Faith Groups and Health Care Reform
By John Graham
March 5th, 2012
Bee Moorehead, Director of an organization known as “Texas Impact,” reported in an article in the Sunday, March 25, 2012 Houston Chronicle, page B9, that 60 national, state and local religious organizations have united to say that “No child of God should want for health care because he can’t afford it.” In doing so, they experessed their support of Medicaid expansions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). They say nowhere is the Medicaid expansion more significant than in Texas because a million uninsured are set to gain health insurance in 2014-15 because of this expansion (a quarter of Texas’ uninsured population). The interesting thing about the article was her assurance that “Acts on behalf of the needy and vulnerable, whether volunteered as indiviauls or commanded by society, formed the framework of the understanding of right and wrong in the history of Judaism, Christianty and Islam.”
She goes on to say, “Jesus equates faithfulness with feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, healing the sick and visiting the imprisioned when he says, “Whatever you did for the least of these my brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:37-40). Similiarly, Muslims as one of their five obligations, are to give alms for the poor, the needy, the workers who collect them, and those burdened by unexpected expenses (the Holy Quran 9:60).” As to Judaism, “Addressing the failliure of Israel’s ghovernment, the prophet Ezekiel (34:4) makes his accusation, “You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured.” She also quoted the prophet Jeremiah (6:23) who said, “Why, then, has the health of my poor people not been restored?”
In conclusion, she quotes President Harry Truman who said to Congress in 1945, “Millions of our citizens do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. And the time has now arrived for action to help them get that protection.” President Truman also said, “We must remember that the test of our religious principles lies not just in what we say, not only in our prayers, not even in living blameless lives — but in what we do for others.” She points out it has been 70 years since Truman made these statements and says that “through the Affordable Care Act we finally will have the health care justice that Truman envisioned — and that our shared faith traditions call us to provide.”
I would like to say, this sounds like a sermon we might hear in our churches, synagogues and mosques on any Sabbath. But, do we? Today, the politicizing of this issue is an amazing thing. To preach on this issue you will divide your congregation. Certainly the present financial situation of our nation is a factor and the fear is we will bankrupt our nation even further by enacting ACA. Yet, I have to believe Bee Moorehead and the 60 religious organizations are sincerely trying to be faithful to God’s call for people everywhere to open their hearts to those in need of health care.
I grew up in Louisiana and Governor Huey P. “Kingfish” Long established five charity hospitals in every corner of the state and “big Chairity” hospital in New Orleans. Louisiana took care of the health needs of her people long before this nation even thought about it. And, no one complained that it was socialism, which it clearly was. Was Huey Long’s motive political? Perhaps. But, more to the point, there were people who needed health care and couldn’t afford it and Huey Long saw to it that need was met in Louisiana. Which makes me think if each of our 50 states took the same approach as Louisiana, we might not need the ACA on a federal level. But, when states don’t act and a need is evident, the door is open for Iothers to fill the void. In many cities in Texas this void is filled by our county hospitals, but now the Federal government is rushing to fill the void.
In any case, there clearly is a religious issue at stake and these 60 religious organizations — Christian, Jewish and Muslim — are reminding us of our responsibility as people of God to those in need.