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Dear Leader McConnell, Senator Schumer, Speaker Ryan and Congresswoman Pelosi:
As Congress begins work on its ambitious 2017 agenda, Lutheran Services in America (LSA) urges you to advance policy solutions that will allow all Americans to lead abundant lives. Specifically, we encourage you to oppose any bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that does not simultaneously replace it with a plan to provide better, more affordable care, coverage and consumer protections; to maintain the structural integrity of the Medicaid program; to adequately fund annually appropriated programs that serve vulnerable people of all ages, faiths and abilities; and to strengthen Medicare and Social Security for current and future beneficiaries.
Affordable Care Act
LSA believes the ACA should not be repealed unless an effective replacement plan can be put in place immediately. Any ACA replacement plan must ensure comprehensive, individualized care, coverage and payment. Successful health care policy requires mutual responsibility, affordability and sustainability. We believe adequate provider capacity and appropriate infrastructure are critical to achieving quality care and access to coverage for all people.
Converting Medicaid to a block grant program in order to achieve federal budgetary savings would shift costs to states, placing beneficiaries and health care providers at risk of sharp cuts to eligibility, benefits and payment rates. As faith-based, nonprofit service providers our members know how devastating these changes would be for those they serve - including youth aging out of foster care, pregnant mothers, working families, people with disabilities and older adults. We strongly urge you to protect the underlying structure and vital function of Medicaid.
Non-Defense Discretionary Programs
We also urge you to support adequate funding for critical annually appropriated programs, in part by continuing the bipartisan practice of providing sequestration relief and by opposing any new efforts to cut these non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs more deeply. As you know, NDD programs have been subject to repeated cuts over the past six years, including through the appropriations caps and sequestration process established by the 2011 Budget Control Act. Full sequestration returns in fiscal year 2018, when the two-year relief provided by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 expires. We ask you to reject further reductions to these programs and to replace the scheduled cuts through a package that is balanced—both in how such relief is paid for and applied to defense and NDD programs.
Social Security has been the foundation of retirement for Americans for over 81 years. Without Social Security, the poverty rate among retirees over 65 would rise from 10 percent to 41.5 percent. Social Security also pumps nearly $900 billion dollars into state and local economies annually. Supplemental Security Income (SSI), an important component of the Social Security program, was designed to reduce poverty and provides vital support to over eight million older Americans and people with disabilities. We urge you to protect Social Security benefits and oppose any proposals to cut or alter its basic structure or that of the SSI program.
LSA supports preserving Medicare’s fundamental promise and structure. Medicare provides guaranteed health and economic security to millions who worked to contribute payroll taxes into the program. Despite successful efforts to strengthen Medicare, many beneficiaries still struggle financially. For these individuals and their families, Medicare is an essential source of coverage for post-acute care. Importantly, adequate Medicare reimbursement rates make a major difference to post-acute care providers’ efforts to ensure quality of life for those they serve. Yet, several restrictions on Medicare payments to these providers are currently in place, making it difficult for many to retain qualified staff and conduct essential operations. Given these realities, we urge you to protect core Medicare benefits and ensure no additional health care costs are shifted onto beneficiaries or providers.
Lutheran Services in America is one of the largest networks of health and human services nonprofits in the United States. Together our members serve one in 50 Americans each year in communities rural and urban and regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.
We look forward to working with you throughout this session. Should you have questions or would like to discuss further, please feel free to contact Lindsey Copeland, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for LSA, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sarah Meek, Director of Policy and Advocacy for LSA-DN, at email@example.com.
President and CEO
Lutheran Services in America
CC: The Honorable Orrin Hatch, Chairman, Committee on Finance
The Honorable Ron Wyden, Ranking Member, Committee on Finance
The Honorable Kevin Brady, Chairman, Committee on Ways & Means
The Honorable Richard Neal, Ranking Member, Committee on Ways & Means
The Honorable Greg Walden, Chairman, Committee on Energy & Commerce
The Honorable Frank Pallone, Ranking Member, Committee on Energy & Commerce