Last week, President Trump signed an executive order directing several federal agencies to develop new regulations impacting the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Those regulations are expected to cause the proliferation of health care plans that, while potentially less expensive for some consumers, come at the cost of mandated coverage and protections that currently exist under the ACA.
The administration also decided to cut off subsidies—made possible under the Affordable Care Act—which helped lower income individuals access insurance. Consumers most affected don’t have health insurance through an employer, their parent’s health insurance, or Medicaid or Medicare. For many, these government subsidies were key to ensuring access to any health insurance at all.
Policy analysts and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office warn that the Executive order will affect the U.S marketplace by eliminating nearly $7 billion from the individual market causing steep premium increases for many working low-income households across the country. Congressional leaders on both sides of the isle are expressing concern, but what we need most is bi-partisan cooperation and urgent action.
The ELCA has for many years maintained a clearly defined value around health care:
“We of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have an enduring commitment to work for and support health care for all people as a shared endeavor. Our commitment comes in grateful response to God’s saving love in Jesus Christ that frees us to love and seek the well-being of our neighbor.” (ELCA social statement “Caring for Health: Our Shared Endeavor,” 2003)
Over the past nine months, Lutherans—laypersons, pastors and Bishops—have engaged their Senators and Representatives with a simple message: Improve access to health care; don’t tear it apart. During congressional debate this summer, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton issued a statement that resonates today as much as it did then:
“I ask all Lutherans to pray for our leaders and to be advocates with me. Our collective voices make a difference, and we should raise them to call on our [leaders] to stand with the most vulnerable members of our communities. It is time for Congress to work together to find solutions that ensure health care for all in our nation of God’s great abundance.”
As Lutherans we believe that health is central to our well-being, vital to relationships, and helps us live out our vocations in family, work, and community. Caring for one’s own health is a matter of human necessity and good stewardship. Caring for the health of others expresses both love for our neighbor and responsibility for a just society.
We pray for those in our community who will be most affected by these recent actions, as well as for our leaders to work together to protect the most vulnerable in our country.