“Integral to the right for life. . .is the right to basic health care”

AUSTIN—The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops has called upon Governor Greg Abbott and other state leaders to end a political standoff and reconsider expanding Medicaid coverage for an estimated 1.3 million uninsured Texans.

“We make this appeal guided by our belief that achieving affordable and accessible health care coverage for all stems from God’s precepts about the fundamental right to life and dignity,” wrote the 18 current and emeritus Bishops of Texas in letters to Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Joe Straus.

“Your own personal commitments to the protection of life reflect those values, but we remind you that our faith recognizes that life is sacred from conception to natural death.   Our commitment to care and compassion for the individual extends along that lifespan. Integral to the right of life for every human is the right to basic health care,” the Bishops stated.

The Bishops’ concern focuses on adult Texans caught in a “Medicaid coverage gap” where they earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid, but are unable to secure health insurance on their own or through their employer.  Lawmakers have declined to expand Medicaid for these poor, even though the federal government has offered some $100 billion to subsidize the expansion over the next decade.

Instead, state leaders have been intensely lobbying the federal government to extend a temporary uncompensated care pool waiver which has provided nearly $4 billion annually since 2011 to help “safety-net” hospitals provide uncompensated care to the poor.

“While the waiver has been crucial for Texas’ Catholic hospitals, it was never intended to be a permanent solution to the issue of the uninsured.  In fact, the federal government has suggested that the waiver may not be renewed because it was only supposed to help transition to expanding Medicaid, not to act as a de facto alternative,” the Bishops said in their letter.

Addressing healthcare needs of Texans by providing the right care at the right time in the right places promotes our belief in respecting and upholding the sacred nature of all human life.  Advocating for life means advocating for the basic needs of safe and adequate food, water, security, and medical care.  Clearly we cannot let over a million Texans suffer or die unnecessarily because of a standoff between the state and the federal governments.   We strongly encourage you not to disregard the opportunity we are given to care and heal millions of God’s children who are in such dire need of medical care.

The Texas Catholic Conference is the public policy voice for the Bishops of Texas, addressing issues related to Catholic moral and social teachings as well as the institutional concerns of the Catholic Church. Learn more about the TCC at www.TXCatholic.org. You can also find the TCC on Facebook (www.facebook.com/TXCatholic) and on Twitter (www.twitter.com/TXCatholic).