Seeds, Leaves, Roots: Health Care for All

Seeds, Leaves, Roots: Health Care for All July 18, 2013

(I’m working now on a project called SEEDS, LEAVES, ROOTS: Faithful Rhetoric and Reflection for Progressive Social Action. It’s an initiative of Progressive Christians Uniting – I serve on its board of directors. We are creating a “virtual library” of progressive Christian positions on critically important issues. “Seeds” are one or two line “sound bites” on the topic. “Leaves” are “elevator speeches” that summarize the position. “Roots” are articles and research papers that go into depth on the subject, and provide the grounding for the “seeds” and “leaves”. This “library” will be accessible by activists, politicians, preachers, campaigners, academics, and others. It will provide opinion-shapers with feeling and talking points, from a broad faith perspective. The term “civil religion” refers to a non-sectarian, broadly faith-based expression of the underlying spiritual motivation for progressive social and political action.)

Health Care for All

Why it matters:

“Today, almost seven million Californians lack health care insurance, out of a population approaching 37million. These are individuals and families that
work hard, play by the rules, and pay their taxes, yet don’t get basic health care coverage… As people of faith committed to social and economic justice for all people,
especially those most vulnerable in our society, we have an obligation to educate our faith communities on the issues around health care. We have an opportunity to influence this crisis by being prepared to roll up our sleeves for the hard work of advocacy.” Rev Dr Rick Schlosser, Executive Director, California Council of Churches

“For a host of complicated reasons, the growing infusion of religious and spiritual values into the political process in this country over the last generation has been primarily promoted by those religious groups opposed to progressive expansions of social benefits. Moral appeals play an increasingly large role in the political process, but advocates of universal health insurance, whose own beliefs are generally grounded in a broad values framework and not just narrow self-interest, have been reluctant to join the fray on those terms.” Bruce Vladek, PhD, Professor of Health Policy at New York’s Mount Sinai University


Civil Religion:

We believe that as spiritual and sacred vessels, we are responsible for the care of our bodies to the best of our ability and for the care of one another regardless of individual circumstances. Faithful Reform in Health Care, 2010


“Jesus sends his followers on a mission to do two things: preach the gospel and heal the sick. Does he say that we should only heal those who can afford health insurance?” Rev Jim Burklo, Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California

“From the earliest passages of the Bible (Genesis 15:26), Christians recognize that it is ultimately God who heals, and in the New Testament Jesus’ healing ministry is intended to demonstrate the presence of God…. health care is a basic right rather than a commodity available only to those with means…”
— The General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church: “Universal Health Care in the United States of America”, adopted October 2001

Jewish: “The Talmud, a far-reaching collection of Jewish law and principles, lists 10 public services that a community must provide: three of these relate to basic public health and sanitation – public baths, public toilets and a doctor.” Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly.


Civil Religion:

Health care is a shared responsibility that is grounded in our common humanity. In the bonds of our human family, we are created to be equal. We are guided by a divine will to treat each person with dignity and to live together as an inclusive community. Affirming our commitment to the common good, we acknowledge our enduring responsibility to care for one another. As we recognize that society is whole only when we care for the most vulnerable among us, we are led to discern the human right to health careand wholeness. Therefore, we are called to act with compassion by sharing our abundant health care resources with everyone. — Faithful Reform in Health Care, 2010


“Jesus had a plan for universal health coverage, two millennia ago! As his followers, we are called to put that plan into action, here and now. You and I don’t need to wear whites and carry stethoscopes to do it, either. As faithful voters, we now can make a big difference in the lives of the 45 million Americans who have no health insurance, and the millions more who have inadequate or unaffordable coverage. Praying for the sick is very important. It binds us spiritually to those who suffer, and joins our souls with their process of recovery. But prayer isn’t enough. Citizen activism is needed for us to become Jesus’ agents of healing.”
Rev. Jim Burklo, Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California

“Because the scriptural test of a just nation is how it treats its weakest members (Micah 6:8; Amos 5:24; Jeremiah 5:26-29), we will be clear and consistent advocates to policy-makers on behalf of public health matters and access to healthcare for everyone. We join other faith-based communities in urging our government to establish policy for a system of healthcare in which everyone, everywhere in the United States has access to basic, affordable healthcare, and where the risks and expenses are shared by all.”
— Mennonite Church USA, 2006


“The 16th century compilation of Jewish law, the Shulhan Arukh, states that where doctors reducing fees to care for the poor is not sufficient, the community must provide a fund. Consistent with this and many other related dicta in Jewish tradition, the Rabbinical Assembly, the international community of 1600 Conservative rabbis passed resolutions on health care in 2002, 2008 and at our last convention in March 2011 in support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. “
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly – in the Washington Post: 3/26/2012


Jesus’ Universal Health Plan – Rev. Jim Burklo

Being A Good Samaritan: CA Health Care Curriculum – California Council of Churches


Rev. Jim Burklo’s video for the One Care campaign for universal, single-payer health insurance in California


Excerpts from: Being A Good Samaritan: CA Health Care Curriculum, California Council of Churches

The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not have some form of universal health insurance. Not long ago, we shared this not-very-noble distinction with South Africa. Now we stand alone. Oddly, the United States spends more on health care than any other nation ($7,439 per capita in 2007). The universal,
single payer health care systems in Canada and Europe cost about half of what we pay here. We intentionally support national health insurance for Americans who are over the age of sixty-five. Many of our hospitals use expensive, sophisticated equipment in diagnosing and treating our pathologies. Individuals and families who are well-insured receive services that are as good — and, in many cases, far better — than elsewhere in the world. In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the U.S. 37th in the world in responsiveness and cost and 72nd in overall outcomes. The CIA World Factbook ranks the U.S. 41st in infant mortality and 45th in life expectancy. Virtually everyone agrees, however, that our health care system, especially the way Americans are provided with health insurance — is desperately in need of reform. The system has become a sick patient in need of surgery.

About 47 million people in the United States do not have health insurance and this number continues to rise every year. In addition, another 30 million Americans under 65 are without health insurance for some period of time every year. In California, nearly seven million people – that’s close to one in every five Californians – find themselves shut out of the system. That’s a group equal in size to the combined populations of our three largest cities (Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose) with most of San Francisco included as well. Contrary to popular opinion, the largest number of the uninsured is employed in our nation’s workforce. In fact, eight of ten Americans who are uninsured come from working families. Their jobs tend to be in service industries and in small firms, which are less likely to offer coverage to their employees. Compared to the population at large, the uninsured tend to be younger, to have lower incomes, and to have fewer years of education. In 2007, about 30% of America’s working uninsured families received incomes under the federal poverty level, which in 2008 is $21,200 for a family of four. Each year large numbers of Americans lose their health insurance or experience cutbacks in the services covered by their plans. In the face of rising costs, employers often discontinue health plans that, in some cases, they have offered for years. Alternatively, they transfer increased costs to employees by raising premium contributions and or by increasing co-payments.

A health care system works well only when it connects everyone, thereby spreading the risk pool across the broadest possible population. It is a problem that can be solved only by everyone working together. Research shows that coverage for all citizens of the state – with everyone paying at least something for care – would likely result in lower premiums for all of us. How? One example: if everyone had access toaffordable and basic preventative care, the cost of emergency room treatments directly correlated to undiagnosed conditions would decline.


California OneCare is an online organizing network that exists to activate and empower people into a grassroots and netroots movement for universal health care in California.
It supports a single payer system that will deliver comprehensive health care to all residents of the state, and that allows consumers to have input into the system and full access to the information that affects their health or choice of providers.

Website: JIMBURKLO.COM Weblog: MUSINGS Follow me on twitter: @jtburklo
Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California

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