Health reform has been at the heart of much partisan debate and controversy in our country. And yet, making sure people have access to healthcare is surely something that Christians must be concerned about. It is a justice issue. The problem with political debates is that they often end up arguing about different ideologies rather than recognizing the humanity of those who are affected. Here are two stories of people from Church without Walls UMC in Birmingham who need justice when it comes to healthcare:
Two years ago, Community Church without Walls helped Cedric buy his prescription drugs. The cost for a month’s worth of medication was $342. Toward the end of 2009, Cedric began feeling poorly – so much so that he was not able to go into work, eventually losing his job. Since then, he had been living from house to house with his brother, his mother, or a friend as he could no longer support himself. Early in 2010, Cedric almost died. It turned out, he had been suffering from walking pneumonia for several months and without treatment it turned into a terrible infection that almost killed him. He spent three weeks in the hospital in intensive care; he had to be revived twice. But he got well – for the time being, because without insurance, he would not be able to afford his medicine. We celebrate that Church without Walls was able to help him buy his medicine, but that is not a realistic solution. Church without Walls is not able to pay $342 every month to make sure Cedric (and many others like him) remain healthy. Providing Cedric’s medicine for one month was an act of charity, and many of our churches are engaged in those acts. Those acts need to be celebrated. However, Cedric needed more than charity. He needed justice. He needed access to the same healthcare that every full time United Methodist pastor receives.
For most of his life, Jimmy worked two jobs – as a teacher’s aide full time and as a part time employee for an after-school program. Neither provided health insurance, but Jimmy took good care of himself, made smart decisions by not smoking or drinking, and thought he was healthy. However, he did not go to the doctor for regular check-ups because he couldn’t afford the cost without insurance. Unbeknownst to Jimmy, he was suffering from high blood pressure for many years that had gradually taken a toll on his kidneys, to the point that in 2007, his kidneys failed. Like Cedric, Jimmy almost died. He spent about a month in intensive care and for the rest of his life he will be on dialysis, unable to work a full time job. After Jimmy lost his job, he, like Cedric, depended on his church to buy his medicine until his social security disability and medicare kicked in. Jimmy too was the recipient of our church’s charity. But he also needed justice. If he would have had access to health care, then his high blood pressure could have been adequately treated and his kidneys would not have failed. He would still be working two jobs and would not have to receive a disability check.
Both Cedric and Jimmy were left out of the healthcare system simply because they did not have as much money or as good a job as others. In short, our healthcare system declared that Cedric and Jimmy’s lives are not worth as much as people with more access or more money. We can argue and debate the value of Obamacare or other health reform possibilities. But what we as Christians must support is a system that provides access to health care to people like Jimmy and Cedric. We are called to always care for those who are the most vulnerable, and providing access to health care is one way we can do that. It’s not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea. It’s not a liberal idea or a conservative idea. Making sure that everyone has access to healthcare is a Christian idea.
V) Right to Health Care—Health is a condition of physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being. John 10:10b says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Stewardship of health is the responsibility of each person to whom health has been entrusted.
Creating the personal, environmental, and social conditions in which health can thrive is a joint responsibility—public and private. We encourage individuals to pursue a healthy lifestyle and affirm the importance of preventive health care, health education, environmental and occupational safety, good nutrition, and secure housing in achieving health. Health care is a basic human right.
Providing the care needed to maintain health, prevent disease, and restore health after injury or illness is a responsibility each person owes others and government owes to all, a responsibility government ignores at its peril. In Ezekiel 34:4a, God points out the failures of the leadership of Israel to care for the weak: “You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured.” As a result all suffer. Like police and fire protection, health care is best funded through the government’s ability to tax each person equitably and directly fund the provider entities.
Countries facing a public health crisis such as HIV/AIDS must have access to generic medicines and to patented medicines. We affirm the right of men and women to have access to comprehensive reproductive health/family planning information and services that will serve as a means to prevent unplanned pregnancies, reduce abortions, and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The right to health care includes care for persons with brain diseases, neurological conditions, or physical disabilities, who must be afforded the same access to health care as all other persons in our communities. It is unjust to construct or perpetuate barriers to physical or mental wholeness or full participation in community.
We believe it is a governmental responsibility to provide all citizens with health care.
6. Do you agree or disagree with the official United Methodist position on health care? Why?
7. What from your faith supports your agreement/disagreement with this social principle?
Community Church without Walls
The Advocacy for Social Justice Blog is produced by the North Alabama Conference Advocacy for Social Justice Team to help people think about justice issues through the lens of faith. It is intended to be a place where United Methodists can listen and learn from each other with mutual respect and understanding. (For the purpose of this blog see the the post “The work of justice is the work of the church”.) Please join the conversation by adding your comment below. If you have an idea for a blog topic or would like to make a submission to the Advocacy for Social Justice Blog please contact the Team Convenor Rev. R.G. Wilson-Lyons at firstname.lastname@example.org.