Right or Privilege?

Blog by Sr. Judy Morris, OP
Blog by Sr. Judy Morris, OP

Somewhere in the Guinness Book of World Records the current Congress must appear with the largest number of attempts to repeal a piece of legislation. At last count there were 62 attempts to derail the Affordable Care Act (sometimes called Obamacare). One has to admit opponents in Congress are persistent!

Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, 47 million Americans had no health insurance. Since the passage of that bill there are now 33 million people in the United States, or 10.4% of the population, uninsured. That is in large part because governors in 26 states have rejected the Medicaid expansion. This is in stark contrast to countries in Europe and Canada, where all citizens are provided with health insurance.

Candidates running for President have yet to be asked, “Is health care a right or privilege?” If health care is a right, why are there many obstacles to getting insurance? Instead of the scripted debates, town halls – consisting of people with real problems, asking challenging questions about disappearing safety nets – could inform all those seeking higher office of the obstacles that make it difficult to get out of poverty.

A town hall in Hazard, Kentucky, in the heart of Appalachia, would be an appropriate site. Beverly May, a nurse at the Little Flower Free Clinic, has much to share about people who die from lack of health care. She sees patients in imminent danger of heart attacks, or risking blindness and amputation from uncontrolled diabetes. Often patients get to the clinic too late for any effective treatment. “People die,” she says, “They simply die for lack of health care.”

Politician A: “I will keep them in my thoughts and prayers.” This is the same script we use after a mass shooting.

Fifty-five-year old Terry of Breathitt County in Eastern Kentucky has no health insurance and earns $269 a month cleaning homes. Because she has high blood pressure and arthritis she needs prescription drugs. Since she cannot afford prescriptions, she uses Tylenol.

Politician: “Why doesn’t she get a second job? I will keep her in my thoughts and prayers.”

The “Year of Mercy” can focus the mind on the basic survival needs of millions in the US which moves us beyond “thoughts and prayers” to action.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

8 responses to “Right or Privilege?

  1. Sr. some but not all small business owners want the government to pay health benefits for their employees. So many actually employed citizens will not pay for at least some affordable plan for limited insurance coverage they could have afforded for their families. The expense of this is borne by all taxpayers including the Religious Community.
    The poor can benefit from the mercy and help of those more blessed including all of the Churches and Charitable organizations whose operating funds are not government taxes. This is fair and just.
    Citizen rights and privileges are outlined in the Bill of Rights in our constitution. Even so many have also argued that the main purpose of our government is to provide jobs or protect the homeland. Now the right to have health care is in the public conscience.
    Personally I have paid for a basic insurance plan for a family member. I can’t afford higher taxes. Can you? Ann Vlk, OPA

  2. Judy, thanks for this message. It is one we need to continue to let our government know how many people need healthcare.

  3. The health clinic in Bardstown which serves the working poor did not have to have its annual fundraiser last year because so many of the working poor had health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Now the congress, state and national wants to get ride of it. Sad.

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