Caring . . . and Health

I’m at Sears car care this afternoon, joyfully buying two new tires for the car. They have 58,000 miles on them, so I guess as they say, they don’t owe me anything.

When I checked in the gentleman helping me – he says he is on Medicare, so he’s 65 or more – asked me if I knew if Congress had decided on the healthcare bill or not. I answered that I didn’t know, but that they’d been in session since 1pm. It was then 3pm. He went on to say how he believes the bill is unneeded and fears that it will mean higher insurance premiums and less available for him through Medicare.

As I wandered through the Square One Mall waiting, I thought about what he had said as I passed hundreds of people of all races and ethnic backgrounds. The diversity of the nation was right there with me (and me, the middle-aged white guy part of it!). I wondered as I looked in their faces how many of them have faced or are facing stresses related to getting adequate healthcare for themselves, their children, their parents.

There has been much debate, some of it overly loud and impolite, as to whether or not healthcare is a right. In terms of Catholic faith, it is. The question then for those who accept the Catholic viewpoint is whether the present bill provides healthcare as it should be and in accord with the dignity of each person and each life.

Another constant in the public debate over healthcare reform over the past year has been cost. I’ve heard everything from “those who can afford care will buy it, and the rest are on their own,” to “it’s just too expensive and so we can’t do it.” I hear this in the context of our national priorities as reflected in how we are spending our money. Some time ago the war in Iraq – a war that Karl Rove now says George Bush would not have begun if he knew the truth about no-weapons of mass destruction – had cost the USA in the neighborhood of $700,000,000,000. This is without mentioning the cost of the war in Afghanistan, nor the human cost on which no dollar amount can be placed. Little is said about whether or not we can ‘afford’ this cost as a nation.

But if we can, can we not also ‘afford’ or rather do we not have a communal responsibility to provide care to all? We belong to one another and are responsible to and for one another. This is fundamental Christianity. If fundamental Christianity has nothing to do with the decisions we make, we as individuals or as a nation, then the worth and significance of our professing Christian faith needs to be carefully considered. What I mean is this: the question of cost is not the final question here. There are more fundamental questions at hand.

As I write pro-life democrats have agreed to the measure. I emphasize: this is not a perfect law, but it moves us toward what we owe one another in justice. Will it need revision in the future? Undoubtedly. Will i$perfections in its provisions become apparent? Of course. But I ask you: if we waited to act in this world until we had the perfect answer and absolute unanimity about anything, would we ever move at all?

This is the time to move.

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