A few weeks ago this column addressed the draft American Health Care Act, the most recent “Trumpcare” attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act with one that for many was less caring and less affordable. It cited 34 religious organizations opposed to Trumpcare who had joined in a successful effort to prevent its passage in Congress. This week there is a similar effort underway in Congress, much less visible to people like you and me, to allow the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to expire. Congress accomplished this not by failed action as was the case with Trumpcare, but by inaction: letting the current funding for CHIP expire before last week’s weekend recess. And once again, my church – The Episcopal Church – has joined with other groups, 28 this time, to implore Congress not to allow this defunding to stand.
What does CHIP do? It provides health insurance to nine million children who otherwise would not have health care. It was not an Obama-era initiative; this year marks the 20th anniversary of its passage with bipartisan support. And it has been renewed routinely with bipartisan support each time it expired until this time, as a continuing program to help children whose families make too much money for Medicaid, who don’t have health care through their employers, and who can’t afford the cost of family health insurance on their own.
These 28 religious organizations recognize that if we cannot help those in need when the nation is prosperous, with the Dow Jones average at record highs week after week, then when can we do so? As their joint letter states so eloquently, members of these organizations “share a moral vision of a health care system that offers health, wholeness and human dignity for all…. We believe that no family should have to face the terrible decision between putting food on the table, paying rent, or providing health coverage for their child. We see funding CHIP as part of our sacred obligation to care for one another.”
Among the 27 groups joining The Episcopal Church as signatories are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Roman Catholic Sisters of the Holy Cross, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Islamic Society of North America. There are many secular organizations as well working to help those in our society who most need the level of help that only a national effort can provide.
Do you think, as I do, that our churches need to be stronger advocates for a national effort to assist the poor, especially children of poverty? People of good will in Edgefield can disagree about where is the best place to spend Sunday morning (or even Friday or Saturday, as their conscience dictates), but we can all agree on this. We need to work together to encourage if not to demand that our lawmakers continue governmental efforts like CHIP, efforts which aim to heal the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and shelter the homeless.
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