Isaiah the prophet sees God’s ultimate dream for health care when the new creation is completed: “No more shall there be…an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime (Isaiah 65:20).” Over the past year, our nation has been polarized over the issue of health care reform. One side believes that every American deserves to have health coverage while the other side believes that such is a privilege. It’s true that I may be over-simplifying, but that seems to be the broad spectrum. Now, I would be lying if I thought that the new health care plan that is to be implemented over the next several years is immaculate (as it will be in God’s renewed world); but when you put a name and a face to reform, suddenly political practice becomes rooted in relationships rather than theory.
Over the past few weeks a very close friend has been suffering with several ailments, of which gallbladder stones are the primary. She has two part-time jobs and therefore does not have insurance. She went to the ER initially for the pain she was having but was told by doctors that she would have to wait for more evidence of infection before they could legally operate on her without health coverage. So, she was told to wait until clear signs of infection kicked in (yellowing of the eyes and skin, high fever, etc.), which was quite risky for her, but was the only way that an operation would even be possible.
Finally, she did go to the ER with pain and some symptoms of infection, but ultimately it was the way her gallbladder problems were affecting her liver-count that led the hospital to believe that she was close enough to the ‘life threatening’ stage to be mandated by law to operate. A week later, because they did not give her preventative care, a stone had lodged itself into her pancreas causing pancreatitis! In total, she was in the hospital 9 out of 12 days. In my opinion, in a society that has more than enough money to give health care to every American (and many oversees for that matter), this was a personal example of our unjust health ‘care’ system. My friend has a face and a name, and will now be in debt for the next several years of her adult life. Luckily, the neglect of the system did not lead to worse consequences.
As a child I grew up in American poverty. We were on Welfare, lived in Section 8 housing, bought groceries with food stamps, and were covered by Medi-Cal. My mom made some bad choices over the years, but now is trying to improve her life. Over the past few years she has been held back by several health problems, the worst of which is a back that is in dire need of surgical correction. Unfortunately, she lacked medical insurance because she was living below the poverty line.
Many opponents of health care reform would probably point out that my Mom’s bad choices are the cause of this predicament, which may in fact be true. However, is there no redemption for those who want to make a better life for themselves? How is she supposed to ‘pick herself up by the bootstraps’ if the very thing that is preventing her from doing so is a broken health care system? Sure, the private sector or the church could pay for her medical bills in an ideal world, but are you willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars out of your hard-earned money for everyone in my Mother’s plight? I say this not as an insult, but rather to illustrate the reality of things on the impoverished ground. You see, the system has the power to hold people in bondage to poverty, which is why I am passionate about the coming changes to medical coverage. Health care reform, when it has a face and a name, is no longer about political theory, but about real people that deserve real justice.
So, does health care reform have a face and a name for you? Do you see this as an issue that needs to be addressed? In my own life, I can say that my Mom and my friend are both reasons convincing enough that humanizing our conversations about reform is the first step to a helpful dialogue and a hopeful future. Health care has a face and a name; in fact, health care reform has 45.7 million faces and names that must not be forgotten.
 American poverty is a luxury compared to many throughout the world, so I want to be fair and make this distinction. This doesn’t however justify it as ‘not that bad.’
 I want to say that my Mom had a recent miracle that came through the state Welfare system. My 20 year old brother moved home this year, and she has Medi-Cal for the next few months leading up to his 21st birthday. She is now in the early stages of recovery from the initial back surgery, however, when her coverage is up; she may not have the post-operative attention that she needs to fully recover. This part of the story is too long to put in the article itself, but I wanted to make sure that you knew the full story.