The Catholic tradition affirms that health care is a fundamental human right flowing from the inherent dignity of the human person. Life and health are precious gifts entrusted to each of us by God. Unfortunately, the tragic truth is that thousands of our sisters and brothers across Montana find themselves unable to obtain the necessary health care which they so desperately need.
Tens of thousands lack healthcare coverage and all too often find that accessible, adequate and affordable health care is beyond their reach. Such is the plight of many of the “working poor” who, through no fault of their own, simply cannot make ends meet and are forced to choose between providing health care for themselves and their children, or providing other life necessities. This grave need must be addressed with great urgency and compassion.
Access to adequate and affordable health care safeguards human life and affirms the God-given dignity all human persons enjoy. As such, we believe that any policy proposal to address this serious deficiency must 1) be truly universal; 2) protect human life and dignity from the moment of conception until natural death; and 3) respect the conscience of every person. Providing health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is morally imperative and prudent. Doing so advances the common good and promotes a culture of life in Montana by paying particular heed to the needs of the voiceless and vulnerable.
The question of whether or not to expand Medicaid as a way to address the lack of access to affordable health care has been left to the individual states to evaluate and decide. We acknowledge that people of good will can differ on whether or not such an approach is sound policy. We note, too, that among the many who advocate for some form of Medicaid expansion there is legitimate disagreement regarding the specifics of those policy proposals. However, the demands of justice make it clear it is unacceptable to disregard the problem and fail in our obligation to respond to the needs of the poor and most vulnerable.
Time is of the essence and we call on lawmakers in Montana to craft, during the current legislative session, an effective policy response to this need. The poor and marginalized in our midst are counting on those charged with this responsibility to act now to ensure access to affordable and adequate health care for all.
We recognize that in recent years the healthcare field has become increasingly complex and challenging for doctors, nurses, providers, policymakers and others. Those responsible for charting a just policy path face a daunting but achievable task. Therefore, we encourage all persons of faith to pray that our lawmakers be filled with wisdom and prudence as they deliberate and seek a course that provides for the needs of the poor, upholds the dignity of every human person and advances the common good.
Most Rev. George Leo Thomas Most Rev. Michael W. Warfel
Bishop of Helena Bishop of Great Falls-Billings