Obamacare: A Minister's Open Letter to Mitch McConnell

By Rev. Renee Roderer

Dear Senator McConnell,

My name is the Rev. Renée Roederer, and I am a Presbyterian minister living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In this letter, I do not speak on behalf of any congregation or larger denomination, yet as a person of faith, I speak to you with great urgency. I want to address the current deliberations you are leading to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

I realize that I am not one of your direct constituents, but I do have long-standing connections to Kentucky and your work as a Senator. I grew up in the Louisville area. I am also a minister of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) which has its denominational headquarters in Louisville.

More personally, however, I attended the University of Louisville as a young adult, and I had the privilege to sing in the Collegiate Chorale ― the very choir you personally invited to sing at the inauguration of President George W. Bush in 2000. I appreciated that invitation and experience, and I am invested in the area you are elected to serve.

As the Senate Majority leader, of course, I have a stake in the larger scope of your work as well. This includes the decision to repeal the Affordable Care Act, colloquially referred to as Obamacare.

As our nation moves toward another inauguration, many people are rightly concerned and anxious about the implications of the current effort to repeal the ACA ― 1) that it is happening; and 2) how it is happening. As you know, the Affordable Care Act has been successful in providing health coverage to 20 million people who were previously uninsured. This includes people in my state of Michigan, people in congregations I have served, and members of my own family.

I believe that access to health care is a fundamental human right. In a moral society, the right to health and well-being should be fully accessible to all, not only the privileged, wealthy few. I am convicted in this way as a citizen, a person of a faith, and a neighbor, as I know people who depend upon life-saving medications, procedures, treatment, and forms of therapy.

Congressional leaders must take great care and deliberation in all decisions concerning the ACA because human lives are quite literally on the line.

None of us can fully anticipate the future. Each one of us is vulnerable to a potential health crisis, a catastrophic accident, a disability, or a job loss. Since health care is primarily financed through an employment-based system in the United States, we must have affordable, alternative pathways to coverage.

For this reason, it makes sense to improve upon the Affordable Care Act rather than repeal its core benefits:

― Access for the uninsured ― Protections for pre-existing conditions ― Protections against lifetime insurance caps ― Coverage for young adults under the age of 26 on parents’ plans

People of both parties agree that the Affordable Care Act must be improved in order insure affordable premiums. Republicans have raised concerns about rising premiums, and Democratic Presidential candidates each called for improvements as well. I think you will find bipartisan support for improvements, both among the Congressional leadership and the wider public.

But I want to say this clearly: It is irresponsible and unconscionable to repeal the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare without a viable, safe replacement. Health, well-being, and life itself are as risk. Republican Senator Rand Paul is the only leader of your party who is refusing to vote for a repeal until a replacement has been determined. I have already called his office to thank him for this principled stand.

To close, I have heard your convictions that the ACA must be repealed as quickly as possible, citing service and allegiance to American voters ― namely, that you must “act quickly to bring relief to the American people.” I admit that I question that conviction, as I am aware that big pharma and insurance lobbyists have contributed to the campaigns of Congressional leaders. Who is being served well in a rapid repeal without a replacement? Surely, it is not the American public.

It is true that voters have concerns about the ACA. But apart from party affiliations, I can assure you that the majority of American people do not want a speedy repeal at the risk of losing coverage altogether. I can assure you that if people cannot afford rising premiums, they cannot afford coverage primarily or exclusively through Health Savings Accounts. I implore you not to repeal this legislation until there is a safe, viable replacement.

I am asking you to put people before party, well-being before wealth, and life before lobbying.

I thank you for your attention in this matter,

Rev. Renee Roederer

This piece was first published at Smuggling Grace.

Renee Roederer is the founding organizer of Michigan Nones and Dones, a community for people who are “spiritually curious but institutionally suspicious.” This community in Southeast Michigan includes people who are religiously unaffiliated (the Nones), people who have left established forms of institutional churches (the Dones), and people who remain connected to particular faith traditions but seek new, emerging visions for their expression.

Please visit Smuggling Grace to subscribe to Renee Roederer’s blog. You can also follow her on Twitter: @renee_roederer.

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