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SNJM Public Statement on the American Health Care Act

We, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, are members of an international community of Catholic women religious, 425 of whom are United States citizens living and ministering in California, Oregon, Washington, Mississippi, Florida, Maryland, Michigan and New York. We are committed to “the full development of the human person” through education, social justice and collaboration with others in programs that promote systemic change to protect the human rights of individuals and communities. We were appalled by the facts from the Congressional Budget Office regarding the effects of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by the House of Representatives last month. We want the Senate to be aware of our distress that the Act goes against the principles and values of our country, our Christian beliefs and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal “to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, under the AHCA:

  • 23 million Americans would become uninsured.
  • Medicaid would be cut by $834 billion and 14 million low-income and disabled Americans would lose Medicaid coverage.
  • Low-income senior citizens could see premium increases as high as 800% while the richest Americans would see their premiums drop, plus enjoy a multi-billion-dollar tax cut over 10 years.
  • Current funding levels will cover only 110,000 individuals of the 2.2 million ACA enrollees with a pre-existing chronic condition at present.
  • Cost of maternity care could also increase by thousands of dollars since the abolished ACA provided prenatal and pediatric care to 9.5 million previously uninsured women.
  • States could drop coverage for those needing mental health and substance abuse care.

We want the Senate to take a firm hand in correcting the House’s law and to create a new Act that respects the dignity of every American, provides for those who are the poorest and most vulnerable and does not favor the wealthy with special privileges at the expense of mentally or chronically ill persons.

We urge all Senators as strong and principled leaders to recall and be guided by the January 18, 2017 statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops: “…all people and every family must be able to see clearly how they fit within and access the health care system in a way that truly meets their needs,” emphasizing that “health care should be truly universal and genuinely affordable.”

While working on the Senate Health Care Bill, we urge the Senate also to develop a law that embodies Pope Francis’ statement of May 7, 2016: “Health, indeed, is not a consumer good, but a universal right which means that access to healthcare services cannot be a privilege.”

In the photo: Dr. Anne Brooks, a Holy Names Sister and osteopathic physician whose ministry among poor patients in rural Tutwiler, MS spans more than 30 years.