In surprise move, National Association of Evangelicals opposes Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare

Demonstrators in favor of Obamacare gather at the Supreme Court building in Washington March 4, 2015.Reuters

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the main US umbrella group for 45,000 churches and millions of individuals, has surprisingly come out against Republican attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as 'Obamacare'.

According to the Think Progress website, a list of statements distributed yesterday by the faith-based anti-hunger group Bread for the World showed that the NAE spoke out against the latest effort to repeal the initiative.

'Despite its impressive achievements, our health care system often fails to deliver affordable, life-saving help to many of our citizens,' the NAE president Leith Anderson said in a statement. 'Reforms are needed, but they should be carefully studied and not rushed through Congress without expert analysis and thorough debate on the inevitable trade-offs inherent in any reform. Above all, any policy and funding changes should be evaluated by how they treat the most vulnerable among us.'

The NAE statement demonstrates a rare point of agreement between its leadership and that of the National Council of Churches (NCC), a group of more liberal, mainline denominations that the NAE was created partly to counteract.

'There is not a single Member of Congress who does not understand that [the repeal attempt] will result in fewer people with health insurance and reduced spending on Medicaid,' Jim Winkler, president of the NCC, said in a separate statement. 'This bill will create unnecessary hardship for millions of our people. As Christian leaders, we cannot possible support legislation that will hurt the last, the least, and the lost.'

The bill, which was changed yesterday morning, has not yet been scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

However, the the non-partisan Brookings Institution estimated that passing an earlier version of the bill would leave 32 million more Americans without health insurance by 2027.

Barbara Williams-Skinner, the co-chair of the National African American Clergy Network, was also critical of the bill.

'The biblical call to care for the sick is crystal clear,' she said. 'Cutting billions of dollars from Medicaid is misguided and dangerous and would worsen the lives of millions of poor people across the country. These cuts would disproportionately affect minority populations. I urge the United States Senate to reject this bill and work in a bipartisan way to improve the health care system in the United States.'

Meanwhile, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops—which initially opposed the ACA but has also passionately rejected the various GOP repeal efforts—attacked lawmakers for attempting to rush the bill through Congress.

"Decisions about the health of our citizens—a concern fundamental to each of us—should not be made in haste simply because an artificial deadline looms," the bishops said. 'The far-reaching implications of Congress' actions are too significant for that kind of governance. Instead, the common good should call you to come together in a bi-partisan way to pass thoughtful legislation that addresses the life, conscience, immigrant access, market stability and affordability problems that now exist. Your constituents, especially those with no voice of their own in this process, deserve no less.'