Medicaid Expansion – A Moral Imperative

Amos 5:24 | Psalms 140:12 | Matthew 25:40

Medicaid expansion is a moral imperative rooted in the prophetic call to social justice: “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” (Amos 5:24); ” I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy, and executes justice for the poor.” (Psalms 140:12); “…Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:40) Informed and challenged by this Truth we believe that: Expanding basic health coverage to 260,000 -300,000 hard working but very low income Missourians is the morally right thing to do. Expanding Medicaid will have a transforming impact on over 100,000 uninsured children because expanding Medicaid to cover parents makes it more likely that children will receive needed preventative care and other health services. To touch the lives of vulnerable children with health and wholeness is clearly in the vision of our moral compass. Full disclosure: my 8 year-old grandson who is autistic and bi-polar – and a special child of God – has recently returned from two weeks of therapy at Edgewood Children’s Center in St. Louis. His world-class, therapeutic care by the Edgewood staff was covered by MO HealthNet and I rejoice in the way his tender, fragile life has been touched with loving care. My rejoicing is tempered by the knowledge that there are hundreds, even thousands, of other dear children who desperately need that kind of care. Medicaid expansion would bring healing to their lives. It’s a moral imperative. Expanding Medicaid will benefit uninsured veterans and their families who struggle to get the health care they need. Many veterans of the National Guard and reserves are not eligible for health benefits through the Veteran’s Administration, but would be eligible for Medicaid if Missouri expands the program. It is estimated that over 14,600 veterans and 7,800 veterans’ family members would be eligible for Medicaid coverage if Medicaid expansion occurs in this state. Veterans have risked their lives in defense of this nation. We have a moral obligation to act in their behalf. Medicaid expansion will save lives. Families USA estimates that nearly 10 working-age Missourians die each week due to lack of health insurance. A recent study found that expanding Medicaid to previously ineligible adults reduces death rates because of increased access to health care. And Medicaid expansion will have life-saving consequences for those who most need a safety net, including homeless people and those with severe mental illness. Currently, the average life expectancy for homeless people is between 42 and 52 years, compared to 78 years for the general population. Expanding Medicaid will provide homeless people with access to life-saving health care and those with mental illness with the therapy needed to restore a measure of wholeness and stability to their lives – and make for more secure communities. It is clear, Medicaid expansion is a moral imperative! Theologian Marcus Borg, in assessing Jesus’ declaration of his mission to bring good news to the poor and liberation to the oppressed, said that faithfulness to Jesus calls for a “politics of compassion.” A politics of compassion resulting in adequate health care for all Missourians is what we seek from the Missouri Legislature.

Rev. Dr. John H. Bennett Retired Clergy, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) First Christian Church, Jefferson City (member)

Sources: “Dying for Coverage in Missouri”, Families USA, March 2008 Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, p. 60

I have drawn heavily in this reflection on the research and writing of Joel Ferber, Director of Advocacy, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, St. Louis, (c.f. ,”The Medicaid Expansion is Good Medicine for Missouri”, January 2013) whose work has been funded by a grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health.



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