With the Christmas holiday rapidly approaching, it has me thinking about what the family of faith should think about health care in America. As a physician, I’ve spent over a decade of my life trying to use my faith in science and evidence to inform people about an optimal way to practice medicine and, as someone trained in health policy and management, how to structure the United States’ health care system. From the data, it is obvious to me that we must have a universal coverage system to ensure the highest degree of health for our nation.
This never required that we have a single-payer system – just one that offered everyone coverage at an affordable cost for all families. That means necessary but not overly comprehensive coverage, cost related to a family’s annual income, and ensuring that sick people aren’t excluded or priced out of coverage.
Despite embarking on this journey toward a universal health care system for all Americans, too many refused to accept that expanding coverage for our neighbors was better than the status quo before the Affordable Care Act. A loud, vocal minority has spoken—many of them from the family of faith—decrying rising prices for arguably better coverage. Therefore, despite the evidence, the anecdotes of Americans unhappy with the Affordable Care Act are too powerful to keep pushing what science tells us would greatly improve our current health care system.
As much as I have wanted to keep ideology out of the policy-making process and let evidence-based health policy be my guiding star, I have recently begun to explore an ideological (if not theological) answer to our health care crisis. I have put aside my science and have begun to rely on my faith. These are the revelations I find tucked into the Word.
In Luke Chapter 5, Christ says, “Healthy people do not need a doctor—sick people do.” Now, of course, He was speaking directly about sin but cannot stop to think, in His eternal wisdom, that His proclamation must also deal with the realities of our current world. With this in mind, what does the Bible say about our health care situation?
The Book of Proverbs tells us to “speak up for the poor and helpless.” In this case, we are to look after the poor and the sick to protect them from being marginalized by people in society blessed with either financial means or good health. Our health care system isn’t there solely for the rich and healthy. It exists especially for the poor and the sick, to nurse them back to health, to restore them to physical wholeness, and to ensure they do not become impoverished by illness, unexpected or pre-existing.
How can God’s love be in [people] “who have enough to share their resources with others yet do not have the compassion to do so?” (John 3:17) We, as Christians, are instructed to “share each other’s burdens, and this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) The frailty of humanity requires that we undertake this ministry of healing.
Jesus instructed his disciples to heal the sick, as recorded by both Matthew and Luke. (Luke 10:9, Luke 9:2, Matthew 10:8) Therefore, to “inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world,” we must do as our Lord and Savior expects when He mused: “I was sick, and you cared for me.” (Matthews 25:34-36.) And we must not only do this for Him, but we must do it for the people considered least in our society.
It is not enough that we donate to our churches, give to our community hospitals, or finance someone’s GoFundMe account when they fall ill. We must look out for the interests of others and not just our own. (Philippians 2:4) This means exercising our faith not only through ministry but also through our political work.
It is imperative that we as Christians ensure that our “light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around [us] will be as bright as noon.” (Isaiah 58:10) We must demand something from this world.
We must demand justice for the sick. We must demand justice for the poor. We must demand health care coverage for every American, not just those who can pay for it or those who are healthy enough to afford it. We must demand health for everyone within our reach. Now is the time for my fellow believers to do what the King instructs of his disciples in Luke 10:9: “Heal the sick and tell them the Kingdom of God is near you now.”
Cedric Dark is an emergency physician.
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