Faith Leaders: Medicaid Expansion Is The Christian Thing To Do
By Bishop Kevin L. Adams Sr., the Rev. Joseph Breen, Pastor Linwood Dillard Jr. and Dr. L. LaSimba M. Gray Jr.
As people of faith who do our best to help others walk that path every day, we believe in caring for the least among us. We believe we simply cannot let the sick get sicker when we have a reasonable, financially sound way to help them.
In 2018 in Tennessee, that means we believe in Medicaid expansion and the one viable candidate for governor who believes in it, too: Karl Dean.
Each of us has ministered to many people whose bodies have failed them, whether temporarily or long-term. We’ve seen people at their lowest. We’ve seen terrible pain and misery in homes and hospital rooms. We’ve seen heart-wrenching financial struggles for families as a result of untreated illness and a lack of health insurance.
And we’ve seen courage and resilience that would defy belief if we didn’t believe in an awe-inspiring, all-powerful God.
What we haven’t seen so far from the state of Tennessee is the political wisdom or courage to support Medicaid expansion, which would provide healthcare to some 300,000 Tennesseans. Blinded by politics, our General Assembly rejected the idea without a full hearing more than three years ago, and our neighbors have continued to suffer ever since.
The only way to change that is by voting for the gubernatorial candidate who has been talking up the need for Medicaid expansion from one end of the state to another: Democrat Karl Dean.
Under the Affordable Care Act, states can expand Medicaid to receive additional tax dollars to cover people with pre-existing conditions, low-income residents and others who fall in the health insurance gap. More than 30 states, including Arkansas, Kentucky and, starting Jan. 1, Virginia, have done this.
And we’re helping them.
That’s right: As federal taxpayers, we send money to Washington, D.C., every year, and the federal government sends it out to those nearly three dozen states to insure their residents. Yet we’re not getting any of that money back. We’re missing out on about $3.8 million a day – or more than $4 billion since the General Assembly made that short-sighted decision in 2015.
Now that really does defy belief.
Karl Dean understands this. As a former public defender, he knows you have to help people who are hurting right now rather than delaying and kicking the can down the road and endlessly studying the broken healthcare system. And as a former mayor, Karl knows that paying money into something and getting nothing back is just a bad deal and a wasted opportunity.
People of faith have an obligation to care for the least among us. Expanding Medicaid is the compassionate thing to do for our fellow Tennesseans who are uninsured. Many of them live in areas that aren’t close to a hospital because the hospital that used to be there has closed, unable to survive without the reimbursements for services that Medicaid coverage would bring. And when a hospital closes, a whole community suffers.
We need to help our brothers and sisters. Quite simply, we have an opportunity to help Tennesseans live healthier, happier and longer lives, and we should seize the moment. A vote for Karl Dean, who has made Medicaid expansion one of his top priorities, will tell the General Assembly that it’s time to help those who need help the most by taking advantage of funds that are already available to us, dollars we’re already paying.
Failing to do so would go against our faith.
Bishop Kevin L. Adams Sr. is senior pastor of Olivet Baptist Church in Chattanooga. The Rev. Joseph Breen is a retired priest in Nashville who served St. Edward Catholic Church for many years. Pastor Linwood Dillard Jr. leads Citadel of Deliverance Church of God in Christ (COGIC) in Memphis. Dr. L. LaSimba M. Gray Jr. is pastor of New Sardis Baptist Church in Memphis.