Letter to Commissioner Stephen Miller Regarding Health Care

KCC Comments on Health Care

July 20, 2016

Commissioner Stephen Miller
Department for Medicaid Services

275 E. Main Street
Frankfort, KY 40621

Dear Commissioner Miller,

Below is an excerpt from the Kentucky Council of Churches’ policy statement on Health Care:

Health and healing are central dimensions of the faith we profess. Our Christian heritage teaches us to be concerned for the whole person. We believe that God’s purpose is for all people to be recognized as of worth, and; therefore, to be healthy, and to nurture health for one another in community. We are made in God’s image and have value, dignity, and integrity in healthful community.  

A basic theme in Scripture is the intelligent, committed and compassionate stewardship of life as we live in community with one another. Hebrew and Christian scriptures reflect the covenant between God and people in this stewardship of creation and community. … The Gospel of Mark demonstrates Jesus’ concern for the total well-being of those he met. Lepers and “mad men,” outcasts and Samaritans, women and children were restored to health and effective life. The Greek word, sodzo, is translated as “to save”, is the same word translated “to heal,” and “to make whole.” (http://www.kycouncilofchurches.org/council-statements/)

 As Christians we call on the Governor and Legislators to create a health care system that is just, equitable, and grace-filled. Paul reminds us that grace is free and available to everyone. It is not something that one can earn, or should have to earn. Similarly, preventative and corrective health care should not have to be earned through a point system. It should be available to all.

 The Council views the plan to make preventative vision and dental care part of the “My Rewards” program as punitive and reckless. According to the CDC, “Vision loss has serious consequences for the individual as well as those who care for and about people who have compromised vision because it impedes the ability to read, drive, prepare meals, watch television, and attend to personal affairs. Reduced vision among mature adults has been shown to result in social isolation, family stress, and ultimately a greater tendency to experience other health conditions or die prematurely.” (The Burden of Vision Loss, http://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/basic_information/vision_loss_burden.htm) Likewise, poor dental health can lead to health issues such as diabetes, infection, and gum disease. Vision and dental issues can make it more difficult for persons to find and keep a job.

 Preventative medicine is much more cost-effective than treatment. It also makes for a better quality of life. Therefore, the Council recommends that vision and dental checkups be included in coverage.

 We appreciate the Governor’s intention of saving the state money, and creating an incentive for work and moving into the public insurance coverage. However, we do not believe the “My Rewards” program is the answer. Again, it penalizes individuals and cultivates a culture of humiliation and intimidation. Likewise, the lock-out system creates disparity as it targets persons on the margins of the workforce – the poor, less educated, and mentally and emotionally disadvantaged. The way the plan is currently designed, if "able-bodied" Kentuckians cannot pay their premiums for 2 months, they get locked out for 6 months. It is a draconian measure and sends people right back to the emergency room, without any access to medications or specialty care if they have chronic conditions. Therefore, the Council urges alternative and more grace-filled methods of accountability be considered.

 Kentucky has made progress in treating individual needs and stabilizing the health of marginalized people like the homeless, chronically ill poor, and formerly incarcerated. However, the proposed changes threaten to halt this progress and reverse these gains. Furthermore, the re-determination requirement and the condition of eligibility put an undue burden on the enrollees, and are contradictory to Medicaid standards.

 The Kentucky Council of Churches proclaims the right of all people to be treated with dignity and respect. We find some of the measures, like those mentioned above to be contrary to this belief. The punitive nature of the Governor’s proposal is judgmental and disrespectful of those that Jesus called “the least of these.” Theologian Karl Barth once said, “Grace must find expression in life, otherwise it is not grace.” Let us never forget that we are to treat all people with grace, the grace that is freely given to us in Jesus Christ.

 Thank you for prayerfully considering our comments.