Written by Barb Powell
The United Church of Christ has joined a broad coalition of interfaith religious groups that are calling on the Obama Administration and Congress to protect Medicaid and Medicare in their budget negotiations.
The statement, delivered today (July 26), comes from faith leaders representing millions of Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists and emphasizes that the two government programs provide critical health care for the most vulnerable in U.S. society.
“Our organizations, as well as people of faith throughout our society, strongly support Medicaid and Medicare,” reads a statement co-signed by the UCC’s Collegium of Officers, as well as leaders of more than 50 faith national and state groups. “In the faith community, we are often the first to witness need and distress from all causes. As providers of services and care, both physical and spiritual, our members, congregations and institutions, including religiously affiliated health care providers, are very familiar with the importance of Medicaid and Medicare.”
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, the UCC’s general minister and president, says it is imperative that the religious community speak in a loud, clear voice.
“Our nation has a moral imperative to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of our society,” Black says. “Millions of people depend on Medicaid and Medicare for their health care, and we must insist that it be protected.”
Barbara T. Baylor, the UCC’s minister for health care justice, says she knows firsthand the importance of protecting the nation’s health care safety net.
“There was a time when I needed Medicaid for my children when they were small,” Baylor says. “It was there for me during a time of great challenge and crisis in my life. Without it, I would not have been able to provide health care for my children.”
Today, she says, many more women and families find themselves in dire straits, wondering what will happen to them without these two crucial government programs.
Medicaid provides comprehensive health coverage to low-income persons, the elderly and people with disabilities. It ranges from paying for nearly 40 percent of births to funding long-term care of seven out of 10 nursing-home residents.
Medicare is the primary source of health insurance for the nation’s seniors.
“It is very disheartening to me that as a country, we are considering balancing our nation’s budget woes on the backs of vulnerable citizens, especially women, children and seniors, through deep funding cuts to Medicaid and Medicare,” Baylor says.
The diverse faith groups cited five “shared” principles they urge elected officials to consider.
• All individuals deserve equal access to quality, affordable, inclusive and accountable health care.
• The social safety net, including health care, must be maintained to reflect our shared commitment to protecting vulnerable populations.
• Concern for the most vulnerable is at the heart of our sacred texts and an affirmation of our common humanity.
• Caring for our elders demonstrates how we value our responsibility to enable living out the fullness of life.
“Reducing health-care options for some based on any of these factors is profoundly unjust,” the interfaith statement declares.