October 17, 2017

REPORT from DC: The Ups and Downs of Health Care Advocacy

By Rev. Laird Thomason, DC4PW Minister for Health and Wellness

The efforts of the Disciples Center for Public Witness (DC4PW) to support affordable health care access to all continues to take place with and through a multi-faith healthcare coalition composed of advocates from the Washington Offices of various denominations and faith-based organizations. Efforts have been focused, intense, prodigious, and successful – not just once, not just twice, but three times!

Effective tools of the multi-faith health care coalition have included: developing insider contacts with Hill staffers dealing with specific items of concern re health care; visiting with Members and/or ranking staff on appropriate committees; writing and circulating letters from Faith Leaders bolstering positions of advocates on national and state levels; enlisting “grass tops” allies in states and districts, especially those whose votes might change, but also to support those whose votes can be counted on; and using public rallies, vigils and demonstrations to bring greater public and congressional attention to our concerns.

Congressional efforts to repeal and replace “Obamacare” have so far been much less about improving and providing more and better health care more efficiently; it’s been more about "reducing the size of government,” or more specifically, shrinking entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid—and even Social Security!

In other words, current budget and tax proposals being pushed through Congress would have significant negative impacts on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, with attendant threats to providing health care security to the poorest and neediest among us. This fact required greater involvement at the other multi-faith tables where DC4PW sits, i.e., those tables working on these key healthcare-related entitlement programs.

Guidelines for this continuing work are reflected in A Faithful Budget, a document developed by the multi-faith public policy advocacy community in response to the immoral and irresponsible budgets produced by Congress and the Trump Administration. This faithful budget calls for public policies and spending priorities that promote the common good by aiding economically struggling families, promoting worker justice, supporting and improving public education, protecting the environment, contributing to greater peace with justice throughout the world—and, of course, defending and expanding health care for all.
At first, after the failures of Congress to repeal the ACA, President Trump worked around the edges of this law, primarily by limiting the rights of women to the full range of options in reproductive health care. But now the President who condemned his predecessor’s use of executive orders has used his own executive power to end subsidies to health insurers—subsidies that are essential to the continuation of the Affordable Care Act; subsidies that help millions of low-income Americans afford healthcare coverage.

And, so, our faithful struggle continues: we must now find ways once again to protect and expand affordable, quality health care for all. That’s why we are currently hard at work—listening, watching, analyzing, strategizing, and planning the next steps for action by our entire community of faith-based advocates. Stay tuned. . . .

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