The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Nun advocates for health care
BY JIM HALL
The debate about adding more people to the Medicaid program has been mostly political and economic.
But Sister Mary Ellen Lacy said Tuesday that the issue is also a moral one.
“We must advocate for the inclusion of all when we discuss health care,” she said. “We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.”
Lacy, a Catholic nun, spoke at an Episcopal church in downtown Fredericksburg. Her message, she said, was an ecumenical one: “I ask us to resuscitate the principle of the common good.”
Lacy is a member of Network, a national Catholic lobby. She and her organization earned publicity earlier this year, touring as “Nuns on a Bus” to criticize Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed federal budget.
She was joined for Tuesday’s lunchtime appearance by Dr. Christopher Lillis, a Fredericksburg internist. Their presentation was sponsored by three state advocacy groups: the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Virginia Consumer Voices for Healthcare and Virginia Organizing.
A 50-year-old native of Chicago, Lacy lives now in Brooklyn. She is a former nurse, attorney and nursing-home administrator. Five years ago she joined the Daughters of Charity, a Catholic order.
Her arrival in the region came one day after Gov. Bob McDonnell said Virginia would not participate in the optional expansion of the Medicaid program, as provided by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
McDonnell told legislative budget committees in Richmond Monday that he included no money in his new budget to add uninsured Virginians to the program.
McDonnell said earlier this month that he was wary of the expansion, fearing that the federal government would not be able to fulfill its financial obligations.
The Affordable Care Act includes funding to add to the Medicaid program those who earn between 100 and 133 percent of the federal poverty level, beginning in 2014. The law provides for the federal government to pay 100 percent of the cost of expansion for three years, decreasing to 90 percent by 2021.
It is this math that bothers McDonnell. “You’re going to promise me 90 percent forever and you’re broke?” he said at a press conference.
Up to 16 million people nationwide would be eligible to join Medicaid under the expansion. A Virginia Senate Finance Committee report estimated that 305,000 Virginians would be eligible.
Lacy said there are many reasons for Virginia to join the 14 states that have already said they will participate in the expansion.
The infusion of new federal money will mean new health care jobs for Virginia, boost the state economy and reduce the amount spent on charity care, she said.
More important, she said, is the relief of suffering that will happen with early diagnosis and intervention.
“Health care is a basic human right,” she said. “Access to health care shouldn’t depend on where a person works, where they live, or how much your family earns.”
“Every person is created in the image and likeness of God,” she added, “and all have a right to life and those things that sustain that life.”
Jim Hall: 540/374-5433