As the resident Bishop of the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, I urge Governor Terry Branstad and our Iowa legislators to come together in a spirit of cooperative and collaboration to implement the Affordable Care Acts expansion of Medicaid in Iowa. Medicaid expansion is a critical issue that impacts the health and economic security of thousands of middle and lower-income Iowans, many of whom are children. I encourage all of you, our Iowa political leaders, to take to heart your obligation as elected officials to place the well-being of thousands of constituents as a priority above any given political ideology or partisan agenda.
The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church affirm that health care is a basic human right (¶ 162 V). We believe that it is the responsibility of government to assure health care for all. Expanding Medicaid is a decision that requires the full support of politicians from both parties and our Governor.
Scripture reminds us of the central role that health and wholeness plays in Jesus life and ministry. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:24-35) we find a story which points to the importance of health care for all, without regard to status or ability to pay, as something that is the duty of every neighbor and every person to provide for fellow human beings. Additionally, Jesus says I came so that they could have lifeindeed, so that they could live life to the fullest (John 10:10). In a democracy, providing everyone with health care coverage, regardless of ability to pay for treatment, is critical, and something that government ignores at the detriment of its people and the best interests of community. The prophet Ezekiel denounced the leaders of ancient Israel whose failure to provide health care: you dont strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strays, or seek out the lost; but instead you use force to rule them with injustice (Ezekiel 34:4). In concert with other faith groups, we believe that it is unconscionable and abhorrent that any person should ever be denied access to adequate health care due to economic, racial, or class status.
The expansion of Medicaid to 138% of the federal poverty line (which is estimated at $15,281.70 for yearly income for one individual and $31,321.50 for a yearly income for a family of four) would provide essential health insurance coverage for an estimated 150,000 Iowans who currently do not have Medicaid coverage. Expansion of Medicaid would ensure health care coverage for those who are particularly vulnerable children, elderly and older adults living in nursing homes, people with mental and physical disabilities, people with mental health conditions who live in state-run mental health institutions, refugees and other recent immigrants, and hardworking Iowans who often hold more than one job and yet are still not able to make ends meet financially nor afford health insurance coverage for their families. If Iowa only provides coverage to people at 100% of the poverty line then many of our fellow community members will suffer. Additionally, without the expansion of Medicaid, there is a possibility that many of our county mental health systems will become seriously underfunded, thereby increasingly limiting access to these much needed services for Iowans.
Expanding access to health care coverage for over 150,000 economically struggling families and individuals is a moral obligation and responsibility that speaks to the core of our religious, governmental, and communal values of equality, human dignity, and the inherent interconnectedness of all people in our state and nation.
Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble
Iowa United Methodist Conference