Yesterday, I joined 26 others in disrupting Congress to voice opposition to the vindictive Republican attempt to dismantle Obamacare – a heartless act that would leave 20-30 million more Americans without coverage.
I do not take this act of civil disobedience lightly. My arrest was a liturgical act, an expression of worship and covenantal solidarity with Christ and his vulnerable ones. But I confess that it was my own need that provoked this activism. Yet, it need not come to that for everyone.
My mother, who lives in Ohio, depends on Medicaid as she enters her 7th year requiring 100% care. And while visiting her and my aunt there last month, she declared, totally unprovoked, that Medicaid was a “gift from God” as she faced costs for the rehabilitation she required. Yet with the extremist measures under consideration in Congress, Medicaid in Ohio is at risk.
I served in evangelical institutions for 27 years, enjoying the benefits of exceptional healthcare all the while. After I lost my job at World Vision, I opted for the COBRA plan they offered, and I paid $25,000 out of pocket to keep my family covered for one year. That amazing insurance, the kind I’ve known my entire adult life, comes to an end on July 31st.
As I face the frightening prospect of America’s ‘survival of the fittest’ status among wealthy nations, Jesus’ words of “I was sick and you came to me” are everything to me. They mean that Jesus stands in covenantal solidarity with those left alone with the burdensome inevitability of physical frailty. I place an extraordinary amount of hope in this for both me and for millions of others.
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate to their health and well-being, including medical care. Thus all nations of “the rich countries club,” based on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), provide universal health care for their citizens. All, except for the United States.
Wealthy nations, against all the hyped rhetoric of the American right, have found a way to eliminate burdensome private insurance bureaucracies and regulate drug and medical pricing in order to keep the costs of medical services down. Through these single-payer systems, wealthy nations are able to meet the health care demand of their citizens mostly through tax revenues. Wealthy nations, minus one, that is.
Why is the United States, the wealthiest of the wealthy nations, the sole exception? Why is it that we aren’t even talking about universal coverage but only how many millions we will strip of coverage?
Republican pundits often cite anecdotes about the excessive wait times universal health systems impose on individuals requiring specialized services. Or the fact that 63,000 Canadians of means sought healthcare in the U.S. last year. But these tired rebuffs ignore the fact that, for all their weaknesses, single-payer systems enable wealthy nations to secure the basic health needs for the entire population of their citizens. Minorities are covered. The unemployed are included. The old, the infirm, the poor, everyone is included in the common concern for adequate healthcare.
And the anecdotes against universal healthcare ignore the stories of millions of Americans who struggle to survive without healthcare or fear losing it.
Before I faced the needs of my mother, my aunt and myself, I viewed the health care debate with the not-so-benign indifference typical of the well-insured. And while there is no romance in entering the sacred community of the vulnerable, doing so has changed my perspective. I wonder how many otherwise concerned folks stay quiet in their well-covered security? It’s hard to make activists out of the comfortable.
That is why Red Letter Christians remains committed to protecting and securing health care for all. We’re honored to go to jail and stand in shoulder to shoulder with countless faith leaders, partners, and moral activists in this struggle. Together, we’re not only praying for those whose lives are at risk, but we’re taking action to protect them.
Now is the time to forge political and moral power. Join Red Letter Christians, Faith in Public Life, and other people of faith tomorrow at the Capitol to send a powerful message to our U.S. Senators: Don’t take away our health care!
Check out the details below on tomorrow’s action. RSVP now to join this effort.
Thursday, July 27th @ 10:30 a.m.
Corner of Constitution and 1st St NE
Washington, DC 20016