Category Archives: Healthcare

What American Dream? The Dangers of the Proposed Republican Public Charge Rule

What Are Members of Congress Saying on Public Charge?

NETWORK will be updating this page with the latest statements.

“Such a rule would essentially force families, including those with U.S. citizen children, to choose between getting the help they need to prosper — from crucial programs that provide medical care, food assistance, housing assistance, and early childhood education — and reuniting with those they love. These are not the ideals of our country and we urge the Department to reconsider this ill-advised proposal.”-Letter to Kirstjen M. Nielsen and Mick Mulvaney signed by 85 Members of Congress.

The original letter can be found here.

“What will the Trump Administration do next? Since day one, we have witnessed a series of attacks by the administration targeting immigrant communities around our nation. This latest back-door attempt to leverage public health and efforts to deny legal immigration benefits, seeks to circumvent Congress and ultimately restrict family reunification. This ill-advised proposal will make it difficult for individuals seeking legal entry or permanent residency in the United States to care for their family through the use of social services that they are legally entitled to use. This rule fails to uphold the values of our nation and will force individuals to choose between putting food on the table for their children and being granted legal status.” –Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13).

“Let’s be clear— current law already prevents the vast majority of immigrants from accessing Federal means-tested public benefits. That’s not what this proposed rule is about. This is about denying immigration benefits and keeping families apart. It would essentially force families, including citizen children, to choose between getting the help they need—like medical care or Head Start—and reuniting with loved ones.  This rule will not only harm immigrant families, it will undermine decades-long efforts to improve the health and well-being of our communities and our nation.” –Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19).

“The Trump administration’s proposed ‘public charge’ rule is a dangerous attack on immigrant families. For centuries, immigrants fleeing economic hardship, persecution, and violence have found opportunity in our country to do what is best for their families. This proposal imperils that ability and forces immigrant families to make the tragic decision between basic necessities and their future in our country. I urge the Trump administration to rescind this heartless proposal, cease its baseless attacks on immigrant communities, and stop inserting nativist principles into policies that directly contradict American values.” – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03). 

Original post with statements can be found here.

What American Dream? The Dangers of the Proposed Republican Public Charge Rule

Mary Cunningham
April 11, 2018

At the heart of the American experience lays the dazzling idea of the American Dream. We profess the dream proudly, holding it as a symbol of our nation’s deepest values: acceptance, equal opportunity, and prosperity achieved through hard work. Yet, how can we profess this to be true if not everyone is given an equal chance to prosper and if we penalize people for utilizing the very programs that are designed to help them get ahead?

On March 28, 2018 the Washington Post relayed the latest update on the proposed public charge rule, which could change the process for immigrants seeking legal residency. The draft of this change has not been formally published and is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget for approval. This proposed public charge rule demonstrates another attempt by the Trump administration to restrict family-based immigration and cut off access to public benefits that help families meet their basic human needs. Yes, this rule, if it comes to pass, would apply to families who have come to the United States legally in search of a better life. These are the people who have gone through the system and as our Republican friends like to say patiently “waited their turn in line” to obtain green cards. These are the families and individuals who would be penalized if this proposed rule comes to fruition.

So what exactly does public charge entail?  Under the proposed draft, individuals would be required to indicate their reliance – and for the first time any family members’ reliance – on public aid programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing assistance, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and even refundable tax income credits obtained through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). People who depend on these programs, or who have children who rely on them, could potentially be derailed on their path to a green card or even deported. The draft regulation penalizes those applying for lawful permanent resident status if they have big families and if they have limited income. This would be particularly harmful to mixed-status families with U.S. citizen children where parents will have to decide whether their child should use programs like Medicaid or school lunches if such use could lead to deportation of a family member seeking a green card.

So basically, individuals would be forced to choose between catering to their basic human needs or protecting their immigration status. If this rule passes it will have a deleterious effect on families. It would separate families who rely on public aid and increase the risk of falling into poverty for those who do not enroll in public aid programs for fear of being forced to abandon family reunification. An article in the Huffington Post estimates that this proposal puts 670,000 children at risk of falling into poverty. While there is bipartisan consensus that our nation’s children should have access to food, healthcare, and other basic necessities, this rule threatens to upset the balance completely.

The argument in favor of instituting a public charge rule is that those applying for a green card should be “self-sufficient.” However, it is estimated that around the same percentage of native-born Americans use public assistance as foreign-born individuals. Will our brothers and sisters not be able to achieve the American Dream solely because they need health insurance, food or housing for their families? I surely hope not.

We expect more information on the public charge rule soon and will keep you updated with analysis and ways to engage

Congress Finally Passes a FY2018 Budget

Congress Finally Passes a FY 2018 Budget

NETWORK Government Relations Team
March 22, 2018

At long last, Congress will pass a bipartisan FY 2018 spending bill that will send communities across the country much anticipated resources. This legislation is six months overdue, and Congress should be ashamed. That being said, while it is not perfect, the FY 2018 consolidated appropriations measure contains robust investments in vital safety net programs.

Many of NETWORK’s Mend the Gap issues were among the programs that fared well. The spending measure significantly boosts funding for the 2020 Census, low-income housing, as well as healthcare for seniors, children, and people who are disabled. Investing in safety-net programs is paramount to ensuring the common good.

We are disappointed that Congress did not muster the courage to include a permanent fix for more than 800,000 DACA recipients. That being said, we know the Trump Administration wanted – and failed – to expand their mass deportation agenda. NETWORK continues to support our champions in the House and Senate for their unwavering commitment to protect Dreamers and their families from harmful attempts to tear apart families.

All of us at NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice look forward to working with Congress throughout the FY 2019 appropriations process to ensure passage of a Faithful Budget.  It’s our hope that Congress will turn a new leaf and set aside petty partisanship in order to complete its work on time.

Below is a detailed look at how the omnibus bill affects NETWORK’s Mend the Gap priorities:

Department of Agriculture

  • Decreases funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $4.5 billion primarily due to declining enrollments

Department of Commerce

  • Fully funds the 2020 Decennial Census at $2.814 billion, an increase of $1.344 billion above the FY 2017 enacted level

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

  • Increases the HUD budget by $4.6 billion in additional program funding compared to FY 2017, and more than $12 billion above the president’s FY 2018 request
  • Renews all Housing Choice Vouchers and provides new vouchers to veterans and people with disabilities—the president’s budget request proposed to eliminate 250,000 Housing Choice Vouchers
  • Allocates nearly $1 billion in additional funding to repair and operate public housing
  • Boosts funding for the HOME Investment Partnerships program to the highest level in seven years
  • Does not include any of the rent increases proposed by the president in his FY 2018 budget request

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

  • HHS would receive approximately $98.7 billion, an $11.6 billion increase above the FY 2017 enacted level, including $2.6 billion in new funding
  • Tweaks Medicare reimbursement status of several prescription drugs
  • Increases the Child Care Development Block Grant from $2.9 billion in FY 2017 to $5.2 billion in 2018
  • Raises funding for the Low Income Heating Assistance Program by $250 million to $3.6 billion, although the Trump administration requested elimination of the program for the second year in a row
  • Fails to stabilize the health insurance market by providing subsidy payments to insurers and allowing states to develop more flexible insurance requirements

Department of Homeland Security

  • $1.6 billion as down payment for border wall construction and to make repairs of existing fencing structure
  • Scales back on detention beds: includes 40,520 beds with a glide path down to 39,324 by the end of the fiscal year, a decrease of 12,055 from the FY 2017 enacted level.
  • Freezes number of ICE agents at FY 2017 level
  • Cuts Homeland Security Investigations agents from 150 down to 65

Department of Labor

  • Prevents the Trump administration from carrying out a controversial rule that might have resulted in employers of tipped workers restricting how the tips were distributed
  • Increases funding for employment and training services to $3.5 billion, compared to $3.3 billion in FY 2017

Finding a New Measure of Winning

Finding a New Measure of Winning

Meg Olson
March 8, 2018

There is no doubt about it: 2017 has been a rough year for justice seekers. As I write this, I am sitting with the devastating reality that before leaving on their holiday vacations, Congress passed a bill that will increase taxes for taxpayers in the lowest brackets, cause 13 million people to lose their health insurance, and exacerbate our nation’s already staggering racial wealth gap. And this is just one example of how Congress and the Trump administration are hurting people living in poverty, people of color, immigrants, labor, women, the earth…

Some days I look at my postcard of Dorothy Day’s famous adage and think, “Dorothy, I DO have the right to sit down and feel hopeless! Nothing is working!”

And yet, I know that I need to pursue Gospel justice with joy and persistence and approach situations with hope and welcome. And, as the lead NETWORK organizer, I am called to model this joy, hope, and welcome for you, our members, who reach out on a daily basis, asking what else you can do to pass the Dream Act or save the Affordable Care Act.

If I take a step back from the immediate crisis at hand and look at this past year, I can actually muster up quite a bit of hope. I just have to accept that in these challenging times, I need to adjust my expectations about winning.

In my early days of organizing, I was taught to think of multiple answers to the question, “What does winning look like?” Yes, the ultimate “win” is stopping harmful legislation or passing a bill that supports the common good. However, “winning” also looks like people committing to taking action, strengthening relationships with those who share their values, and building power.

So here’s how I’ve seen NETWORK’s members and activists win in 2017:

  • You’ve committed to taking action by making over 50,000 phone calls to Congress this year; going on more than 40 in-district visits; and attending town halls, rallies, and even protests.
  • You’ve strengthened your relationships with your fellow NETWORK members, with organizations led by Dreamers, and members of other faith based organizations such as Bread for the World and Faith in Indiana.
  • You’re building power in your congressional districts. I know that because our Government Relations team will gleefully tell me when they get back from the Hill, “Congressman Pete King’s Legislative Assistant started our meeting by thanking NETWORK and crediting our members for urging Rep. King to get on Rep. Scott Taylor’s letter to get a solution for Dreamers before the end of the year!” or “Congresswoman Brooks’s staffer said that the Congresswoman told her about the great meeting she had with NETWORK members!”

We’ve got a long road ahead of us to mend the wealth, income, and access gaps in our nation, especially for people living in poverty, women, people of color, and those living in the intersections of those realities. But I have hope that in 2018, NETWORK’s members and activists will commit to taking more action, continuing to deepen their relationships with fellow justice-seekers, and building even more power.

And yes, I believe that we will win!

A Year of Protest, Prayer, and Persistence

A Year of Protest, Prayer, and Persistence

Laura Peralta-Schulte
March 7, 2018

2017 was a tumultuous year for our nation. Following the election of President Trump and with Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, advocates were fearful of what lay ahead for women, people of color, immigrants, and other communities that had been the target of then-candidate Trump’s consistent attacks on the campaign trail.

President Trump began his Inaugural Address talking about “American carnage”, building walls, and making “America first.” The next day, millions of people marched in Washington and around the world to show their opposition to President Trump’s agenda. Sister Simone Campbell addressed the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. asking people of faith to actively engage in the political debate on behalf of the common good. With that historic mobilization, we began the political action of 2017.

Administrative Attacks on our Mend the Gap Agenda

Two areas of NETWORK’s Mend the Gap agenda were under constant attack in 2017:  healthcare and immigration. On both issues, the Trump Administration used all legal means at their disposal to undo the progress of the Obama Administration. For healthcare, the Administration moved immediately to dismantle the Affordable Care Act by changing regulations under the guise of “flexibility” to limit the program. Later in the year, the Administration refused to advertise and engage in ACA enrollment activities, which was an act of sabotage.

On immigration, including in the area of refugee resettlement, the Administration attempted to fundamentally restructure longstanding programs. This began with issuing multiple Muslim travel bans – which were, until recently, stopped by Court challenges – then concluded the year by announcing a historic cut to the number of refugees the U.S. will settle. The Trump Administration also callously rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program created by President Obama that has protected Dreamers from deportation and allowed them legal work authorization since 2012. The Administration is currently working to remove Temporary Protected Status for large communities of immigrants including those from Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and elsewhere.

Legislative Attacks on Mend the Gap Issues

One of the first and most sustained threats to our agenda came as Republicans in Congress launched their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Republican members of Congress have campaigned on repealing the ACA since its passage, so it was no surprise when the House moved to repeal the program. Congress also moved to unravel our broader healthcare system by attempting to fundamentally restructure the Medicaid program into a block grant. This proposal would devastate Medicaid and risk the health of millions of Americans who depend on the program.

What was surprising – and inspiring – was that these efforts failed due to the hard work of a diverse coalition of advocates and the engagement of many people all around the country who responded to the attack with determination. The Republicans had planned to repeal the ACA quickly at the beginning of the Congressional session, but ended up fighting to make changes through the spring and summer until they finally failed in July. Network chaired the national faith healthcare table and played an important role in defeating the effort.

Harmful immigration bills became part of the Republican legislative agenda during the first days of the new Congress. Republicans moved swiftly to increase funding for deportations, detention, and border security as well as pass new legislation to strip sanctuary cities of federal funding. Early on, Democrats united and refused to support a bill that included significant funding to build a border wall. This was an early win for our community, and it became apparent that Republicans would have trouble implementing their agenda because of Senate rules (requiring 60 votes to pass legislation) when operating under regular process. That is why the budget reconciliation process (which only requires 51 votes) has been used to try to pass partisan healthcare and tax legislation.

Crisis set in as the Administration rescinded the DACA program in September. Over 800,000 Dreamers who had signed up for protections and who are fully integrated in American communities, schools, and workplaces face the threat of deportation if Congress does not pass legislation that provides protection. Congress failed to pass this critical legislation in 2017 and it remains a key part of NETWORK’s agenda for 2018.

End of the Year: Tax Cuts or Bust

Because of advocates’ success in blocking major portions of the Republican agenda during the first half of the year, when Congress returned after the August recess, the pressure was on Republicans to deliver a win before the end of the year. They moved quickly to a popular issue for the party: tax cuts. Congressional Republicans worked feverishly for the rest of the year to pass a partisan tax bill that gives significant tax cuts to wealthy people and corporations at a loss of $1.5 trillion dollars for our nation. While there were obstacles to passing the bill, in the end Republicans rallied around the tax bill written by and for lobbyists and their rich donors, marketing it as a middle class tax bill that will spur economic growth and raise wages. Unlike earlier debates, there was little Republican opposition to the tax bill and it moved forward at lightning speed. The bill did not receive any Democratic support.

This was a significant loss for NETWORK for two reasons. First, as part of the tax bill, Republicans achieve a year-long goal of destabilizing the Affordable Care Act by including a repeal of the individual mandate. Experts show that this will increase premiums and potentially lead to 13 million people losing healthcare in the near future. Second, the significant loss of national revenue sets the table for Republican leadership to talk about the need to cut the social safety net programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and nutrition programs next year. Already, President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have indicated that Congress will push for “Welfare Reform” next year.

An Uninspiring Federal Budget Process

Congress did not pass a full federal budget for 2018, deciding instead to put all of their political energy into passing tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations. Congress adjourned on December 21 after passing a short-term bill to fund the government at current levels through January 19. This sets the stage for further budget action as well as discussions on funding for 2019.

Harmful Neglect of the Common Good

Congress’s single-minded focus on partisan priorities continually got in the way of bipartisan legislation that would have advanced the common good. For much of 2017, NETWORK and partners urged Congress to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) well before the October 1 deadline. For 20 years, CHIP has been a popular, bipartisan program that brought the rate of uninsured children to the lowest level in our history. Congress failed to renew CHIP funding and only passed a temporary funding for the program until March of 2018 when they will try again to achieve bipartisan consensus.

Overall, there are three important lessons we have learned in the past year. First, Republicans are deeply divided on core Mend the Gap issues like healthcare and immigration; it is possible in certain instances to build bipartisan support to block bad bills and, over time, potentially to develop bipartisan legislation to solve problems. Second, in order to be successful, advocates must organize and engage in Washington and, perhaps more importantly, at home. Third, President Trump and Republicans in Washington are fearful of political losses in 2018 and will prioritize “winning” the political fight and the next election over the common good. As we work to resist against unjust policies and to promote the common good, we continue to find our power in diversity and community.

Read NETWORK’s 2017 Voting Record here.

Representative Crowley on Surprises, Challenges, and the Road Ahead

Representative Crowley on Surprises, Challenges, and the Road Ahead

February 27, 2018

Congressman Joseph Crowley represents New York’s 14 congressional district and is Chair of the House Democratic Conference. This year, Congressman Crowley received a 100% on NETWORK’s voting record for the sixth year in a row. (View the 2017 voting record.) His six-year record is the longest out of anyone currently serving in Congress. NETWORK spoke to Representative Crowley to learn about how his Catholic faith and his lived experiences inform his political decisions.

How does your faith inspire your work in Congress?
I was raised to live by the Golden Rule: ‘Do to others as you would like them to do to you.’ This has guided me in life and inspired my work in Congress. It is simple: we need to treat others with the same compassion and empathy with which we all want to be treated, and put forward just and fair-minded policies that ensure opportunity for all. This means doing the right thing and working hard to ensure that my constituents from Queens, the Bronx, and all Americans can enjoy the brighter future they and their families deserve.

What is the proudest vote you have cast this year?
I believe that health care is a right, not a privilege. That’s why I voted against the so-called “American Health Care Act,” which would have stripped access to quality health care for millions, and punished children, seniors, and those with pre-existing conditions. I am very proud to defend the right of Americans to have access to affordable, quality health care, but also know we must do even more to make sure health care is available to all.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced this year?
A big challenge has been President Trump’s attacks on immigrants and refugees, including his heartless decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has upended the lives of nearly one million talented DREAMers who contribute to their communities and the American economy. These young people have all the qualities our nation was built upon and should be welcomed here.

What about this past year has surprised you the most, politically?
I’ve been appalled by the completely inadequate response to the suffering and pain of our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. President Trump and congressional Republicans have treated the victims of these natural disasters like second-class citizens, when they are as American as you and I. I visited Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria and witnessed the extensive devastation there. We need to do more to ensure that everyone living there has the resources needed to rebuild and recover, and I’ve promised our fellow Americans there that the federal government commitment to them will continue for years and decades.

What policy area will you focus most on in 2018?
There are too many important policies to pick just one. But an issue I’m especially passionate about is ensuring that hard-working Americans have access to affordable housing. Housing is one of the most basic human needs and the lack of affordable housing is a crushing burden for many families in Queens and the Bronx and across the U.S. This year, I introduced the Rent Relief Act – legislation to help those struggling to balance the high costs of rent with the needs of their families. It would put money back in the pockets of renters who spend more than 30 percent of their income each month on housing. This is an extraordinary way for us to build the middle class and secure the financial stability of working men and women.

When times seem difficult, what keeps you motivated to continue working for the common good in Congress? 
My constituents in Queens and the Bronx. Meeting with them and hearing directly about their passions, dreams, and hope are always motivating and inspiring. Despite all the challenges we face, I’ll continue to defend our values and provide good solutions for my constituents and all Americans.

How have you seen policies you’ve promoted in the past positively affect your constituents and our nation?
Legislation such as the Affordable Care Act has positively improved the quality of life of my constituents and of millions of people across the nation. The ACA has expanded coverage, reduced costs, and improved our health care system. We need to continue protecting this accomplishment and come together to improve health care so every American has access to affordable and quality care.

You voted with NETWORK 100% of the time for the past six years, which is the longest record for any current members of Congress. How does it feel?
Extremely honored. From protecting and improving our health care system to creating economic opportunity – my positions on our nation’s most pressing issues are always guided by the common good. I’m proud to be an ally of NETWORK in working toward economic and social transformation in our communities.

Do you have any advice for advocates inspired by their faith to engage in politics?
Turn your faith into action and never underestimate the power of your voice. Now more than ever, your engagement is making a difference.

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Work Requirements: A Harmful Shift for Medicaid

Work Requirements: A Harmful Shift for Medicaid

Kaitlin Brown
January 18, 2018

You may have heard a lot about work requirements in the news lately. Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced that they would begin approving states’ requests for Medicaid work requirements, allowing states to make access to healthcare conditional based upon workforce participation. What’s worse, this new process could potentially open the door to other expensive and ineffective requirements for recipients of healthcare. Last Friday, Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirement was the first approved in over fifty years of the Medicaid program, and it is likely that other states will quickly be approved (nine other states have already submitted proposals). We believe that access to healthcare is a human right, and receiving coverage should not be conditional on employment status.

The vast majority of adults receiving Medicaid are either working, in school, or caregivers. Many other adults receiving Medicaid have serious health issues that preclude them from working. With work requirements in place, cancer patients for instance who are no longer on traditional employer insurance, would now need to go through a waiver process to prove that they are not able to work, adding an undue burden for people who are medically vulnerable.

Before the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion (when many states increased eligibility for people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty line, about $33,948 for a family of four), there were fewer working adults on Medicaid. Now, more than half of Medicaid recipients are working, many in jobs that neither provide employee health coverage nor pay enough for employees to buy their own insurance on the marketplace. This might be a family where both parents are working in low-wage jobs in a company that isn’t large enough to provide insurance, or an individual working multiple part-time jobs.

Medicaid recipients who are not working report that they cannot because of their own medical issues, lack of employment options in their area, and/or caring for children or elderly family.1 Moreover, Medicaid is not structured like other social safety net programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to provide job training. Imposing work requirements therefore would leave many recipients stuck in low wage jobs with little chance of advancement.

Work requirements will also disproportionately hurt women. Women are more likely to be caregivers for children or other family members, or to be employed in non-traditional settings that do not provide high wages or employer-sponsored insurance. These women would then be forced to choose between high-cost childcare and losing their access to healthcare.

The administration’s decision to institute work requirements for the most vulnerable goes against what we stand for. It puts an additional burden on people who are sick or experiencing poverty, and puts the burden on a system that is not set up to provide adequate training for those joining the workforce.


Read more:

“Understanding the Intersection of Medicaid and Work.” Rachel Garfield, Robin Rudowitz. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/understanding-the-intersection-of-medicaid-and-work/

“Medicaid and Work Requirements: New Guidance, State Waiver Details and Key Issues.” MaryBeth Musumeci, Rachel Garfield, and Robin Rudowitz. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/medicaid-and-work-requirements-new-guidance-state-waiver-details-and-key-issues/

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Children in Our Healthcare Policies

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Children in Our Healthcare Policies

December 18, 2017

During the third week of Advent, we recall the time Mary and Joseph spent preparing for the birth of Jesus – time spent in joyful anticipation. Now, we wait in hopeful anticipation for Christ and strive to shape a world where all children are welcomed and cared for, including children who receive healthcare insurance from the Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program.

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we are reminded of children across the country whose lives are affected by federal policies. This week, we explore the current reality for children who are at risk of losing healthcare insurance because funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has not been renewed.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   -John 1:14, NIV

The Urgent Need to Renew CHIP

By Lucas Allen

We are now just a week away from celebrating the coming of Jesus, who was born into poverty and vulnerability outside an inn which had no room. But for many families, this season of joyful anticipation is overcome by anxiety about the future of their child’s healthcare. Congress’s failure to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program threatens to leave millions of our nation’s children and families “outside the inn” of our healthcare system right around Christmastime.

For 20 years, CHIP has been a popular, bipartisan program that has brought the rate of children without health insurance down to the lowest level in our country’s history. It provides 8.9 million children and pregnant mothers with low-cost, quality healthcare. Yet Congress’s fixation on partisan attempts to repeal the ACA and giving tax cuts to the wealthy caused this program to fall through the cracks; its funding has now been expired for 79 days. Many states are near exhausting all leftover funds, and families have begun receiving notices that their coverage will be terminated if Congress does not act soon.

As families receive these terrifying notices, members of Congress like Senator Orrin Hatch are saying things like, “the reason CHIP’s having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore.” This week Republicans are rushing to give over $1 trillion in deficit-financed tax cuts to the very wealthiest and to corporations, but as soon as a program for children needs a much smaller funding extension, there’s not enough money and kids are left out in the cold.

This Advent, let us call on our Representatives to prioritize those born into poverty, “outside the inn.” Let us celebrate the one who “came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10) by making sure our children have the care they need to flourish.

Resources

News on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and how it affects families:

Anxieties Rise as CHIP Funding Expires 

The CHIP Program Is Beloved. Why Is Its Funding in Danger?

These states are running out of CHIP funding

A Prayer for Families

Lover, loved and love. We call you Trinity. We acknowledge you as source and strength and holiness. We pray for mothers, those who bear life: protect, educate, nourish and defend their children. Strengthen them so they may enable their young to grow strong and true. Inspire fathers to be models of justice and peace to their children. Show your face to children as they take their place in the world and find their calling.

We intercede on behalf of those who care for others’ children. May they show a mother’s love as they help children grow in doing what is right and just. Enlighten our policy makers to understand that families need affordable child care while they work to provide their children’s necessities. Inspire us as a human community to support our values with our resources.

We entrust families to you knowing that they are the foundation of community. Send your angels to guard families from threats to their safety and unity. Make their way straight and smooth. Remove what blinds them to see that without you as the hub of their wheel they will waver on life’s journey. We place our trust in you.

Amen.

Written by Sister Carren Herring, HSM

Legislative Update: House Passes Partisan CHIP Bill

House Passes Partisan CHIP Bill

Lucas Allen
November 6, 2017

Last week, on Friday, November 3, the House passed H.R. 3922, the CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act, by a vote of 242 – 174. The legislation includes much-needed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Community Health Centers, and other healthcare programs. Unfortunately, it also included deep cuts to public health funding, risky changes to Medicaid and Medicare financing, and new barriers for families to access affordable health care coverage in the private marketplace. It is unacceptable to pay for children’s coverage with cuts that will hurt the health of others.

Tara Straw from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed one harmful aspect of the bill:

“The legislation’s shortened grace periods would hurt low- and moderate-income individuals and families who miss even part of a payment for any reason, such as a costly home or car repair. It would leave well-intentioned consumers with too little time to catch up on premiums when they fall behind and would lock people out of coverage for the rest of the year, raising the number of uninsured.

We shouldn’t take coverage away from other low-income people to pay for essential health priorities like extending CHIP, which provides health coverage for children in low- and moderate-income families, and funding for community health centers, which provide health care for more than 27 million people.”

Read more: Up to 688,000 Would Lose Insurance Under House Bill from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Now, it is up to the Senate to pass a bipartisan bill to extend funding for CHIP without the harmful offsets in the House bill. We urge them to pass the Keep Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure (KIDS) Act of 2017 in a bipartisan way. For health policy to serve the common good, we must not cut funding from one group to preserve coverage for another.

Healthcare Open Enrollment 2018

Healthcare Open Enrollment 2018

Mary Cunningham
November 2, 2017

At NETWORK we believe that healthcare is a human right. Regardless of financial status or geographic location, everyone should have access to quality, affordable care. It is vital that as people of faith we strive to protect the human dignity of all. One way of doing this is to encourage everyone who doesn’t already have coverage for a healthcare plan to sign up during Open Enrollment. Not sure where to start? Read below to see what Open Enrollment is all about.

Spreading the Word about Open Enrollment

One very important way to spread the word is to use your social media accounts to share facts with your friends and followers. When you tweet, use the hashtag #SoulsToEnroll to show your support for Open Enrollment. Another way to share information is to include an insert in your church’s bulletin with the dates for the Open Enrollment period and information about how to sign up.

For more ideas about how to promote healthcare enrollment, check out NETWORK’s Open Enrollment Toolkit.

Who Can Sign Up

Anyone can get coverage through a state marketplace or healthcare.gov if they are not already covered through a job, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP or another source. Twelve states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington) have their own exchanges and their own deadlines to sign up for 2018 coverage. The rest of the country will use the federal exchange at healthcare.gov.

When to Sign Up

The Open Enrollment period this year starts November 1 and ends December 15. After this period, you can only enroll for 2018 health insurance if you experience a qualifying life event that makes you eligible for a Special Enrollment Period. Notice that this year the enrollment period is shorter than usual — it no longer ends on January 15. Thus, it is vital to go to healthcare.gov as soon as possible to look at plans and to sign up.

How to Sign Up

Individuals can sign up for a healthcare plan through healthcare.gov or their state-based marketplace’s website. These websites allow you to search different plans and get access to affordable healthcare coverage. By shopping around you can compare plans to see what best fits your needs. Even if you already have a plan, it’s worth checking out and comparing new options. Plans change from year to year, meaning the cost of your current plan may have changed.

While signing up for a healthcare plan may seem intimidating, you don’t have to do it alone! There are several ways to sign up including online, over the phone, in person, through an agent, or using a paper application. If you have questions there is also a 24/7 call center you can call every day (except Thanksgiving) during Open Enrollment for assistance. The number is 1-800-318-2596.

Why Sign Up?

Getting coverage is important! Signing up for a plan will help protect you from unforeseen injuries, illnesses or accidents. Access to healthcare is a right, and obtaining health insurance is an important step for securing access to care in the United States.

Despite the common conception that healthcare plans are costly, plans on healthcare.gov can be affordable. These plans are required to provide free preventative care with no co-pay. In addition, they must cover benefits like prescription drugs and maternity care. It is important now more than ever to sign up for a plan so you can guarantee you and your loved ones are protected. Spread the word!

Interfaith Healthcare Coalition Urges a Vote on Alexander-Murray Bill

Interfaith Healthcare Coalition Urges a Vote on Alexander-Murray Bill

Lucas Allen
October 25, 2017

This week, NETWORK joined the Interfaith Healthcare Coalition in sending a letter to the Senate Majority and Minority leaders endorsing the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act of 2017 negotiated by Senators Alexander and Murray and urging Congress to pass it without delay. The full text of the letter can be read below or downloaded as a PDF:


Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Chairman Alexander, and Ranking Member Murray:

We write to you as religious organizations, congregational denominations, and faith traditions about the need to take quick, bipartisan action to stabilize the individual health insurance market. Our scriptures affirm our moral responsibility to ensure all may live with dignity and the opportunity to recognize their full potential. Access to affordable, quality health care should not and cannot be a privilege; it is a requirement rooted in faith to protect the life and dignity of every person.

We are encouraged and supportive of the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act of 2017 negotiated by Senators Alexander and Murray and urge Congress to pass it without delay.
Our faith communities appreciate the value of open dialogue across difference. It is past time for Congress to move away from the partisanship and divisiveness that has plagued this issue and instead move forward in a collaborative and bipartisan manner. The individual market and those who rely on it to purchase coverage are facing instability and rising premiums, and this bill can provide relief. We call on Congress to quickly pass this bill to:

  1. Continue the Cost Sharing Reduction payments for two years to help provide multi-year stability. These payments are crucial for stabilizing the marketplace and they help people with low incomes afford copayments, deductibles, and other health care expenses;
  2. Restore funding for ACA outreach, education, and enrollment; and
  3. Streamline the section 1332 state waiver process to give states meaningful flexibility while maintaining guardrails to protect low income people, those with serious health conditions, and other vulnerable populations.

While this bipartisan package does not address all our concerns regarding access to quality, affordable health care in this nation, it represents a necessary and constructive first step to address the immediate problems within the individual market. We urge you to pass it without delay and are praying for your success.

Sincerely,

American Muslim Health Professionals
Bread for the World
Disciples Center for Public Witness (Disciples of Christ)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Faith that Heals Ministries, Tennessee Conference United Methodist Church
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
Islamic Society of North America
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Methodist Federation for Social Action
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women, Inc.
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Pax Christi USA
PC(USA) Office of Public Witness
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team
Society of St. Vincent de Paul, National Council of the United States
The Episcopal Church
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association
Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society