~ By Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care
Waiting in my email box early Wednesday morning was the article Once More, With Feeling: Will Obama (Finally) Make the Moral Case for Reform?. Melinda Henneberger, Politics Daily Editor in Chief, was making the point that President Obama was going to have to make the all-out case for health care reform as the “right thing to do morally.”
Well, that’s exactly what the President did. He made the moral case. His remarks were laced with values like the compassion, common good, shared responsibility, concern for the vulnerable, and better stewardship of our abundant health care resources. To drive home his point he shared thoughts from a letter written by the late Senator Ted Kennedy. “He repeated the truth that health care is decisive for our future prosperity, but he also reminded me that it concerns more than material things. What we face, he wrote, is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.”
Well, my question is this: Whose job is it anyway to be making the moral case for reform? Why are political editors clamoring for the President to make the moral case? Isn’t that OUR job? The only reason I can think of for calling on the President to make the moral case is that those of us who are entrusted with such proclamation are not making enough noise. Like so many others, we’ve been sucked into other spheres of the debate, to the exclusion of the moral imperative.
The economic imperative is what has forced us into our current national discussion about health care reform in the United States. As health care costs rise faster than general inflation, as medical expenses force families into bankruptcy, as businesses burdened with workers’ health insurance struggle to compete in the global marketplace, and as government resources are stretched thin to provide health care for vulnerable populations, we have finally acknowledged that we must travel into our health care future along a different path.
Likewise, the medical imperative for system reform weighs heavily as 20,000+ people die prematurely each year for lack of needed health care, as more and more people turn to emergency rooms for their health care needs, and as the impact of un-insurance and under-insurance becomes evident in the reduced quality of life for millions. We know that planning for a health care future which includes everyone and works well for all of us cannot wait.
But moving forward on reform with just these two imperatives clearly isn’t working. In spite of broad consensus on numerous provisions for reform, we are stymied. In part because of political partisanship, and in part because of ideological differences over how we approach this issue, we find ourselves embroiled in ugly and, at times, violent discord.
It is the moral imperative and the values found therein that can change the complexion of this raucous environment. Reflection around moral values and justice can help move us from a debate that focuses too much on government-run vs. market-driven health care toward one that evaluates public policy as a tool to serve the common good.
If we affirm that truth is witness to the whole, then we know that moving forward without considering the moral imperative will lead only to an insufficient solution for our nation’s health care future. It will be up to us to elevate that moral message.
Toward the end of her editorial Ms. Henneberger said of the President, He’s whispered that we are all our brother’s keepers and our sister’s keepers, but he needs to make it rain, for heaven’s sake; I wanna hear some thunder. That thunder can be no less than millions of people of faith raising our voices around the moral imperative for health care for all. It can be no less than all of us coming together to proclaim that in the sacred act of creation we were endowed with the talents, wisdom and abundant resources necessary to meet the needs of one another — including the health care needs for all.