Bishop Bransfield Shares Concern for West Virginia’s Most Vulnerable

The following is a statement from Bishop Michael J. Bransfield regarding the ongoing negotiations and proposed changes to the federal health care system.

At the recent meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a number of speakers shared their concern that the current Congressional deliberations about healthcare reform could result in “catastrophic effects” on the well-being of the vulnerable in our nation. They were aware of cuts proposed by the budget submitted by President Trump which would affect important safety net programs for the poor. The bishops had particular worries about the impact of proposed changes upon the health of children. Health care is a fundamental human right; good health care for children secures the future of society.

In West Virginia, more than one out of four children live in poverty. Federal programs which support nutrition of mothers and infants and kids in school are crucial for the development of so many of our youngest citizens. Programs such as CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) and Medicaid have reduced the percentage of uninsured children to 3%. Cuts to such national programs would be disastrous for the upcoming generation.

In our state, the largest group of Medicaid enrollees is children. In West Virginia, Medicaid provides necessary preventive care and treatment to 195,000 kids. No other program has a greater role in improving public health outcomes among West Virginia children –screening for health problems and treating conditions before a child’s progress in school and development is set back. In the many cases in which Medicaid helps disabled and other members of the children’s families, the improvement in the well-being of their families benefits the kids. If we really care about the welfare of West Virginia youngest, we will uphold funding of Medicaid and other support programs.

While motivated by Christ’s compassion, Catholics and members the faith community in general, are also aware of the economic impact of the arrival of federal funds into the Mountain State. Since West Virginia implemented the Medicaid expansion, our state has gained 6,200 jobs in health care and social assistance while the private sector, as a whole, has lost 5,400 jobs. Medicaid federal dollars also generate new business activity and jobs for individuals not directly associated with health care. For example, health care employees spend part of their salaries on new cars, which adds to the income of employees of auto dealerships, enabling them to spend part of their salaries on washing machines, and so on.

To a “gentle as doves” motivation to maintain funding for federal programs doing so much for our children – concern for the young ones’ health – is thus added a “wise as serpents” motivation – the current economic good of the state.

I urge our members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to take great care that the well-being of the youngest West Virginians not be sacrificed in forthcoming legislation regarding health care and the budget. The One who declared “Let the children come to me” would want no less.