Ensuring health care for all, regardless of ability to pay, has been part of the mission of the Catholic Church for centuries. The Sisters of Bon Secours came to America in 1881 to serve the poor, the sick and the dying, eventually opening hospitals in multiple states now part of the Bon Secours Health System. Today, several hospitals in the Commonwealth, such as St. Mary’s in Richmond and Mary Immaculate in Newport News, continue the Bon Secours mission, providing care to the needy as part of the healing ministry of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.
Last legislative session, the General Assembly passed budget language establishing a Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission. The Commission (MIRC) was tasked with overseeing and implementing reforms to Virginia’s Medicaid program. After cost-saving reforms are implemented, MIRC may approve expanding Medicaid to eligible low-income Virginians.
The Church’s voice is needed more than ever as we work to provide access to health care for all, which is part of our moral duty to advance the cause of human dignity. The Affordable Care Act enables states to expand Medicaid eligibility to 133% of the poverty level (a single adult making $15,281 a year). The Virginia Catholic Conference supports this provision, while strongly opposing other parts of the Act that expand abortion funding and diminish conscience rights. Expanding Medicaid in Virginia would provide more than 400,000 uninsured Virginians access to health care, allowing routine care and treatment of chronic conditions before they require an emergency room visit. Without expansion those without insurance will receive inferior care and hospitals, including Catholic ones, will be burdened with additional costs. The Affordable Care Act eliminated federal contributions to hospitals for uncompensated care. Not expanding Medicaid means that hospitals must absorb more uncompensated costs, potentially leading to rising health care costs for all.
The Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission is currently accepting public comment on the issue of Medicaid expansion in Virginia, which could begin enrolling new eligible Virginians in July 2014. The Virginia Catholic Conference supports increased access to health care and invites you to submit your comments to MIRC by clicking here. MIRC will also hold a hearing on October 15 in House Room D of the General Assembly Building in Richmond. Speaker sign-ups will begin at 11AM for the 1PM hearing.
We encourage you to support Medicaid expansion, which will provide health care to low-income Virginians, and allow the Church to continue its healing ministry.