We are well advised to not discuss religion or politics. I intend in these columns to write about nothing else.
We shall explore the “intersections” of health care reform, values, faith and politics. In these columns, faith is never a personal, private affair. Reading the Christian scriptures, I can’t see that Jesus himself taught such a convenient and easy faith; after all, He was killed for confronting the economic oppression of his time in knocking over the tables of the money-changers and dove-sellers. As He did so, Jesus quoted Jeremiah 7, wherein the Israelites are promised the land if, and only if, they practice economic and social justice.
I made this point once speaking at Ohio Christian University. Several students spoke with me after the lecture. They were shaken off their foundation. These students had pulled out their Bibles as I was speaking and confirmed that Scripture says this is why Jesus was killed. They had never heard of this radical, politically-active Jesus. I was not invited back, however.
As a Quaker, I try to live the testimony of abolitionist John Woolman. Like so many historical figures, Woolman has been sanitized. We accept his abolitionist preaching but overlook his speaking against unregulated capitalism’s exploitation of workers, treating them no better than slaves. We do the same with Martin Luther King, who was jailed for protesting segregation, killed when he supported striking Memphis sanitation workers.
As a full-time emergency physician with experience as a paramedic / ER tech / RN going back to 1977, I am daily face-to-face with the unspeakable suffering of all those cast aside by our profit-driven, rather than care and humane values driven, health care non-system. The ER, as poet Robert Frost sort of said, is the one place in America where when you go there, they have to take you in. Once there, if one has crashed and burned bad enough, one is admitted (or “observed”–that is another column) to the hospital; if not, one goes home. Goes home to the same inability to see a primary care doctor, unable to see specialists, unable to afford medications that led one to “crash and burn” and have no recourse but the ER in the first place.
One’s “success” economically is in no way a measure of one’s value as a human being, yet in the US today, one literally lives or dies depending on the size of one’s wallet. There is no way to describe this as anything but a crime against humanity, as a crime against what America should stand for.
We shall explore what deeply held beliefs about capitalism, about “socialism” (as close as the Circleville Fire Department or as historically revered as Franklin Delano Roosevelt) that keep us in this dysfunctional health care–the most expensive by far yet one of the poorest performing health care systems in the civilized world. We shall explore very real, very deep differences between Democrats and Republicans that has caused one party to work continually for health care reform, the other to insist that we need only let the market’s invisible hand work its magic.
I have already seen the results of the market’s invisible hand – before the Affordable Care Act, 50,000 Americans died yearly from poor access to health care (“Health Insurance and Mortality is US Adults,” American Journal of Public Health, Sept. 17, 2009) while millions of others survive either injured or bankrupted or both.
Ground rules: I invite lively and passionate discussion of these lightning rod issues on the Op-ed pages of the Pickaway News Journal. I know I am most passionate about them as I see the suffering in real persons, our neighbors, caused by rigidly held ideology about faith, values and politics. I pledge to answer those who may differ in these columns. However, I shall argue ideas, not insult the holder of differing frameworks. In answering opposing ideas, I shall not refer to the local writer by name, as that is inflammatory. Public or elected figures, that is another story. I shall impugn the motives of those shown to be taking campaign donations (aka bribes) or otherwise have their judgment clouded by financial interests in health insurers, Big Pharma or Big Oil.
In keeping faith with journalism as the stump of democracy, I shall respond to differing ideas, not work behind the scenes to have your viewpoint censored from these pages.
I close with a quote from Marcia Angell, MD, former editor of the most prestigious “New England Journal of Medicine” and now a member of Physicians for a National Health Program: “We’ve engaged in a massive and failed experiment in market-based medicine in the US. Rhetoric about the benefits of competition and profit-driven health care can no longer hide the reality: Our health system is in shambles.”
For reality, listen to Bernie Sanders. For more rhetoric, listen to most any Republican.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal