US Jewish groups call on Senate to oppose Republican health plan

13 organizations say they are ‘deeply concerned’ Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 will undermine health care for most vulnerable

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks with the media at the US Capitol January 31, 2017 in Washington, DC.  (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images/AFP)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks with the media at the US Capitol January 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON — A group of 13 American Jewish organizations urged senators on Tuesday to oppose the Republican health care bill, saying the legislation would put the nation’s most needy populations at risk of losing access to care.

“We are deeply concerned that the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 will significantly undermine health care for the most vulnerable,” the letter said. “We call on you to oppose this bill when it comes to a vote.”

The missive — which was sent to all 100 members of the Senate — was undersigned by a number of major Jewish groups, including the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Union for Reform Judaism, which represents the largest denomination of American Jewry.

At the forefront of these organization’s concerns is the nearly $800 billion cut to Medicaid included in the GOP bill. That program, which provides medical insurance to Americans living in poverty, was expanded under former president Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“Medicaid plays an essential role in the health care of low-income Americans – including workers, people with disabilities, and the elderly,” the letter said. “It helps treat the sick, allows people with disabilities to live in and contribute to their communities, and assures parents that their children can see a doctor. A robust Medicaid program is essential for health of the body and the spirit.”

Reform leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs has urged President Obama not to close the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington DC, a position that puts him at odds with AIPAC. (Robert A. Cumins/JFNA via JTA)
Reform leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs (Robert A. Cumins/JFNA via JTA)

The groups noted the role many Jewish institutions and advocacy groups — as well as other religious organizations — play in trying to assist those in need of healthcare services but who lack the means to pay for it.

“Taking care of one’s own health and visiting the sick are widely understood as core Jewish obligations,” they said. “At the same time, we know that religious and charitable organizations alone cannot offer patients the full care they need.”

The bill, they added, “would undercut Medicaid and be a dramatic, reckless step backward in the history of the American health care system. States will face impossible choices prioritizing among people with disabilities, low-income Americans, and children and will have no option but to slash services that are essential for the daily lives of millions.”

Other groups that signed the missive include Bend the Arc Jewish Action, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Jewish Women International, Rabbinical Assembly and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.

On Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a devastating report on the Senate Republican proposed legislation that predicted it would result in 22 million more people losing insurance by 2026 than under the current system.

Several Republican senators have since voiced their disapproval of the bill in its current form. Maine Senator Susan Collins (R) said on Twitter that she would like to work with both her Republican and Democratic colleagues to improve America’s healthcare situation, but that the “CBO analysis shows Senate bill won’t do it.”

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