Faith and values: Health care action needed because it’s right thing to do

2009-08-15T00:15:00Z Faith and values: Health care action needed because it’s right thing to doJESSICA CRIST For The Gazette The Billings Gazette
August 15, 2009 12:15 am  • 

All summer the conversation has been about health care reform.

At first there was great hope that we would have a bill passed by the end of the summer. It was not to be.

Although the White House, the House and the Senate all worked hard to make workable proposals and, although millions of people argued, demanded, begged, cajoled, lobbied for change, it did not happen. Not yet.

There are plenty of reasons that we did not get health care reform before the August recess.

One is that there were competing bills, competing interests, genuine differences of opinion. There were arguments about who should be covered, who should be responsible, and how much it would cost.

There were those who wanted to hold out for the perfect bill that matched their concerns verse by verse. There were those who favored compromise, and lost the trust of partisans.

But a big reason that this major legislative priority favored by the vast majority of Americans did not materialize is that big money was spent to keep it from happening.

Our current system is inefficient, unfair and unjust. Skyrocketing insurance premiums force small business owners to make decisions against their own wishes - to cut health benefits for their employees because of costs.

People with a history of life-threatening disease find themselves ineligible for coverage. Workers between jobs find themselves uninsured and uncovered. The self-employed find it harder and harder to find, keep and pay for coverage. Doctors are frustrated that they cannot give the care they are trained to give.

We are the wealthiest country in the world, we spend the most on health care and we rank 37th in the world in terms of results.

Forty-seven million Americans are without health insurance. The leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. is medical debt. Something has to change. And someone has to challenge the massive lobbying effort to sabotage health care reform.

There is no reason that everyone in this country, whether immigrant or native-born, should not have adequate health care.

Just imagine what would happen if all that money being poured into lobbying were put into health care. Just imagine what would happen if all the money being spent on war were put into health care.

It is our job, as citizens, to imagine a society in which nobody goes hungry, nobody is homeless and nobody goes without health care. And it is our job to contact our representatives in Congress and share the moral imperative.

In June, I had a conversation with a church leader from Bolivia. As he listened to us discuss the various possibilities being considered in our country, we asked him about health care for his people.

"There isn't any," was his response.

He represents the poorest people in the poorest country in South America.

"And what if you get sick?" we asked.

"You die," he responded.

That is a scandal. And it is even more of a scandal in a country with our resources and our history when we allow people's health to be a pawn in a struggle for power and money.

When pirates hijack a ship and hold its cargo and crew hostage in the quest for quick and easy money, we call it piracy, a crime. And we take action.

But when big business does the same with our nation's health care, we call it capitalism, the cost of doing business. And we take no action.

Friends, it is time to take action. It is time to stand up to the bullies who would deny health care reform, who try to scare those of us who already have health care, and marginalize those who do not.

We are better than that. Our country is better than that. Tell your senators and congressman. Because it is the right thing to do.

The Rev. Jessica Crist of Great Falls is bishop of the Montana Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The Faith & Values column appears regularly in the Saturday Life section of The Billings Gazette.

Pastors, ethicists, educators or other experts who would like to write a column about faith, ethics or values for the section, should contact: Susan Olp; Billings Gazette; 401 N. Broadway; Billings, MT 59101. Or call her at 657-1281; fax to her attention at 657-1208; or e-mail to solp@billingsgazette.com.

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