One of the Affordable Care Act’s key provisions is Medicaid expansion. Here in Georgia, expansion would cover some 650,000 uninsured low income people, many of them children. There are good reasons why Gov. Nathan Deal should expand Medicaid — tens of thousands of new jobs and $275 million annually in new tax revenues for example — but the humanitarian need is what’s most important.
Low-income Georgians and their kids would have access to health care services, including preventative care. A child with sniffles, for example, wouldn’t have to wait until he had full-blown pneumonia before he saw a doctor in a hospital emergency room.
Medicaid expansion is at the intersection of public policy and Christian principles, yet Cobb County Christian leaders have been curiously silent. Shouldn’t they and their flocks be pressing Deal and the state legislature to expand Medicaid to cover healthcare for the least of these?
Cobb is a county, after all, in which you cannot drive a half-mile in any direction without passing a church of one Christian denomination or another.
Many churches provide charitable services such as food banks, counseling and so on. But all of the churches and secular charities in Georgia combined couldn’t begin to cover the cost of providing health care services to all the state’s poor.
So here is a program that will cost taxpayers nothing in the first three years and only 10 percent thereafter, the rest covered by the federal government. Should the federal contribution fall below 90 percent, states can withdraw from the program.
Yet Deal refuses to follow the lead of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and seven other GOP governors who expanded Medicaid in their states. Deal’s reasons are political and if politics prevent low-income families from receiving health care, that’s apparently fine with the governor.
That seems un-Christian. So I contacted six high profile ministers and pastors who lead large Christian congregations in Marietta, Kennesaw and Smyrna to see what they thought.
I heard back from just one. He cited Deal’s specious rationale for not expanding Medicare, adding this: “I don’t equate the expansion of government with the fulfillment of the biblical mandate to care for ‘the least of these.’ That admonition wasn’t directed at the Roman government.”
I don’t have a divinity degree. But I do know Christ cared about all God’s children and He unambiguously directed us to look after one another. To that end, if a government program achieves what charity cannot, surely Jesus would be in favor of it. There are other Christians out there who think so.
“Jesus put a name and a face on all who had been forgotten or pushed aside,” says The Christian Left’s website, “(and) called us to carry our cross daily and follow him. That’s what social justice means.”
“If conservative Christians are going to vote their values, then they should vote all of their values,” wrote Orthodox political theologian Dr. David J. Dunn.
“We, leaders … representing millions of African-American people of faith, believe that our devotion to God requires us to be actively involved in promoting the wellbeing of all people,” said the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr., chairman of Faith Partnerships, Inc.
Republican politicians and the conservative media have saturated Cobb County residents with Affordable Care Act misinformation, so local Christian leaders might be understandably reluctant to take an unpopular position and advocate Medicaid expansion.
I hope they’ll remember that Jesus took many unpopular positions.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.