Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Health Care Reform: The Results Are In

Health care reform is an urgent priority. Many families have inadequate coverage and 47 million people have no health care at all. This is true even when people are working full-time. Most of these folks live in fear of getting sick or injured. Any kind of medical emergency could send an already struggling family into financial debt and distress for the rest of their lives. The reality is that about 60 percent of all bankruptcies are due to medical bills. These are real people dealing with real illnesses who have to deal with real financial burdens. And worse, some people cannot afford the treatment that they need. Around 18,000 people die unnecessarily each year because they lack health insurance. This is not acceptable. It's literally a matter of life and death. Health care should be a right for all people, not a privilege for the few.

The Gospels are filled with stories about Jesus and the disciples caring for people. They fed hungry people. They healed people's illnesses. They helped poor people. They brought comfort to hurting people. The list goes on and on. The movement they started grew into what we call the Church today. We are the modern disciples of Jesus. Our challenge is to follow Jesus' actions and words. In the end, Jesus commands us to "love our neighbors as we love ourselves" (Matthew 22:39) and to take care of the needs of "the least of these" (Matthew 25:31-46). He asks us to do these things because his ministry was centered on bringing and preaching good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). Jesus makes it clear: If the Gospel isn't good news for poor people, then it isn't the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As Gospel-following Christians, we need to care for sick and hurting people - especially the poor. This is nothing new. It's been happening for a long time. Many hospitals, including Mayo Clinic, were founded by Christians. Many doctors and nurses, including those initially at Mayo Clinic, were active members of their church. In fact, the word "hospital" comes from the Latin word "hospitalis", which means "hospitable." Health care started out rooted in the Christian tradition of hospitality that cared for all sick and hurting people. Now we need to figure out how to ensure that hospitals are hospitable to all people - especially people who cannot afford health insurance as it exists today.

There is not a perfect health care system nor is there a God-ordained system of health insurance. But one thing is clear: the current system is broken and desperately needs fixing. Health care reform is an imperative, not an option. We need to stand together, as Democrats and Republicans, to ensure that all people receive the health care and health coverage that they need. One possibility is President Obama's proposal that we add a "public option" to all the private options of health insurance. This would provide the competition needed to ensure that the health care in the US remains among the best in the world. But this would also provide a much-needed refuge for all the people who cannot afford adequate health care. It's a win-win. The public option is one way to ensure that health care and coverage is a reality for all God's children.

We need to demand health care reform from our elected officials. This isn't a time for political games. It's a time to go deeper. And it's a time for results.

Here are a few practical actions we can take to help bring about real results:

(1) Pray

(2) Sign the Health Care Creed to support health-care for all people. Sojourners will send this petition to our national elected officials.

(3) Download and share the Sojourners' health-care discussion guide with your congregation and friends.

(4) Read perspectives from trusted organizations such as the Mayo Clinic Health Policies Center.

(5) Thank a doctor or nurse for the healing they provide.

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