We’ve debated health care legislation long enough. We need to get health care reform passed.
The forces of negativity have thrown every genuine concern and fabricated issue against the different health reform legislative proposals. The forces of positivity have wasted time, faltered indecisively, offered contorted compromises, sought narrow self-interests and made ideological perfectionism a more noble cause than the imperfect earthly good. Neither side has handled well either the content of health care reform or the process.
But beyond the budget numbers, fine print and unforeseen consequences – all of which are legitimate concerns – health care reform boils down to three competing choices.
One choice is between callousness or compassion.
The Columbus Dispatch posted a video news clip of a health care rally that shows two anti-reform men badgering a man who said he had Parkinson’s disease. One white man said, “If you are looking for a handout, you are in the wrong end of town. Nothing for free over here. You have to work for everything you get.”
Another white man, dressed in a white shirt with a tie and khaki slacks, dropped a bill on the man with Parkinson’s, who was sitting on the ground, and said, “I’ll pay for you.” He then circled back and tossed another bill at him, shouting, “I’ll decide when to give you money.”
While these men were cruel and certainly do not represent all those who oppose health care reform, the anti-reform movement does have a philosophical hardheartedness.
On the callousness side are those who see health care as a handout to folk from the wrong side of town and those who want to control their charity based on their own impulses.
The callousness choice runs counter to the moral vision of compassion found in the biblical witness. That vision, expressed for example in the parable of the good Samaritan, is based on seeing a need without using the circumstance as an excuse for inaction, meeting needs regardless of one’s race and providing an abundance to ensure restoration. While some seek to privatize this parable, the biblical witness has numerous texts in which protecting the most vulnerable members of society is a social duty.
A second choice is between selfish individualism or social justice.
Here is a choice between “I have mine; I don’t care about you” and the belief that the goodness of a society is measured by how it cares for its most vulnerable members.
Hyper-individualism prioritizes selfishness at the expense of the common good. Worse than that, it defends the powerful. Privatized individualism inexplicably defends the insurance industry, as if corporate greed, corruption and cruelty were virtues that needed to be maintained. Corporate profits and individualism are seen as intertwined.
Social justice prioritizes the common good: accessible, quality health care for all is a universal human right. The well-being of one contributes to the well-being of all.
A third choice is between fear mongering or future making.
The anti-health care forces have engaged in a nonstop diatribe of fear mongering. They began with months of false accusations about death panels. They screamed about Obamacare. They claimed the cost of premiums would skyrocket.
The pro-health care forces within the faith community recognize that health reform legislation isn’t perfect, but that it is “a major first step,” as the Catholic Health Association said this week when the organization representing 600 hospitals endorsed legislative reform.
The leaders of the major Catholic women’s religious organizations, representing 59,000 nuns, released a letter to every member of Congress that said, “While it is an imperfect measure, it is a crucial next step in realizing health care for all.”
A diverse interfaith group issued a letter in February supporting health care reform. The letter noted, “We know that no comprehensive health care reform bill will be perfect.”
Save the Christian Right, a broad cross-section of the American faith community practices political realism – an imperfect bill is better than no bill. Improvements will be made in the future.
The choice for people of faith is clear. We need to be on the side of compassion, social justice and future making.
Let’s get health care reform passed.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.