The Heart in Health Care Reform March 2012 Presented by: Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care
The beginning… Why is a moral reflection important to seekers of justice in health care?
Reason #1: The status quo Imagine U.S. health care as an old family homestead, assembled over 150 years… remodeled with a complex jumble of laws, policies, traditions, programs, practices, technologies, & bureaucracies… some of which were neither designed nor intended to work together. Some in the family still find the house quite comfortable . But others find it disgraceful ; some feel insecure in it; some feel unwelcome ; some have been harmed in it; others have been excluded. This structure -- U.S. health care… i s expensive & deteriorating. It causes harm to many of the family members who call it home… and to those who remain outside. It is deeply anchored in our society, leaving us fearful of change, and worried about the impact of pulling up anchor.
This structure is an example of chronic social injustice . Injustice points to: - relationships that are out of balance, and… - structures that support the imbalance because they are not aligned with deeply shared values that affirm the common good. Injustice is social when it penetrates the hearts, minds, and imagination of our society. It is chronic when it persists over a long period of time, deeply anchored in our culture. No one person/institution group is accountable and no one person/institution is responsible for addressing the problem. (Example: Who is responsible for &quot;fixing&quot; U.S. health care? The medical profession? Congress? The White House? Individuals? Lawyers? Etc?)
Overcoming the status quo: At numerous times in U.S. history, we have identified conditions of chronic social injustice & have worked to reform that reality to… end child labor give voting rights to women enact civil rights for African Americans
Overcoming the status quo – ie, working to address such injustice -- begins in the hearts and minds of those who share a new vision of what it means to live in right relationships and to build structures that support new systems which contribute to the common good.
Overcoming the status quo Over the last 50 years, such a vision for our national infrastructure led to investments in a power grid, phone systems, water systems, and interstate highways. The common good has been served. Society as a whole, and the individuals within it, have flourished. However, our health system is stuck in the 1940s – like that old family homestead in need of repair, at the end of a meandering country road, with a private well and an individual generator. The Affordable Care Act is our first step toward building a system of health care – moving us toward a vision of a new dwelling that includes everyone and works well for all of us.
Reason #2: The imperatives for reform Medical Imperative: People live sicker & die younger in the U.S. health system. We've known this for years, but this knowledge did not lead the push for health care reform. Economic Imperative… The real catalyst for the reform effort that led to the passage of the Affordable Care Act was economics. While we don't all agree on how to fix U.S. health care, there is broad agreement from all sides that t he escalating cost of health care is not sustainable. Moral Imperative… The simple, compassionate & merciful call to tend to one another ’s needs is the imperative that will keep us moving into our health care future. We haven't all arrived at the same place in terms of shared responsibility on behalf of the common good, so this is the place where we as people faith begin our journey.
A moral vision – “A Faith-Inspired Vision of Health Care” - An interfaith statement of values that informed our thinking about health care reform throughout the process. - A vision signed by nearly 400 faith organizations & thousands of individuals.
“ A Faith-Inspired Vision of Health Care.” As people of faith, we envision a society where each person is afforded health, wholeness, and human dignity. This vision embraces a system of health care that is... Inclusive, Affordable, Accessible, Accountable.
Seeking justice in health care Where does the new law fall short of our Vision? What challenges to justice remain? What still needs to be done?
Several justice questions guide our thinking: - Who is included? Who is still excluded? - Who pays? Who profits? Who profits at the expense of those who cannot pay? - Whose voices are/were heard? Whose are/were not? - Who is accountable? And to whom?
Where does the new law fall short of our Vision? A few highlights are referenced here which tie into the other workshops presented in today ’s symposium: - Treatment of immigrants – both documented & undocumented - Distribution of costs - Continuing disparities in access to providers - On-going protection of health industry lobbyists
Religion and Politics - Freedom of religion and religious expression is one of the pillars of our nation ’s belief system. It is what drove our European ancestors to risk everything to come to the New World. - To that end, the U.S. Constitution was crafted to guarantee that the government will not interfere with the practice of religion or impose a “state” religion.
Religion and Politics However, what was intended to keep the government out of our practice of religion - ie “the separation of religion and government” – has come to be defined as a complete line in the sand for both sides. THE TRUTH: People of faith and the faith communities to which they relate have the right to participate in the democratic process and to advocate for the issues important to them.
Religion and politics What we CAN do as communities of faith: - Direct lobbying – contacting our law makers about those issues important to us (within very generous limits related to a non-profit status) - Grassroots lobbying – urging others to contact law makers (also within very generous limits related to a non-profit status) - Voter education – educating the general public about these issues - Voter registration – urging people to register to vote (as long as the registration process is not also urging people to vote for a particular candidate)
Religion and politics What we CANNOT do as communities of faith: - Endorse political candidates - Align with political parties Contribute to candidates or political parties It is important to note that these prohibitions are related to IRS non-profit regulations, NOT constitutional law!
Religion and politics Voices of faith are integral to the work of promoting social justice legislation… including the continued work for a moral vision for our health care future .
The hope-filled path forward In 2010, we said NO MORE to a system of health care that does not work for everyone… AND… We made legislative progress that offers a hope-filled path forward, and may help change how we think about our health care future.
People of faith have been at the heart of our country ’s health care past as they… - Built hospitals - Offered pastoral care - Provided charity care - Trained health professionals - Sponsored prevention and substance-abuse programs - And more.
People of faith have two very important and distinctive roles to play in paving the hope-filled path forward. 1. Promoting the shared vision & affirmation that providing needed health care is first and foremost a people issue and a moral imperative.
And… 2. Transcending political partisanship by engaging in dialogue around shared values on behalf of the common good. We have the educational structures already in place. AND we have the capacity because of our relationships with each other to talk about difficult issues on the basis of faith and scriptural values. Our faith communities reflect the political diversity of our country, but that doesn ’t interfere with our care for one another, and participation in birthdays, weddings, graduations, and other important life experiences together. If we can dialogue about a difficult issue based on our shared faith and scripture values rather than political preferences, we can contribute in an important way to the larger national debate about the common good.
Action for our health care future What to do… Short-term: - Recognize that social change is a process that takes years to fulfill. (The effort to get child labor laws passed took 100 years!) - Participate in education, dialogue, & advocacy around implementation, improvements, & state reforms. - Help resist opposition that is based on mis-information. (There are legitimate political differences based on world views, but opposition that is based on mis-information and intentional lies is a different story!) - Commit to staying involved.
And finally, over the long-term, people of faith will need to: - Discern what faith values (not politics or economic self-interests) inform your thinking. and - Contribute to the transformation that faithfully answers the question: Am I my brothers ’/sisters’ keeper?