Faith and Health Care Reform
(published 4 Aug Circleville Herald)
One's value as a human being has
absolutely no correlation with one's economic status. Yet in the US health care
system one lives or dies depending on one's economic "success".
What is "success" as a child of God? In the course of working in
the ER I've met thousands of our neighbors working two or more jobs, sacrificing
for their kids, yet they have no health insurance. They die younger as they
can't see a physician, can't afford their meds. They are wonderful souls, they
fix our cars, greet us at Wal-Mart, cut our hair- they deserve care. The evil,
malignant death-dealing "invisible hand" of the market kills them in
front of their children.
R. H. Tawney
in his work "Religion and the Rise of Capitalism" exhaustively
documents how Christianity adapted to the amoral, if not outright immoral values
of cash and the marketplace: "A society
which reverences the attainment of riches as the supreme felicity will naturally
be disposed to regard the poor as damned in the next world, if only to justify
itself for making their life a hell in this." Sounds like the rich man in
Luke 16:19-31 before he realized that in refusing care to Lazarus, he condemned
himself to Hell.
Jesus in Matthew 25:40
makes it eminently clear that how we treat the sick and unfortunate among us is
how we treat God himself--and we shall be condemned goats if we don't
recognize Jesus when he comes to the ER without health insurance. We have
seen a lot of wailing that the US is morally degrading itself by recognizing
that gay persons, just like all the marginalized welcomed by Jesus, are close to
God's heart. Ezekiel 16:49 tells
us gays had nothing to do with the destruction of Sodom, it was rather failing
to expand Medicaid, failing to guarantee a living minimum wage and asking that
the undocumented immigrant among us pick our vegetables for spare change that
brought God's thermonuclear anger: "Now this was the sin of your sister
Sodom: She was arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and
needy." Scorched earth and melted sand, not for failing individual
responsibility, as conservatives like to believe, but for failing collective,
that is, governmental responsibility.
The US health care system
is Luke's rich man, Matthew's goats and Sodom's selfishness. To become sick in
the US is to be beaten and robbed and abandoned along the Jericho road. Jesus'
point in the Parable of the Good Samaritan was that we are all neighbors, and
that even a despised Samaritan (for today read gay, Muslim, undocumented
immigrant) was in fact closer to the Kingdom of God than a high-status Priest or
Levite. Conservative economics claims that in fact self-seeking alone is moral,
neighbors be damned, we have no moral duties owed anyone save ourselves.
The Affordable Care Act just forces the highwaymen health insurers,
pharmaceutical firms, even many "non-profit" hospitals to put on
sheep's clothing over their wolf character.
Wolf in sheep's clothing? Read
this sampling of three (out of thousands of citations available) articles re:
hospitals, pharmaceutical profits and the corporatization of health care ,
turning care-givers into cash-flow generators. Lisa Schenker's “Not-for-Profit
Hospital's Tax Exemption Case Could Signal Trouble for Others” (“Modern
Healthcare”8 July) notes “The ruling comes at a time when not-for-profit
hospital's tax exempt statuses are under increased scrutiny amid concerns that
some are acting more like for-profit entities, especially when it comes to
overly aggressive debt collection from poor patients.” Physician Philip Caper
laments in “How the Affordable Care Act Fuels Corporatization of American
Health Care" (Bangor Daily News 27 Nov. ’14) “We now have a situation
where patients are losing confidence in their doctors, while doctors are losing
confidence in our ability to do the right thing for our patients. We have a
health care system becoming more hostile to doctors and patients and more
friendly to health care corporations. These
trends are collateral damage caused by another trend: our increasingly
corporatized commodified and commercialized health care “industry" …
doctors see our clinical autonomy disappearing as more and more of us become
corporate employees subject to pressure to meet corporate financial goals that
often differ from what is best for our patients… Patients sense that pressure
as they are rushed through exams… They can almost hear the cash registers
ringing.” Gagnon and Wolfe from the Carleton University School of Public
Policy and Administration detail how the Republican passed Medicare Part “D”
drug benefit prohibits Medicare from negotiating drug prices, that forcing you
to pay whatever the pharmaceutical company asks is Jericho Road robbery.
(“Medicare Part “D" pays needlessly high brand-name drug prices
compared with other OECD countries and with US government programs.”23 July)
Jesus turned over the
tables of the moneychangers and invited everyone to the Great Banquet. (Luke
14). US health care, indeed all injustice, makes God cry.
( Dr. Cotton spoke last week
at the annual regional gathering of Quakers in Blufton, Ohio. To schedule a
powerpoint presentation on morality and health care reform go to www.circlevillefriendsworshipgroup .org .
Contact information is on the first page.)