Mercy Supports Medicaid Expansion in Court Case

March 26, 2012

By Sister Anne C.

This week the Supreme Court hears arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, also known as healthcare reform. While most of the attention has been on the mandate that most individuals have insurance, another piece in question relates to the law’s expansion of Medicaid, the government’s healthcare program for low-income families and individuals.

The Institute Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, along with the leadership of 20 other congregations of women religious, signed onto a legal brief in support of that expansion.

Mercy support comes out of concern for the more than 50 million people who do not have health insurance in the U.S. and the recognition that it is especially difficult for those who live near or below the poverty line to obtain coverage. The brief provides arguments to refute the notion it is unconstitutional to require the expansion of Medicaid to cover most citizens and Medicaid-eligible noncitizens who earn less than 133% of poverty level, which amounts to about $31,000 for a family of four.

Mercy support also comes out of a long history of providing health care to people from all walks of life, and a belief that health care is a human right and our mission is to provide relief from suffering and care of life at all its stages, especially for those who are poor. As one of the largest health care providers in the country, we know from experience the toll sickness and lack of insurance take on so many. Currently we sponsor or co-sponsor six health systems and 64 health-related facilities throughout the U.S.

Believing that health care is a human right, the passage of this legislation brings us closer to ensuring that everyone receives the health care they need in this country.

-Sisters of Mercy Institute Leadership Team statement after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.

Individual Sisters involved in healthcare delivery also supported the legislation’s passage.

Health care …is and always has been about a commitment to a common vision of care.  It is about creating solutions in a collaborative environment to find the best ways to care for all members of society…to honor their dignity and to give them access to basic, comprehensive health care.

-Sister Mary Roch Rocklage, sponsor liaison to Sisters of Mercy Health System in St. Louis, Missouri.

As a Sister of Mercy and executive director of the St. Frances Cabrini Clinic in Detroit, the oldest free clinic in the country, I’m on the front lines of our national health care crisis every day. Our doors are open to a steady stream of this city’s sick and most vulnerable who lack insurance. I know that the more than 50 million uninsured Americans are not statistics. They are mothers, children and grandparents who deserve to be treated with dignity. In the wealthiest nation in the world, it’s a moral scandal that our broken health care system has left behind so many for so long.  One day I hope that Cabrini Clinic can close. The charity my clinic provides is critical. But a health care system that allows so many to fall through the cracks is unworthy of our great nation. The Affordable Care Act is a major step toward rectifying this injustice.

-Sister Mary Ellen Howard, executive director of St. Frances Cabrini Clinic of Most Holy Trinity Church in Detroit.

The Affordable Care Act already is helping millions of Americans. Insurance companies no longer can reject a child for insurance coverage due to an illness or disability, young adults can now stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26, and insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on coverage or cancel a policy when someone gets sick.

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