The idea that all Americans deserve basic healthcare has been a divisive issue since President Obama made giving all Americans access to affordable healthcare insurance a priority, and it is a mystery why chief among the opponents of the Affordable Care Act are evangelical Christians. One would think that any follower of Christ would welcome an opportunity to help Americans, especially poor Americans, to gain access to basic medical care, but around the country conservative Christians have led the fight to deny healthcare for the poor by opposing Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act.
A question most decent Americans ask when confronted with the knowledge that evangelicals press state legislators and governors to oppose expanding Medicaid for their state’s poorest residents is, “Is it because they’re hard-hearted or cold-hearted? It’s probably because they don’t understand the problem because they have never walked in somebody’s shoes.” That was the assessment of Ohio Governor John Kasich who many Americans would hesitate to label a compassionate American, but he asked the question last week at an event to promote Medicaid expansion and wondered “Why is it that some people don’t get it?” It is because they are inhumane, cold-hearted, and hate poor Ohio residents as much as they hate President Obama who proposed Medicaid expansion to provide basic healthcare for the poor.
Kasich cited his religious convictions about caring for the poor in pushing Medicaid Expansion that will cover between 275,000 to 330,000 low-income Ohio residents without healthcare insurance. Kasich, like any semi-compassionate human being, cannot understand the opposition to giving the poor healthcare coverage, and he likely was flummoxed that two pro-life groups and six Republican lawmakers filed a lawsuit to prevent the state from accepting federal money to fund the Medicaid expansion. The inhumane pro-life and conservatives assert that Kasich made an illegal move in convening a seven-member special panel that voted 5 to 2 to go ahead with plans to provide healthcare for hundreds-of-thousands of low-income Ohioans.
According to the Associated Press, Right to Life chapters in Cleveland and Cincinnati joined the conservative’s lawsuit because they “oppose the use of federal funding for expansion and wanted the chance to debate the issue with the Legislature, according to the filing.” It is unclear why two so-called “Christian” pro-life groups lust to deny healthcare coverage for the poor because there are protections in the Affordable Care Act that prohibit federal funds for abortion services as well as the Hyde Amendment restricting federal funding for abortion. It is equally unclear why, in light of several new abortion restrictions in the state’s two-year budget, right to life advocates are opposed to Medicaid expansion other than as Kasich put it, they are cold-hearted.
The Ohio budget contains some of the harshest anti-choice measures in the nation including stripping funding from Planned Parenthood and shifting it to phony clinics to entrap pregnant women with the promise of free ultrasounds then misinform them about abortions, eliminate funding from rape crisis centers, and make impossible requirements that prevent clinics from staying open. The worse part of the Ohio pro-life budget was inclusion of a personhood clause defining a fertilized egg as a person before it implants in the uterine wall making certain forms of birth control murder in the state of Ohio. As an economic punishment, Ohio forces a woman to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before they have an abortion and requires them to pay for it whether their doctor thinks it is necessary or not. It is painfully obvious that the right to life groups oppose Medicaid expansion for the same reason the six Republicans suing Kasich do; they are cold and hard-hearted.
For many political observers the fact that Kasich pressured fellow Republicans for months to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act was remarkable. Indeed, Ohio is only the fourth Republican-controlled state take advantage of free expansion for three years. It is also noteworthy that Kasich set aside his conservative disregard for the poor and disadvantaged to provide them with healthcare based on his religious convictions, but it is too bad Kasich cannot extend his Christian compassion to other areas within his purview. However, some humanity for the poor is better than none at all and may signal that other religious Republicans will follow Kasich’s lead. It is highly likely that Kasich, like Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, can hardly pass up the economic benefits expanding Medicaid will bring to Ohio, but if he is prone to cite religious compassion it is certain that low-income Ohio residents will take healthcare access regardless if it is for economic or humane reasons and may give hope to poor people in other Republican-controlled states.
However, based on Republicans’ virulent opposition to anything associated with President Obama, it is unlikely low-income residents in most Republican-led states have any hope, or delusion, that their religiously-inclined leaders will take advantage of expanding Medicaid; especially if they have active right-to-life groups in their state. Perhaps the bible-loving pro-life crowd will adhere to the bible commandment to tell the truth and admit that their opposition to Medicaid expansion for men, women, and children has nothing to do with being pro-life and everything to do with being Americanized cold-hearted Christians.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.