BEAVER — The Sister of St. Joseph organized a pray-in event for health care in front of the Beaver County Courthouse on Friday.
About 20 community members and sisters were there, standing up against federal health-care legislation that they say could negatively impact senior citizens, the disabled and children if passed.
“It’s not a political issue. It’s a moral issue,” said Sister Jeanette Bussen, who spoke in front of the group with signs and posters.
There are more than 160 members at Sister of St. Joseph in Baden. About 80 of those women use Medicaid as their health insurance.
“Our mission is to serve God and the dear neighbor without distinction,” said Sister Barbara Czyrnik, who is on the leadership team of the Sisters of St. Joseph. “We found out that this moment in our history, probably one of the greatest needs right now, is to advocate for health care for everyone.”
Many residents at Villa St. Joseph rely on self-pay or Medicaid, as well as other senior-care facilities. In Pennsylvania, nearly 75 percent of Medicaid funding is spent on care for seniors and people with disabilities.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, more than 35,000 Beaver Countians were enrolled in Medicaid as of December 2015, which is more than 20 percent of the county’s population.
Following prayers and speeches, the sisters urged that others contact U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey to speak out against the American Health Care Act.
The bill was passed in the House of Representatives in May and awaits a Senate vote.
Katy Wilcox of South Beaver Township attended the event with her husband, David, in solitary with the sisters’ message about health care. Three years ago, her adult son Dan had serious complications following surgery, which led to him being in a seven-week coma. She held a large poster with photos of her son during his lengthy hospital stay and a recent photo of him doing well.
She credits the Affordable Care Act and prayer as the reasons her son is alive. She said she feels certain that he wouldn’t be if the American Health Care Act were law instead.
He now works part time, but his health insurance could be at stake if the AHCA is signed into law.
“I’m here for his sake, but our story is just one story,” Wilcox said. “We understand now, on a personal level, how health problems can devastate your savings. Our life savings has been just about wiped out. We do have retirement and Social Security, but our means are not what we anticipated they would be at this part of our life. And we’re very proud of our son … and the work he’s done and the progress he’s made.”
It’s stories like hers that further motivate the sisters.
“When you take it to a personal level, it always affects you in terms of motivation to do more,” Bussen said. “Because that makes it real, and when it becomes real, then you’re in the position of wanting to do something about it and to work with people. Otherwise, they become statistics and they become news briefs and they become something that people are doing in Congress, but they don’t affect us. …
“This particular bill is going to affect us greatly. And hearing those stories should motivate people to really want to take some action and make phone calls.”
Wilcox said she hopes that both sides of the political health-care argument can unite, quoting one of her favorite Bible verses.
“Let justice roll down like a river. Righteousness, like a mighty stream,” she said.
Sisters of St. Joseph stand up against federal health-care legislation | The Times Today