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Safety Net Action Committee

As a committee, we are committed to:

  • Working with faith groups and other organizations to explore and advance the cause of universal health care in the United States.
  • A shared belief that providing for affordable, high quality and universally accessible health care is a moral and ethical responsibility rooted in our Jewish texts and traditions.


Toward these goals, we plan to: 

  • Further educate ourselves and others
  • Do outreach and build alliances with other faith-based organizations
  • Sponsor educational events and take part in community actions that promote universal, affordable health care.

This past year we:

  • Sponsored a film and forum at Or Shalom on single payer and other options for universal health care.
  • Created an Or Shalom statement on the moral and ethical need for faith groups to become involved in the struggle for universal health care in the United States.

If you'd like to get involved, email our Social Action Fellow to get started!
 

Health Care for All Is a Moral Issue

A Faith Perspective from Or Shalom Jewish Community

 

“Supporting sick poor people is more important than the maintenance of a synagogue.”

— Shulchan Arukh, Yorah De’Ah 249    

As people of faith, we want to make our ideals and traditions manifest in the world. So we are obliged and committed to push for affordable health care for all. Our society can afford to do this. Morally and ethically, we can’t afford not to!

America’s contentious public debate about health care and health insurance has until now mostly focused on political, social and financial issues. We need to incorporate into the debate the ethical problem of rationing health care according to the patient’s ability to pay. A society as wealthy as ours should not allow people to suffer and die because they are poor.

We believe our faith leaders and faith communities have a role here. We should use our moral standing to push our country to do the right thing: provide decent and accessible medical care to all Americans.

Each year, the United States spends nearly twice as much on health care per capita ($9,800 in 2016) as any other industrialized country. We are less healthy than residents of nations that spend much less per capita, and we still have an unconscionable number of people without access to decent health care. France spends $4,600 per capita and covers everyone; Israel, $2,820; Canada, $4,750; Spain, $3,250.

American organizations have pushed for guaranteed universal health care without success since the 1880s. A patchwork of programs has developed over the decades — Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), ACA (Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act) — which provide care or insurance for most Americans over 65, many low-income and disabled people, and some children. The trajectory has been to provide health insurance for increasing numbers of ailing Americans. However, many still lack access to care.

Nearly 60 percent of Americans favor a national publicly funded health plan, as do many medical professional organizations. The California Nurses Association has spearheaded California’s current proposal for universal health care, Senate Bill 562 (SB 562). But we remain mired in a profit-driven health system that leaves many without care. Meanwhile, our scripture (Leviticus, 19:16) directs us to take profit out of the equation: “Do not profit by the blood of your neighbor.”

While there is debate and confusion in the United States over the government’s obligations around health care, in much of the industrialized world, the public role has been much clearer. The debate centers on the moral imperative to reduce suffering, and proceeds logically toward “How shall we efficiently care for the largest number of people?” Other countries, such as Taiwan, Japan and virtually all of Europe, have created universal coverage without the debate being driven by those pushing medicine to produce wealth rather than health..

The European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and the United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights both declare the fundamental human right to health care and medical attention. The United States stands alone among wealthy nations by not acknowledging health care as a community responsibility. Our historical reliance on market-driven medicine seems to blind us to the moral imperative to care for our fellow humans. But our sacred text commands us: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)

We seek to join the voices of the faith community with those that have long called for a health-care system that cares for every person in the United States. Faith communities have a special duty to cut through the narrow debates about finances and control. We need to push ourselves to create a better version of America. We must call out the inhumanity of a profit-driven medical system and demand high-quality health care for all Americans, focusing on prevention and rational use of resources.

“Anyone who saves a life, [it] is as if he saved an entire world.”

—  Mishna, Sanhedrin, 4

Sun, November 17 2019 19 Cheshvan 5780