In this time of pandemic, it is easy to become afraid — afraid of losing our livelihoods, afraid of being evicted, afraid of not having health insurance, afraid of COVID-19.
Fear often turns us inward, and we are consumed by what could happen to us. At his first presidential inauguration in 1933, Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” In saying that, he gave a new twist to the biblical admonition: “Be not afraid.”
Could it be possible that the hesitance of many of us to support wholeheartedly Missouri Amendment 2 to expand Medicaid is that we are afraid? These times require us to open our minds and hearts — to have great faith.
On Tuesday, Missourians will vote on whether to expand Medicaid by amendment to the Missouri Constitution. As the Missouri Catholic bishops in their endorsement of Amendment 2 have said, “it (Amendment 2) provides health coverage to Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women, and children. It plays a vital role in sustaining the healthcare delivery system in our state.”
Since 2014, without Medicaid expansion, according to the Missouri Hospital Association, Missouri has seen hospitals close — 10 of which were in rural areas.
With neighboring Oklahoma’s passage in late June, Missouri is one of only 13 states that has not expanded Medicaid. We must pause and ask ourselves why most states have done this — with no reversing course and many more crediting expansion for improved health and fiscal outcomes.
Here is what Missouri would look like if we expanded Medicaid: Individuals who earn less than $18,000 a year would have health coverage, even if their workplace does not offer it. That would mean that an additional 230,000 Missourians would be insured. Medicaid expansion would also mean that over a billion dollars would return to Missouri every year — money that we send to Washington, which now goes to other states.
Bringing our tax dollars back to Missouri will assist in keeping rural hospitals open and protecting front-line health care jobs. Voting for Amendment 2 will protect lives.
Sometimes, we fear that a significant way the state spends money might weaken our religious foundation.
One of our personal standards for endorsing Amendment 2 is the endorsement by the Catholic Bishops of Missouri. Our Missouri Catholic Bishops state that, "in an effort to uphold the dignity of the human person in accord with Catholic social teaching," they are lending their support to Amendment 2.
People with no health insurance can lose their lives, so a vote for Amendment 2 is a vote for life.
Many of us know the Serenity Prayer (used by Alcoholics Anonymous and AlAnon), “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” In today’s world, there are so many things we cannot change, but here is something we can change.
Expanding Medicaid in Missouri will bring health insurance to 230,000 Missourians who are currently uninsured and who worry about getting sick and falling into bankruptcy, and even, possibly, dying. We can expand Medicaid in Missouri by voting yes on Amendment 2 on Tuesday, and we can expand Missourians’ chances of living.
Because we always like to look to medical professionals regarding medical concerns, I will quote Dr. Charles Bentlage, a Joplin physician, who wrote in his pro-Amendment 2 Globe column published on Sept. 13, 2019, “Hardworking families across our state are going without access to affordable health care, and it means our health care system and economy are going without billions of our tax dollars that should be coming home from Washington but are not. … It’s time to act to create a stronger, healthier Missouri for all of us.”
So we can either be afraid and shut down, or we can move forward in life. Please vote for Amendment 2 on Tuesday, because a vote for Amendment 2 is a vote for life.
Sister Diane Langford, a Sister of Divine Providence of San Antonio, Texas, is the director of faith formation at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Joplin.