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Opponents of Medicaid expansion put politics over people

The rejection by several Republican-led states of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion to provide health care access to millions of America’s poor isn’t just partisan politics; it’s immoral. It’s not too late to press state leaders to put people ahead of partisanship.

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Members of Texas Organizing Project yell chants to ask for Medicaid expansion outside Gov. Rick Perry's office in Austin, Texas, April 1. Op-ed contributor Kate Holder writes: It seems that [Mr. Perry] would rather deny Medicaid coverage to 2 million Texans than submit to what he called Obamacare’s “power grab.” '

Deborah Cannon/Austin American-Statesman/AP

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The third anniversary of the signing of President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” was recognized last month with the usual debate over its costs and benefits and impact on the federal deficit. 

GOP opponents have objected to the law, often invoking a moral argument that it violates individual and states’ rights. But in their efforts to undercut the law, many of its most vocal adversaries are committing a moral transgression of their own. The rejection by several Republican-led states of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion to provide health-care access to millions of America’s poor isn’t just partisan politics; it’s immoral.

Fortunately, states can sign on to Medicaid expansion at any time, so it’s not too late for citizens to press their state leaders to put people ahead of partisanship and help Americans in need.

To date, as many as 17 states – all led by Republican governors and/or Republican-controlled legislatures – have either refused or are leaning toward refusing the Medicaid expansion. That means denying health coverage to more than 5 million of the 20 million uninsured Americans who would be eligible.

This refusal to provide health-care coverage to some of the nation’s poorest working adults will consign millions of them to a coverage gap that the Affordable Care Act was designed to close. As many America Catholic bishops and other religious leaders have clearly stated: Access to affordable health care is a moral imperative as well as a fundamental human right.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states were granted the option to opt out of the Medicaid expansion without penalty by the Supreme Court last June, in a ruling that also upheld the law’s constitutionality.

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