Since the ruling of the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in June of 2012, roughly 400,000 Hoosiers have waited anxiously for the State of Indiana to decide whether they would gain access to health care coverage through Medicaid or a similar program targeted at low income individuals. Since that time, Hoosiers have seen their neighbors in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky move forward with low income coverage, leaving Indiana as the “Island of the Uninsured” in the Midwest. Beginning January 1, these 400,000 Hoosiers will find themselves in a “coverage gap” – making too much money to be eligible for Medicaid and not enough to qualify for subsidies on the federal Health Care Exchange.
Faith leaders in many states have urged their state governments to accept available federal funding to ensure that their most vulnerable neighbors, friends, relatives and congregants receive access to quality health care. Today, we add our voices to that endeavor. For we know that many of our own friends and relatives go without seeing a doctor for long periods of time and live without treatment for varying illnesses and conditions until they become more severe and more costly to diagnose and treat. Too often when they do seek attention, it is in the most expensive way – the hospital emergency room and many times those costs are borne by our local hospitals or passed off to insured patients in the form of higher premiums, neither of which are good solutions.
In our respective faith traditions, a right is defined as a moral claim on the community to a good essential for human dignity. Access to affordable health care is such a right, and ensuring access is a common policy goal of long standing religious communities. We also believe that human beings are created in the image of God. As a society, we believe we are responsible for one another; if we turn our backs on the under-advantaged, those who are disabled, do not make enough income to provide health care for their families or simply need more affordable options, we collectively turn our backs on God. Deuteronomy 15:11 tells us that God says, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother (and sister), to the needy and to the poor, in your land’.”
As faith leaders, and not policy makers, we do not pretend to know what the best options are for closing the “coverage gap,” but we do know that there must be a solution, and we know that we, as a state, cannot let this issue remain unattended any longer. Our disadvantaged friends and neighbors cannot wait any longer. Their health depends on our state’s action. Surely if our surrounding states can work to close their gaps, Indiana can as well.
Therefore, we the undersigned faith leaders from across Indiana, urge Governor Pence and the Indiana General Assembly to move forward with negotiations with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and make the acceptance of federal dollars to expand health insurance and close the coverage gap for 400,000 Hoosiers both a priority and a reality.
We, as a state, have an opportunity and a responsibility that must not be ignored. Such efforts enrich society and help our state to become healthier economically by having a working population that is physically and emotionally healthy.
Bishop Michael J. Coyner, Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church
The Reverend William O. Gafkjen, Bishop, Indiana-Kentucky Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
John Vertigan, Conference Minister, United Church of Christ in the Indiana-Kentucky Conference
The Reverend Richard L. Spleth, Regional Minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The Right Reverend Catherine Waynick, Bishop, Indianapolis Diocese of the Episcopal Church
Most Reverend Joseph W. Tobin, Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis
Most Reverend Dale J. Melczek, Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary
Most Reverend Timothy L. Doherty, Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette
Most Reverend Charles C. Thompson, Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Evansville
Rabbi Brett Krichiver, Senior Rabbi, Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, Indianapolis
Rabbi Dr. Dennis Sasso, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Beth El Zedeck, Indianapolis
Rabbi Dr. Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Senior Rabbi Emerita, Congregation Beth El Zedeck, Indianapolis
Rabbi Hal Schevitz, Assistant Rabbi, Congregation Beth El Zedeck, Indianapolis
Rabbi Bruce J. Pfeffer, Indianapolis
Rabbi Dr. Aaron Spiegel, Indianapolis
Rabbi Heidi Waldman, Indianapolis
Rabbi Paula Jayne Winnig, Executive Director, Bureau of Jewish Education, Indianapolis
Rabbi Stanley Halpern, Congregation Beth Shalom, Carmel, Ind.
Temple Israel, Gary, Ind.
Rabbi Brian Besser, Congregation Beth Shalom, Bloomington, Ind.
Rabbi Javier E. Cattapan, Congregation Achduth Vesholom, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Rabbi Mitchell Kornspan, Congregation B’nai Jacob, Fort Wayne, Ind.