Dear Members of Congress,
Recently, 217 of you from the Republican party in the House of Representatives passed a bill that, if signed into law, effectively consigns untold numbers of people to a death sentence. Any potential cost savings to the government come at the expense of essential care to the vulnerable, and the number of vulnerable people will expand dramatically when quality healthcare is reduced and denied. And no potential savings of the American Health Care Act could ever begin to make up for the pain, suffering, death, broken families and broken communities that the AHCA, if passed, will cost over time.
I am writing to all of you now, members of the Senate as well as the House, no matter how you voted or plan to vote, because before healthcare legislation is finalized, you will have to negotiate to reconcile your various demands. That means that there is still time for the American people to make our demands, and we are crying out for you to hear us. The vast majority of us who stand to lose much-needed care are asking for much more than the defeat of this dangerous bill. We are demanding that you work for us, the people, and not the profits that may be gained by reducing our access to the care we need.
The American Health Care Act is a terrible bill that will cut Medicaid, roll back protections for pre-existing conditions, and price millions of people out of health coverage. But the Affordable Care Act also falls short of the goal of universal healthcare as 27 million people go uninsured. It may be a step in the right direction, but we need to keep moving forward.
I, like many, favor a single-payer healthcare system with high-quality coverage irrespective of one’s ability to pay. But more than any particular healthcare system, I want representatives who exercise empathy and compassion when crafting legislation. That compassion is noticeably lacking in a healthcare bill aimed at reducing costs at the expense of essential care. It fails to account for the needs of the people, will harm millions, and is fundamentally misguided. It sends the message that money – in the hands of the powerful few – is the foundation of this country, rather than a healthy citizenry.
But without a healthy citizenry we cannot be a healthy nation. Without our health, we cannot effectively care for our families, do our jobs, or contribute to our communities. Thus, while we need healthcare legislation that ensures access to medicine and treatment regardless of means, we moreover need you to prioritize public health above private wealth in all legislation. We need for you to take a truly comprehensive approach to ensuring and safeguarding this fundamental human right. This means we need for you to recognize the many factors that impact our health and design laws accordingly.
Pollution, poverty, and war take their toll on our health in ways beyond our control, and yet healthcare in our nation is still treated as a commodity for those who can afford it rather than a right for all. It is unthinkable that our nation can build pipelines that poison clean drinking water and yet expect citizens to suffer without affordable treatment from pre-existing conditions due to lead exposure. It is unacceptable that some communities are trapped in cycles of poverty through discrimination often born of racism and cannot afford the medicine they need because their money must go to (cheap, often less nutritious) food. And while it is unconscionable that our nation spends more on destroying lives abroad than it does on saving lives at home, the damage from war exceeds mere monetary cost. Investing in fighting an enemy abroad fuels enmity and distrust at home, putting undo stress on us and eroding our sense of compassion. In ignoring these factors beyond our control, the AHCA pays lip service to “personal responsibility” but ignores our interpersonal responsibility to each other. In fact, only a culture that has lost sense of the interconnection of all humanity could produce a bill as heartless as the American Health Care Act.
But I do not believe that any of you are truly heartless. I do believe that many of you have put partisan rivalry over the welfare of the people, seeking political victories by repealing so-called “Obamacare” in the case of Republicans and prioritizing the defense of the Affordable Care Act above amending its flaws (like its failure to provide universal coverage) and progressing forward in the case of Democrats. I also believe that the lure of profit can tempt anyone, but those in positions of power have a greater opportunity to succumb to that temptation. I think that partisanship and profit have brought out your inner demons of rivalry and greed and suppressed your better angels of compassion. But I think you are all better than this bill, better than a budget that invests more in death than in life, better than leaving your sisters and brothers to die.
Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money.” This also means you cannot serve the image-bearers of God – humanity as a whole – while trying to profit at their expense. You need not believe in God at all to recognize that you cannot serve your constituents while also denying the vulnerable the most basic care for the sake of cost reduction. But if you do believe in God, and believe the first letter of John that defines God as Love, then you must realize that the American Health Care Act does not serve love. And while those who champion it may profit from donations as a reward for cost-savings, you erode your own soul when you serve your bank account over and above the image of God that dwells within you.
So please know that if you plan to vote in a manner that punishes the poor, the elderly, the vulnerable, if you plan to justify spending billions on killing people overseas but not saving people at home, if you plan to pretend that healthcare should fall entirely within the realm of personal responsibility even though many health factors are outside a person’s control, then you will not receive my support. But when I vote against a heartless governing philosophy, I am not voting against you but against the greed and rivalry that brings out the worst in you, and for a system of compassion that will one day benefit you and your loved ones. I trust, however, that you can listen to the spirit of Love inside you that treasures people above profit, and write and pass laws that fulfill your duty to promote the general welfare.
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