake (AZ): (202) 224-4521
· Senator Toomey (PA): (202) 224-4254
· Senator Gardner (CO): (202) 224-5941
· Senator Portman (OH): (202) 224-3353
· Senator Heller (NV): (202) 228-6753
· Senator Cassidy (LA): (202) 224-5824
· Senator Murkowski (AK): (202) 224-5824