UCC justice advocate joins faith leaders in call for access to health care
The director of the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Witness Ministries office in Washington, D.C., had a message for the U.S. Supreme Court: Don’t jeopardize the affordability of health care for millions of Americans. Sandy Sorensen joined a group of five faith leaders to address the importance of tax subsidies and ensuring that everyone has access to health care through the Affordable Care Act.
Sorensen spoke Wednesday morning, March 4, with a coalition of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith leaders on the front steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, imploring the nine justices to ensure access to health care for all people and addressing the importance of health care from a faith perspective.
“We come today to remind the U. S. Supreme Court that the law is working,” Sorensen said. “By the end of 2014, over 15 million Americans who did not previously have access to affordable health care before the ACA gained coverage. Approximately 10 million have health care access through Medicaid and approximately 3 million young adults are now covered on their parent’s health plan.”
The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in King v. Burwell on March 4. The case potentially impacts millions of men, women, children, and families who have access to affordable and quality health care through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes referred to as Obamacare, passed in 2010.
“We believed then and believe now that passage of the Affordable Care Act represents an important first step in moving us toward the moral vision of quality, affordable health care for all,” Sorensen said. “For over 35 years, the United Church of Christ has spoken prophetically in advocating for access to health care for all. We continue to stand together with our faith partners in our conviction that health care is not only a basic human need, but also a human right.”
Sorensen was joined on the front steps of the court by the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II, director for Public Witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA); Rabbi Lori Koffman, National Council of Jewish Women; the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary for the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society; Dr. Sayyid Syeed, Islamic Society of North America; and Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby.
While a majority of people in the nation have their health insurance through their employer, that isn’t the case for every American. According to the ACA, people who are self-employed or work for businesses that aren’t required to provide insurance must purchase it elsewhere, so to help those people obtain insurance, the ACA encourages states to set up exchanges—the marketplaces where individuals and small businesses can buy health insurance. Because Congress cannot force states to set up exchanges, the ACA allows the federal government to set up an exchange if a state opts not to, as 34 states have done. From there, the ACA allows subsidies for those individuals or companies purchasing their insurance through an exchange to make insurance more affordable.
The question before the Supreme Court is not about the constitutionality of the ACA, but rather its interpretation—specifically, whether the federal government can provide a subsidy to someone buying insurance from a state or federal marketplace. Challengers in the case contend that only states can provide subsidies, and if the justices were to agree, it would threaten to raise insurance rates for 7 million people who receive subsidies from the federal government.
“No one should be left outside of the community when they are in need of health care,” Sorensen said. “No one should be abandoned when they are in need of health care. We all deserve healing.”
In 2014, more than 5 million people bought health insurance on exchanges created by the federal government, and approximately 87 percent of people enrolled in the program receive some type of subsidy.
“Without these subsidies, those individuals and families will lose their health insurance coverage,” Sorensen said.
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