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Editorial | Medicaid expansion equals pro-life

Church’s support for Medicaid expansion is rooted in Scripture

Providing medical care to low-income workers is a pro-life issue. It’s one of the corporal works of mercy.

A pregnant, single mother in Missouri is covered by Medicaid if she earns $25,000 a year. But 60 days after she gives birth, that changes. Unless she makes less than $3,700 a year, she doesn’t qualify for Medicaid.

Father William Dotson, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in St. Charles, said in an online panel discussion hosted by the Archdiocese of St. Louis July 14 that pro-life people often are accused of caring only about a baby until it is born and a mother only when she’s pregnant. Right now the law in Missouri reflects that awful stereotype, he said.

Medicaid expansion, which is on the Aug. 4 ballot in Missouri, provides an opportunity to show that we are pro-life not just when a woman is pregnant, but we care for the mother after her child is born and we care for people throughout their lives.

Multiple studies show the impact of expansion on people’s health. Beneficiaries in expansion states have reported less psychological distress, fewer days of poor mental health, and improved overall health (Mazurenko, et al, 2018). Expansion states have experienced lower cardiovascular mortality for people ages 45 to 64 (Khatana, et al, 2019). Another study estimates that expansion states have had 15,600 fewer deaths for individuals ages 55 to 64 compared to non-expansion states between 2014 and 2017 (Miller, et al, 2019).

Missouri’s Catholic bishops support expanding the program to cover low-income workers, since doing so will help lead to better health outcomes for them and enhance their ability to continue working to support themselves and their families. “We offer our support for this effort because of the unmet health care needs of the working poor and to ensure the continued delivery of care to those who need it most through the Missouri health care system, including Missouri’s Catholic hospitals,” the bishops wrote.

One of the primary reasons for opposition to expansion is a fear that federal pro-life protections in Medicaid could be terminated, putting government funds at risk for allocation to abortions. As Archbishop Robert J. Carlson wrote, in the unlikely event that the Hyde Amendment is repealed, pro-life states such as Missouri would pursue every legal avenue to prevent public funding for abortion through the state Medicaid programs.

Father Dotson pointed out that the Church’s involvement in this issue is directly tied to Scripture. In Matthew 25, Jesus said “I was ill and you cared for me.” We may not be nurses or doctors, so Medicaid expansion is a way we care for people in need.

Pope John Paul II was well known for talking about the importance of health care. We have a preferential love for the poor, he reminded us. Pope Francis has echoed this as well.

Catholics need to form their conscience through the lens of the Gospel and Church Tradition. We draw from both faith and reason as we seek to affirm the dignity of the human person and the common good of all. The light of the Gospel and the moral and social teaching of the Church as well as our own reason compel us to vote in favor of Amendment 2, Medicaid expansion.

For more information about the Missouri bishops' support of Amendment 2, see the Missouri Catholic Conference resource page: mocatholic.org/resources/medicaid-resources

For more on the Medicaid expansion: https://www.archstl.org/catholic-support-is-strong-for-medicaid-expansion-5502

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