“A Call to Political Courage, Vision, Leadership, and Faith”

January 27, 2010

~ by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

A new sign-on letter for people of faith has been launched: “A Call to Political Courage, Vision, Leadership, and Faith.” It has already been delivered to Congress with the names of nearly 60 national and state/regional organizations.  It is now open for individuals and additional organizations in preparation for another delivery very soon.  Time is short!  Read the letter below and add your name today!

“A Call to Political Courage, Vision, Leadership, and Faith”

Dear Mr. President, Senators, and Representatives:

We are communities of faith who have supported comprehensive health care reform for decades. We have also offered vocal support – and occasional constructive criticism – of the health care reform effort over the last year. We write to you at this critical juncture to urge you to complete the task at hand on behalf of the millions who are left out and left behind in our current health care system.

Opportunities to comprehensively address our broken health care system are rare. Decades of failed attempts at reform testify to the difficulty of this task, and we know that the current effort has not been easy. However, we now stand closer than ever before to historic health care reform. Turning back now could mean justice delayed for another generation and an unprecedented opportunity lost.

We know that no comprehensive health care reform bill will be perfect.  (Indeed, if any piece of legislation ever fulfills our full vision, our vision is far too small.)  However, we also know – as providers and consumers of services and care – that inaction at this critical moment is no way forward:

  • Without reform, tens of thousands will continue to die needlessly each year for lack of access to care.
  • Without reform, tens of millions will remain uninsured and without adequate access to a full range of services.
  • Without reform, health costs will continue to grow much faster than wages.
  • Without reform, many millions of hard-working people and their children will join the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured.
  • Without reform, businesses, staggered by increasing employee health costs, will either drop coverage or will be unable to make needed investments.
  • Without reform, the nation’s economy – and its ability to create jobs – will suffer.

As people of faith, we envision a society where every person is afforded health, wholeness and human dignity. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we just commemorated, famously wrote in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” Less well known is his admonition that “of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Let us not delay health care justice any longer. This is your moment for political courage, vision, leadership and faith. We urge you to take heart and move meaningful health care reform forward.

Add your name now

This letter is coordinated by the Washington Interreligious Staff Community Health Care Working Group and Faithful Reform in Health Care.


Statement from the American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP)

January 20, 2010

The American Muslim Health Professionals, a member of the Faithful Reform in Health Care coalition, sponsored today’s “Interfaith Virtual Vigil of Prayer, Hope, and Action.”  One of their leaders, Khizer Husain, personally delivered the letter below to the offices of House and Senate leaders and committee chairs.   He reported that in the midst of low morale, he was warmly received and that staffers were appreciative of gracious and positive support for moving forward.  He concluded that continuing with the Vigil is more important than ever.

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“None of you are believers unless you love for your brother/sister what you love for yourself.”  ~ Prophet Muhammad

January 20, 2010

An Open Letter
to President Barack Obama and to
Members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives

As a community of faith and of professionals, American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP) believes in comprehensive health care reform that will increase access to high-quality, affordable care for all Americans.  The time is ripe for this goal that has eluded the American people for decades to finally come to fruition.  Therefore, we urge members of Congress and the Administration to stay the course and complete this task.

AMHP supports the efforts being made to overhaul the American healthcare system; however, we encourage legislators to ensure that the interests of the American people are the centerpiece of such legislation.  We believe that any legislation that is passed which does not guarantee access to high-quality, affordable healthcare will only further aggravate the system in which increasing numbers of Americans are unable to purchase basic care.

In an effort to protect the people, AMHP supports legislation that includes the following:

  • A national health exchange, rather than a state or regional one
  • The removal of the anti-trust exemption for health insurers
  • An expansion of Medicaid to those earning up to 150% of FPL
  • Subsidies to help people up to 400% FPL purchase health insurance
  • No rating band variances more than 2:1
  • Strong regulation of the private insurance market
  • The elimination of the Medicare Part D “donut-hole”
  • No increase in taxes that will affect the working, middle-class

AMHP believes that healthcare is a basic human right and that it is a moral imperative for the elected leaders of this great nation to make certain that all of its citizens can enjoy in this right.  We recognize that a single piece of legislation cannot fix all aspects of our ailing healthcare system, but we trust that this first step is a move in the right direction and pray that you continue toward its completion.

Respectfully,

American Muslim Health Professionals


An uncertain time… but it’s NOT over!

January 20, 2010

~ by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

Things really haven’t changed for us — the “us” being people of faith who have poured our hearts and energies into a moral vision for our health care future.  We’ve been saying that even though we are so close to health care reform there are no guarantees. The Massachusetts election simply confirms that.

Our mission has always been that of promoting reform that truly embraces health, wholeness, and human dignity for all.  We have pledged ourselves to ensuring that health care in our country will be inclusive, guaranteeing that everyone will be a part of a reformed system… accessible, eliminating barriers to needed care… affordable, assuring that persons will no longer have to chose between health care and other basic needs… and accountable, holding all participants in the system responsible for contributing to the common good.

Nothing that happened in Massachusetts changes that vision. Yes, the loss of the Senate seat will present a whole new set of political challenges and stifle legislative possibilities.  But our task has never been that of putting or keeping a particular party in power, nor of promoting a partisan political agenda. Because of that, our mission remains intact.

What must change is how we respond to the new challenges.  We can give up, or we can give it all we’ve got. We can yield to the pundits who say that the American people don’t want reform, or we can speak louder than ever proving what we do want. We can give in to the falsehoods derailing reform, or we can commit ourselves to being the most diligent truth-tellers ever.

Those who are on the side of giving it all we’ve got are urged to commit anew to the process of transformation that will usher in a moral vision for our health care future.

The need for prayer and conversation continues.  Please join us — beginning with today’s call (01.20.10).

RSVP for the call


Remembering The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 18, 2010

~ Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.”  — The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964)

When they were younger, my children would ask, “Were you alive, Mom, when blacks and whites actually went to different schools?  Or sat in different places on buses? Does that mean Andrew or Ashley couldn’t have been my friends?”

Sadly, my answer to those questions was always a painful “yes,” and I’m grateful that my children have grown up in a very different time.  However, even as we far as we’ve come, we are aware that many barriers to equality still exist.

In 1964, civil rights workers in the South found it difficult to find medical care.  Many hospitals and white doctors not only refused to treat blacks, they also feared treating whites who were working on their behalf.  In response, volunteer medical providers, psychologists, and social workers founded the Medical Committee for Human Rights, went to the South to provide the needed services and took action to assess and help meet the unmet medical needs of black communities. It was a convention of this group that Dr. King addressed with the words noted above.

Over 40 years later, things are different, and, regrettably, things are the same.  Still we live in a nation where the color of our skin too often determines whether or not we get needed health care.  The circumstances are much more subtle, but the realities are the same.  If we are black, Hispanic or Asian, we are disproportionately more likely to be low-income workers with no health insurance. Diagnoses and treatments vary by skin color, regardless of insurance coverage, and health outcomes vary accordingly. Excessive requirements to prove citizenship create barriers for citizens and non-citizens alike.

For some who are reading this, these words may sound familiar. Partly by request, and partly by circumstance, much of it IS a repeat of last year’s message to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King.   A year ago at this time we were awaiting the Senate’s vote to re-authorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.  This year we are on the brink of an historic opportunity to halt the injustice of U.S. health care.

As people of faith we know this is so much more than just a partisan political battle.  It is a struggle to define who we are as a nation.  Will we bind ourselves to the values of community, compassion and generosity for all?  Or will we allow ourselves to be driven by those whose values are motivated by the fear, distrust, and self-interests of a few?  Can we say “no” to those who judge some to be “undeserving” — and then hold firm to a vision of what we know to be good for all of us?

We will have the chance to answer those questions in the days ahead.  If we really want to keep alive the dream of Dr. King, may our prayer for this day be for the vision and courage to truly create a beloved community — a nation where all barriers to health, wholeness, and human dignity are brought down.


Two countries in crisis: A time for confession and prayer

January 16, 2010

By Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

The rumble of a trembling earth… the rush of swirling winds… the surge of a tsunamic ocean… in a matter of seconds we fall victim to our vulnerabilities and to forces totally beyond our control.  In a few short moments life is changed forever.  And in the aftermath, our common humanity and the deep ties that bind us to one another are exposed.  The capacity for compassion that lies within all of us emerges and calls us to our better selves.

Whose heart doesn’t break watching a Haitian man standing outside of his collapsed home, unable to respond to the cries of his family trapped under the rubble, still waiting even after their pleas are heard no more? Who doesn’t shed tears for a mother carrying her dead child through the streets for want of a final resting place? Who doesn’t bow in a moment of silence upon hearing of the Americans who have died while ministering on our behalf in the midst of Haiti’s poverty?

In the midst of all of this, I had a nagging sense that I couldn’t just keep on going as if nothing was wrong. Somehow, sending an email alert promoting calls to Congress about health care reform just needed to take a back seat to other needs — both yours and mine. Instead, I went out and purchased the items for Church World Service hygiene and baby care kits to kick off a collection in my own congregation.  But it still didn’t address my uneasiness.

And then it dawned on me. My connection to the Faithful Reform in Health Care coalition is grounded in the affirmation that the outpouring of concern, supplies, and money for Haitians demonstrates that we as a nation do have the immense capacity to act with compassion, to share our abundant resources, and to do the right thing.  In fact, it is believing in that capacity that has driven our mission. It is what has made our work unique among other groups.  It is what has helped us understand that our calling is so much broader than a particular political agenda or getting a bill passed in Congress.  It is about transforming hearts and minds and shaping public conscience around shared faith-inspired values that demand action on behalf of the common good.

Perhaps confession is in order over the fact that we wait for an earthquake or hurricane or tsunami to demonstrate the goodness that lies within us as individuals and as a country.  And perhaps it is time to confess our motives in withholding such a generosity of spirit when it comes to shaping our national life together.  Maybe, just maybe, in that confession we can discern how the values of our hearts can inform our legislative deliberations and help shape a vision for our future.

We have launched our Interfaith Virtual Vigil of Prayer, Hope, and Action for the final weeks of our deliberations about health care reform. I propose that for these difficult times we tweak the words and the purpose to create a chain of prayer and action that lifts up life and health and hope for our whole human family.  Please join me in prayer in these moments and in the coming weeks.

In the presence of all that is holy within and around us, and in the sacred bonds of our common humanity, we give thanks for the life that we share and for our calling to care for each other. We remember our sisters and brothers who are suffering in Haiti — and in all places where mere existence is a profound struggle.  We confess that we have fallen short in caring for every member of our human family, and that in spite of our abundant resources we have failed to ensure that all may receive what they need for the life that is intended for every person.

So we pray for forgiveness… for hearts that have been slow to feel another’s pain… for hands that have been still when a loving touch was needed… and for voices that have remained silent while millions suffer for lack of basic needs like shelter, clothing, food, and health care. May the valleys and the burdens of hunger, homelessness, suffering, sickness and disease be conquered as we raise our voices of hope and faith to the simple, moral, and merciful imperative of taking care of one another. Amen.*

May our prayers be transforming in these difficult days.

*Adapted from words prayed in recent months in services of remembrance and in vigils for health care reform.


“A Faith-Inspired Vision of Health Care” delivered to Congress & White House

January 16, 2010

by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling

On January 12, A Faith-Inspired Vision of Health Care with nearly 200 organizational signatures and over 4000 individual signatures was delivered to all of Congress and White House staff.  The cover letter is printed below.

An Open Letter
to President Barack Obama and to
Members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives

At this historic moment in a century-long effort to make comprehensive and compassionate health care reform a reality in the United States, members of the Faithful Reform in Health Care coalition are praying for our nation and for you – our elected leaders. We offer these prayers recognizing that the arc of the moral universe does not bend toward justice on its own.  It bends only through the transformation of our hearts and minds as we commit ourselves to working for the common good… to building a sense of community that offers blessings for all… and to acting upon our concern for those who are most vulnerable.

People of faith have worked for decades in support of quality and affordable health care for all because we see it as a moral calling – and because we truly believe that our nation is endowed with the talents, wisdom and sufficient resources necessary to meet the health care needs of one another.  In these critical hours of deliberation, from now until a health care bill is signed, Faithful Reform in Health Care and its members will lift you in prayer around a moral vision for health care reform that guarantees affordable health care for everyone and lays the foundation for sharing our abundant health care resources in a spirit of generosity.

Through our Interfaith Virtual Vigil of Prayer, Hope, and Action, we will offer these prayers every day until health care reform is signed into law. We know that what is broken in U.S. health care cannot be repaired in one sweeping piece of legislation. At the same time, we believe that the first steps toward transformation can be addressed in the pending deliberations over the shape of our health care future.  We will pray that you take these steps with courage and in hope.

We applaud the actions and leadership that have brought us to this historic moment, and now pray that you will move forward with a vision that will bend the arc of our health care future toward justice.  While our individual organizations support a variety of policy priorities and strategies for incorporating our faith values in legislation, there is broad consensus around provisions that move us toward a more just system of health care that is inclusive, affordable, accessible, and accountable.

Read the full letter and view the Vision Statement and signatures.