RACINE — Saying access to health care is a moral issue, a group of Racine faith leaders and community activists spoke on Ash Wednesday to push for Wisconsin to accept federal health care funding.
About 25 people representing community groups and local Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations held a press conference Wednesday at Christ Church, 5109 Washington Ave.
The group called on Gov. Scott Walker to accept federal money to expand Medicaid. Walker and other state Republican leaders have expressed concerns that federal funding will eventually decrease, leaving the state to pick up the tab, and have approved a different Medicaid plan set to go into effect in April.
The Racine Interfaith Coalition and Community for Change are holding a “Fast 4 Fairness,” in which members will fast from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays throughout March to call attention to the issue.
Jameel Ghuari of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said faith groups must show a united front in battling for health care for all residents.
“We have a system that is not a level playing field for all of us,” Ghuari said.
“We must focus on this issue of health care and making sure that affordable health care is available to all of our citizens, without discrimination. This is a battle that will not be won in a moment, it will not be won in a year. It will take all of our lives.”
Racine resident Chris Aho came to tears during the press conference talking about his struggle to pay his medical bills, noting his wife’s diabetes and his high cholesterol. He said he’s one of thousands of Wisconsinites who are hurt by the current system.
“I work hard, I try my best, I try to support my family. I don’t want to be on any of this assistance, but I need it,” he said. “I’m not asking for much. Just a little bit.”
Aho said his BadgerCare coverage ends April 1, when the state’s new Medicaid plan goes into effect.
The plan ends coverage for about 77,000 adults who earn just above the poverty line, while bringing in 83,000 childless adults currently without coverage, according to The Associated Press. People whose coverage ended will be able to purchase subsidized insurance on the federal exchange.
Walker has said the plan marks the first time everyone living in poverty in Wisconsin will be covered. The Racine Interfaith Coalition, meanwhile, said the plan is inadequate and will end up costing taxpayers more.
The group also called on Racine County to pass a resolution urging the state to accept federal money or, failing that, allow counties to take the money if they so choose.
It chose the Christian season of Lent to highlight health care because Lent focuses on “fasting and prayer to engage, in a deeper way, our journey with God and our journey with one another,” said Rev. Michael Mueller of St. Andrew Lutheran Church, 1015 4 Mile Road.
“We believe that access to health care is a basic human right to which all people are entitled,” Mueller said in a statement. “Further, when presented with the opportunity to expand access to health care for the most needy, we are called to act.”
Fast 4 Fairness
The Racine Interfaith Coalition and Community for Change has “Fast 4 Fairness” events throughout March. Fasting will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the duration up to each person. The public is invited to join in, pray or visit.
• March 8: Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church, 625 College Ave.
• March 15: Atonement Lutheran Church, 2915 Wright Ave.
• March 22: Miracle Center, 1100 Grand Ave.
• March 29: Zoe Ministries, 2130 Racine St.