Press Release: Interfaith Groups Urge Policymakers to Extend Health Care Coverage to 1.3M Uninsured Texans

Interfaith Groups Urge Policymakers to Extend Health Care Coverage to 1.3M Uninsured Texans

AUSTIN - In a letter today to the legislative leadership, two of the state's largest religious organizations urged policymakers to extend Medicaid coverage to 1.3 million low-income, uninsured Texans as part of the federal Affordable Care Act; failing that, the organizations called for any proposed alternative to Medicaid be equal in coverage or breadth of eligibility that would have been achieved under that expansion.

The letter, signed by the executive directors of the Texas Catholic Conference and Texas Impact, reminded Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus that "[a]s people of faith, we are called to provide affordable and accessible health care coverage for our sick and dispossessed brothers and sisters."

"Failing to care for the poor and vulnerable unnecessarily increases sickness, premature death, and needless suffering. It would result in the unnecessary, untimely deaths of an estimated 8,400 low-income Texans every year," the letter stated.

The letter comes as state officials work on proposals to control rising Medicaid spending and reduce the rate of uninsured patients and subsequent uncompensated care costs for hospitals and local government entities.  State officials last year announced that Texas would not be participating in the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act--even as the federal government bears more than 90 percent of the cost for the first three years.  In recent weeks numerous discussions have been underway to find another way to draw down those federal dollars.

In addition to the moral argument, the Catholic Bishops and Texas Impact argued that failure to provide health care for low-income Texans would inflict much broader and compounding economic and social consequences throughout Texas.  The reality of health care funding is that when people are uninsured and cannot pay their bills, we all pay the price in higher private insurance premiums, overwhelming pressures on the local hospital districts and county government, and hikes in local taxes to cover the cost of uncompensated care," the authors wrote.

"Cities, counties and hospital districts are spending more than $2.5 billion a year in local property taxes on health care for low-income members of their local communities, many of whom would be eligible for Medicaid if Texas extends the program to low-income adults," the letter said.

"Within our religious traditions, we share the conviction that life is a gift from God to be cherished and that God's people are called to care for one another, provide healing and prevent suffering with compassion and a commitment to justice.  Even with the serious objections some faith traditions have with some aspects of the Affordable Care Act, 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 care," the letter concludes.

The Texas Catholic Conference is to be the public policy voice for the bishops of the 15 Roman Catholic Bishops of Texas in advocating for public policies related to Catholic moral and social teachings. Texas Impact is a statewide religious grassroots network whose members include individuals, congregations, and governing bodies of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. Texas Impact exists to advance state public policies that are consistent with universally held social principles of the Abrahamic traditions.

For more information, contact Jeffery R. Patterson, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference at 512-339-9882 or Bee Morehead, executive director of Texas Impact at 512-472-3903.