By Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv.
Bishop Stowe of Lexington, Ky., is writing on behalf of Kentucky’s four bishops, including Archbishop of Louisville Joseph E. Kurtz.
All people, regardless of their circumstances, should have access to comprehensive, quality and affordable health care. The Catholic Church extends its teaching beyond matters of belief to include how we are to live those beliefs and apply them in everyday life. This goes beyond the sphere of individual morality and extends to the common good.
The church’s positions in the public arena are born of our faith but are proclaimed in a pluralistic society as a voice advocating for the common good, and advocating especially for the most vulnerable, beginning with the unborn and extending through every stage of human life.
When the Catholic Church speaks about health care it is from the perspective that health care is not a privilege, but a right. Access to health care is an essential requirement for the protection of the life and dignity of every person.
The Catholic community in Kentucky brings its experience of direct service to the sick and uninsured in emergency rooms, homeless shelters and on the doorsteps of our parish churches. In our hospitals we see patients whose sicknesses frequently have advanced to a critical point precisely because they lacked preventative medical attention. Having no health insurance, or inadequate basic coverage, means premature death. The Medicaid expansion and Kynect significantly reduced the number of uninsured coming to our institutions. This allowed for more attention to preventative medicine, education for staying healthy, and continued contact with patients so that they did not need to return to hospitals or emergency rooms. Kentucky should not take a step backwards.
Many lower-income individuals and families in Kentucky will lack the resources to meet the financial burdens of their health care under Governor Bevin’s health care plan. For these families, an increase of premiums, cost-sharing charges and a lock out period will be significant barriers to obtaining coverage or seeing a doctor, much less a dentist or eye doctor.
State budgets reveal the values of the governing administration; they should also reveal the values of the people. Disregard for the vulnerable weakens the common good. A genuine reform of health care in Kentucky should result in health care that is accessible and affordable for all, and not place more restrictions on accessing it. Health insurance options must protect the lowest income enrollees from onerous cost sharing, not increase their burden. The mere complexity of the proposed plan will create new barriers to care precisely when the need is to continue expanding access.
We invite all Kentuckians to join us in rejecting the proposed changes and work for health care that will:
- Promote and defend human dignity from conception until natural death;
n Attend to the whole person (body, mind and spirit), while pursuing a genuine pluralism that respects freedom of religion and conscience;
- Care for poor and vulnerable persons, regardless of race, ethnicity, economic or social or legal status;
- Practice a careful stewardship of resources by restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of those who must pay for health care (from “Poverty at the Crossroads,” Bishops of Indiana, 2015).
Let the Commonwealth of Kentucky continue to advance in the care of so many chronic ailments that affect our population. We should oppose the governor’s plan and continue on the path of expanded access to the health care necessary for our communities.