One of the tenets of the Catholic Church along with Christianity in general is to be generous to the poor.  As the leader of Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, Bishop Paul Swain holds a lot of sway over a significant number of parishioners.  According to their website, the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls numbers 128,000 baptized members.  Not all of them are old enough to vote.  However if you view them as a voting bloc, that’s a pretty significant number.

One particular member of the Sioux Falls Diocese Ryan Casey who is also the Lincoln County Democratic Party Chairman is calling for Bishop Swain to take a firm stand on an issue coursing through the South Dakota Legislature.  Casey explained the reforms in a recent letter shared with KSOO’s Viewpoint University.  Here is an excerpt of the letter in italics:

The Affordable Care Act reforms, which take full effect in 2014, seek to expand health care access while reducing overall costs by requiring all Americans—young and old, healthy and sick—to take personal responsibility by maintaining health insurance. The resulting increase in preventative health care will reduce the costs of potentially chronic health problems, and save taxpayers money when those who currently lack health insurance make expensive trips to the emergency room. Furthermore, expansion of the “risk pool” will help reduce insurance premiums as younger, healthier people will be required to pay premiums to cover the risk of those more likely to need care.

The Affordable Care Act was written to provide health care subsidies to certain low-income Americans, while also providing money for states to expand Medicaid upwards for the working poor caught in the gap created by these two poverty cutoffs. The Supreme Court upheld the ACA’s individual mandate for health insurance, but allowed states to opt out of accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government will cover 100% of these costs through 2016, with federal aid gradually being reduced to 90% by 2022 and thereafter.

An estimated 48,000 South Dakotans, many of whom are working poor who currently earn slightly more money (about $23,000 for a family of four) than the poorest citizens already on Medicaid—but not enough to be covered by the ACA’s health subsidies—could be covered by the Medicaid expansion. Legislation currently under consideration by state lawmakers enjoys strong bipartisan support, and groups as various as the AARP, American Cancer Society, hospital administrators, and the Presentation Sisters are urging Gov. Daugaard and the legislature to agree to this moral and economic no-brainer.

Mr. Casey is most distressed not with the Governor Daugaard’s position that the state should not enter into agreement with Federal government regarding health insurance rules.  Although by the tone of his letter, it does disturb him greatly.  Casey is extremely disappointed with the Bishop’s lack of conviction in affirming the need to cover those lacking health insurance.  Casey’s points are provocative.  Is Bishop Swain standing against the “least of these” according to the words of Jesus?  Is this not a fight that the Bishop wants to wage?  Where do other members of the Diocese stand on this and does it run along party lines?  Should the concept of “social justice” be clearly defined and if accepted then applied by church leadership?  Would the Federal Government actually follow through on their funding promise?  Let the discussion continue.