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Health care reform is complicated, not impossible

By Staff | Sep 25, 2009

In the on-going heath care reform debate Christians need to keep in mind a core value of our tradition, namely a disposition of compassion and mercy to the poor, the victimized, the marginalized, and the stranger at the gate. (See the Gospels for details!) The ways and means of caring for such persons vary depending on time and place. But without a heart inclined toward compassion and justice we simply don’t deserve to be called Christians (“Christ-like ones”).

After first asking it of themselves, Christians can and should ask: What kind of heart is our nation cultivating?

Many Americans, like myself, who have been to Canada, England, Ireland or certain European countries are often shocked at the medical treatment we receive as guests. No insurance cards are required. Little or no payment is required and yet in most cases the treatment is as good as we get in this country.

Is it free? Of course not. It’s costly. But it’s been paid for by the citizens of those countries who have chipped in to make that kind of hospitality and care possible for nearly everybody.

T. R. Reid of The Washington Post visited many of those and other nations, including Japan, to find out how they did it. The financial mechanisms, he discovered, differed greatly from country to country. But what they had in common was a commitment to get it done.

Yes, it’s a complicated problem. But I believe our nation will figure it out. My faith is based on the universal manifestations of the great spirit of love and on the success of two nearly impossible projects our nation undertook in the past.

At one time, education in this country was entirely private. Only the rich could afford it. There was no public alternative. In the 18th century Thomas Jefferson urged an educational system for all. Jefferson’s idea was soundly rejected. But the idea was too good to suppress forever.

It took a while but beginning in 1840 our nation committed itself to providing education for all its children. How? We all chipped in. It was a grand and unprecedented undertaking. To be sure, public education is far from perfect but we keep working at it because we believe education is a right.

The other nearly impossible project was legislation to clean up our nation’s soil, air and water. In the 1970s a consensus emerged in this country. Citizens demanded clean air, water, and soil as a right. No, we didn’t know exactly how to get it done. We simply told our elected representatives to get it done. And they did. Not perfectly but far better than it was. We have a right to clean air, soil and water.

Can we find a way to care for the health of all citizens in this nation? I think so. But it begins with a longing to see justice and mercy done in the land of the free and the brave.

Randall Tremba,