The recent economic downturn has resulted in an increase in the number of families enrolled in the Medicaid program, the jointly-funded federal-state program that provides health coverage for low-income children and adults, medical and long-term care coverage for people with disabilities, and assistance with health and long-term care expenses for low-income seniors. However, even as these families come to depend on health care services at a time of critical need, several states have proposed dramatic cuts in their Medicaid rolls and services.
From proposals to cut coverage of dental and vision treatments, prescription drug coverage, and mental health treatment to removing thousands of adults from Medicaid rolls to withdrawing from the Medicaid program altogether, several states are abandoning the effort to provide much-needed health care to the most vulnerable among us well in advance of the proposed expansion of the program to take effect in 2014 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Unfortunately, the Congress has provided little help in the face of this challenge. Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the provisions of the Affordable Care Act enacted last year that provide health care for all Americans, bar the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, prohibit lifetime limits on coverage, and allow parents to keep children up to age 26 on their insurance. And just last week, the House Budget Committee reported out a bill that would repeal the health care law, convert Medicare into a private insurance, premium support program, and change Medicaid into a block grant program and cut its funding by 20 percent, further compromising the program with inadequate funding just when the states have begun to reduce or deny health care to millions of poor families.
In light of these efforts to undermine a commitment to providing health care to the most vulnerable among us, we are called to re-commit ourselves to restoring the wholeness and well-being of God’s beloved people. We cannot afford to overlook the needs and health of millions of Americans who lack access to basic health care services. As people of faith, we have an opportunity to be both a healing presence and a voice of justice for those in need.