Home Politics When the Spirit is Willing: Religious Leaders Condemn Graham-Cassidy

When the Spirit is Willing: Religious Leaders Condemn Graham-Cassidy

John McCain Votes on Healthcare by Nancy Ohanian
John McCain Votes on Healthcare by Nancy Ohanian

The Graham-Cassidy attempt to hamstring the health care of millions– the latest fruit of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s eternal gift to democracy, the Citizens United accelerant of bribery– has flamed out. But the donors to bought-and-paid for members of Congress will not go quietly, not when their congressional minions have their tin cups out. Increasingly desperate to fill campaign coffers, the minions seek to please their paymasters. Politico is reporting Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) vows to vote against a budget resolution that doesn’t resuscitate the health care battle. Noises are being made about reconciliation instructions for both health care and tax reform in the fiscal 2018 budget resolution. This might increase the odds of more happy flameouts, including of tax gifts to the very well-heeled. That would displease plenty of big donors. But even if taxes become the major focus, kicking the health care can down the road, Democrats shouldn’t let up on educating the public on the perils of mischief like Graham-Cassidy. And they need to make the case for real health care evolutions, explaining why significant improvement requires sidelining profits of the big donors fighting single-payer, primarily insurance and pharmaceutical interests.

Toward that end, perhaps a bit of spiritual guidance. Enclosed below is the September 25th letter to the Senate from the Interfaith Healthcare Coalition, with their message that “healhcare is an essential human right,” and detailing risks facing the most vulnerable among us.

Interfaith Healthcare Coalition

September 25, 2017

Dear Senators:

We, the more than 3,000 undersigned faith leaders representing Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, and Buddhist traditions, believe that healthcare is an essential human right. We believe that individuals and families should not have to worry about the future of their healthcare coverage and whether or not it will be ripped away.

It was a tremendous relief that Congress was working in an open, bipartisan way to improve our healthcare system. But now, we are outraged that Congress would abandon these efforts for another partisan attempt that would take healthcare away from millions of our people. For the sake of our people, please oppose the Graham-Cassidy proposal and support the reauthorization of the vital Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Disproportionate Share Hospitals (DSH) program.

The Graham-Cassidy proposal would cause millions to lose health coverage, and people experiencing vulnerability, sickness, and poverty would be hit the hardest. Over the next decade, ACA funding would be eliminated, Medicaid would be gutted, and critical protections, such as for people with preexisting conditions, could be eliminated in certain states. Graham-Cassidy would end Medicaid as we know it by instituting a per capita cap and shifting billions of dollars onto states. The result would be nothing short of reducing access to quality healthcare, raising premiums, and eliminating protections for millions of Americans. In 2027 alone, Graham-Cassidy would cut federal health care spending by $299 billion. More than 37 million children would be affected by cuts to Medicaid.

Graham-Cassidy not only threatens the health coverage of millions of children through cuts to Medicaid, but it also delays bipartisan congressional action to extend funding for programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Since its creation in 1997, the uninsured rate of low- and middle-class children has decreased from 14% to just 5%. Without reauthorization, CHIP funding will expire at the end of September, and the nearly 9 million children on CHIP might begin to receive termination notices.

We also urge you to protect funding for DSH, which supports safety-net hospitals that provide health services to people without insurance. Without this funding, many hospitals will face difficult decisions to cut services or close entirely. In rural areas especially, lower-income Americans will face a crisis. The $43 billion in proposed funding cuts over the next eight years will cause job loss, a decrease in the quality and number of services hospitals provide, and create life-threatening gaps in healthcare service for many Americans.

To allow Graham-Cassidy to pass the Senate– and to allow the CHIP and DSH programs to lapse– is to allow the health of America’s most vulnerable people to face unnecessary and immoral obstacles. Jobs will be lost, local economies will be harmed, and access to healthcare will become a challenge for many. Therefore, we deplore this proposed legislation and these potential funding cuts and pray that you will work with your colleagues in Congress to prevent any disruption of healthcare for Americans.

As faith leaders, it is our duty to care for and minister to people in our communities. As Senators, you have a similar duty to care for your constituents. Please focus on bipartisanship rather than political posturing, oppose Graham-Cassidy, and extend CHIP and DSH funding.

National Faith Leaders

Here’s a few comments that typify the unifying views of the religiously diverse signatories:

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice:

Once again, a group of white, male Senators have crafted a plan that is out of touch with the realities of millions of ordinary families and fails the moral tests of our faith. The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal is immoral policy that would hurt millions of people, and their plan to rush it through without knowing the impact is reckless. This new repeal bill goes far beyond the BCRA by eliminating all ACA premium and copay supports, gutting Medicaid, and removing protections for people with pre-existing conditions. These policies target people struggling to get by, the sick, and the elderly—the very people Jesus teaches us to put first. Catholic sisters stand with our nation’s most vulnerable people and we must stand against this anti-health, anti-life legislation.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights:

Our insistence on the moral duty of the government to ensure health care for all comes from our grounding both in human rights, and in Jewish teachings. Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, one of the most important twentieth-century legal authorities, notes, “When poor people are ill and cannot afford medical expenses, the community sends a doctor to visit them, and the medicine is paid for by the communal fund.” (Tzitz Eliezer 5:4) And Rabbi Shlomo Goren, former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel declares, “the government may not excuse itself from responsibility toward the sick since the government is responsible for the health of the people.” (Assia journal 21:40) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights requires that all countries provide “standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including … medical care.”

Colin Christopher, Islamic Society of North America:

We have a moral obligation in this country to care for those who are young, elderly, sick, or unable to fend for themselves. If we can build the mightiest defense system the world has ever known, we also have the ability to fund the best preventative health care system. The Graham-Cassidy bill would decimate patient protections, decrease care, and directly lead to thousands of preventable lives lost that are currently being saved by the affordability and coverage of the ACA.

Sr. Patricia McDermott, RSM, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas:

The Sisters of Mercy, who have been providing healthcare services for people who are poor and vulnerable for nearly 175 years in the U.S., believe that access to health care and adequate health insurance coverage is a fundamental human right. Rather than taking away health care for millions of Americans over the next several years, we should be finding ways to strengthen and expand health coverage and improve affordability.

Legislating Legislation by Nancy Ohanian
Legislating Legislation by Nancy Ohanian

Dr. Noel Castellanos, Christian Community Development Association:

As people of faith we lift our voices to declare to our lawmakers that eliminating healthcare for millions of vulnerable Americans is shameful and immoral. To do so is putting politics over the needs of people and cannot be justified. Fix ACA so more Americans can get coverage, don’t obliterate it at the expense of the poor.

Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:

The Cassidy-Graham health care proposal violates the very values that lie at the core of Quaker morals. This bill would threaten the health and dignity of millions of Americans, especially low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Cassidy-Graham includes extreme cuts to Medicaid, undermines critical protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions, shifts billions of dollars onto states, and will cause tens of millions of Americans to lose health coverage. Moreover, advancing this legislation will destroy the productive and bipartisan work currently taking place. Rather than trying to force through yet another rushed, ultra-partisan, dysfunctional health care proposal that causes millions of Americans to lose health coverage, Congress should refocus back on the bipartisan negotiations so desperately needed to stabilize the insurance markets and lower health care costs.

King of Diamonds by Nancy Ohanian
King of Diamonds by Nancy Ohanian

As good as members of Congress are at feigning religion, they might take heed of the moral imperatives expressed in such sentiments. Or at least the increasing number of voters embracing those ideals.

A quick plug, the most promising way out of a health care system fractured by special interests is the proposal by Bernie Sanders, as expressed in his NY Times essay. The more the public learns of it, the more it appears to warm to it, and to discount the special interest knives flashing across mainstream media. If there’s another economic crisis gifted by Wall Street, ramping up the bankruptcies, foreclosures and general miseries from family health crisis cost bombs, the public may warm up with torches and pitchforks, or at least take a sober look at what many of those claiming to represent them in Congress are really all about. Sure, the proposal is a work in progress. So progress. There is no other way out of our quagmire.

Don’t think there’s plenty of time because of the most recent failure to upend health care. When the big money– including insurance and pharmaceutical– sloshes about both parties, it has a hell of track record of making steady gains, fighting on a number of fronts. Here’s an informative piece from The Intercept on lobbyists cranking up to derail Single-Payer as it builds steam. Here’s another, on Republican efforts to pre-empt attempts by states to create their own single-payer programs, revealing the farce in claims that Graham-Cassidy repeal efforts aim to empower the states.

US Healthcare by Nancy Ohanian
US Healthcare by Nancy Ohanian

Allow a digression, a nod to Senator McCain, responding to his summer health care vote. It also revisits a long-haul look at the slide toward banana republic status greased by Washington’s campaign finance industry, a not-so-distant cousin to the vampire squid.

Thank you again, Senator McCain, and to Senator Collins and the others jumping that dark ship flying the Jolly Roger.

On health care, Congress should take the sweetest of oaths: do no harm.

From a translation of the line of the Hippocratic Oath, “I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.” Play doctor, Congress, but put your heart in it.


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