Health care is a moral issue
Matthew Gunter, a Facebook friend, shared a link to a fine blog post by Lavonne Neff today. It’s partly a review of a book by T. R. Reid, The Healing of America. Neff says the main point of the book is that health care is a moral issue. If we have the will to ensure that all people have adequate health care, we have the means. Neff writes:
1. “The primary issue for any health care system is a moral one.” If we believe no one should die for want of access to health care, we can find a way to provide care for all. If we believe health care is a commodity like TVs and automobiles, we can continue to exclude those who can’t pay. “All the developed countries I looked at provide health coverage for every resident, old or young, rich or poor. This is the underlying moral principle of the health care system in every rich country—every one, that is, except the United States.”
Neff goes on to share the insight from Reid’s book that “socialized medicine” is a term popularized by opponents of reform in the Truman era. So even the terms of debate are framed by partisans. Economically, Neff says, health care can be improved whilst saving money. Go read the post to find out why and how. I don’t want to give away all the goods.
I loved Neff’s final point, noting how these contemporary issues resonate so strongly with last Sunday’s lectionary readings. Proverbs 22 had this: “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail. Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.” And James had this to say: “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”
A couple of weeks ago, I preached on this issue. I don’t often speak of direct political issues, but I urged everyone in attendance to call their Senators and Representatives and demand universal health care. It seems to me that this is a clear-cut moral issue and Christian imperative. Predictably, some people loved my saying this, while others were upset. When I spoke with a couple of people, I explained that I was unlikely to preach about political issues when they are tangential to core Gospel values, as I understand them. For example, while I have strong personal opinions about corporate bailouts, or tax rates, or campaign finance reform, I understand that these are not central issues. However, caring for the very least in our society is a core Gospel value. In fact, I would be astounded if someone could make any kind of biblical case for a health care plan other than universal care. (Before you start in the comments, I understand the effects that tax rates, for example, have on the poorest people. However, I hope that you, dear reader, can understand that a preacher can’t treat every political issue as a core issue.)
I intend to read Reid’s book. And I am grateful to Lavonne Neff for her clear summary of a major moral crisis we are now facing. I hope other preachers are taking this up regularly. The church could do much to urge passage of universal health care, or to put it another way, to build God’s kingdom.