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Medical care for the ‘least of these’ Print
Guest column
Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 -- 12:00 AM
Sarah Zoutendam Schaaf

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

“I’ll be back to pick you up in an hour” were her last words to me. I remember waiting for her as the afternoon sun faded to evening. I knew something was wrong.

That evening, we learned that a drunk driver struck my mother’s car. She remained comatose for a month, during which we were told that she would die. Miraculously she came out of her coma.

Delicate balancing act

During the ensuing three years, my father cashed in the family’s savings and pared down our assets so that she could qualify for Medicaid, which allowed my mother the rehabilitation care she needed.

At the end of those three years, my mother was able to walk with a brace and cane, talk, and care for herself. She is nothing short of a miracle.

She, however, retained many lasting neurological and physical problems, which require a great deal of ongoing therapy and physician care. Due to a single tragic event, my parents lost their life savings.

Theirs is a delicate balancing act. They must not earn over a certain amount, which means working minimum wage and turning down promotions, reliant instead on food pantries, public transportation, and cheap housing. Despite these difficulties, they find the Medicaid is worth it — they could never afford her care otherwise.

Caring for most vulnerable

A better system, of course, would allow them to contribute more to the economy instead of penalizing hard work. Our current system, flawed but vital, will be changed by the new administration. The new secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, and Speaker Paul D. Ryan, have proposed to cut Medicaid through block grants. These would limit federal Medicaid funds to a set amount given to states.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, such a program would lead to 14 to 21 million Americans losing Medicaid coverage by the 10th year of implementation, above the 13 million losing Medicaid or children’s insurance through an Affordable Care Act repeal.

We now have the opportunity to advocate for health care change that may better promote a free economy while protecting the poorest of the poor. Those who are disabled, children, single pregnant mothers, or impoverished to the point that they cannot afford healthcare are among our most vulnerable and are currently covered by Medicaid.

Medicaid does not pay for abortion, instead paying for up to 45 percent of births in the U.S., according to Kaiser Health.

Please join fellow Catholics in protecting the dignity of every human life by supporting the most vulnerable among us. Call your representative to advocate for continued medical support of our most vulnerable including support of childbirth so that potential mothers do not choose abortion.

Sarah Zoutendam Schaaf is a medical student at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. She is a returned Peace Corps volunteer and holds a master’s degree in public administration.