The groundswell for health care reform

July 27, 2009, 1:05 pm | Posted by

The Washington Post’s Jacqueline Salmon filed a thorough report this weekend (including a mention of FPL and a quote from Jennifer Butler) about the faith community’s broad-based effort to pass health care reform that delivers quality, affordable health care choices for all:

Several large coalitions are mobilizing religious communities nationwide in support of overhauling the nation’s health-care system.

In recent weeks, hundreds of clergy members and lay leaders have descended on the offices of members of Congress, urging lawmakers to enact health-care legislation this year. With face-to-face lobbying, sermons, prayer and advertising on Christian radio stations, the coalitions are pressing the idea that health care for everyone is a fundamental moral issue.

This intensive campaign has taken a lot of hard work in the media, on Capitol Hill, and in congregations across the country by a variety of actors — from clergy to community organizers to national faith groups. And faith leaders will step up their efforts over Congress’ August recess as well, visiting 100 Congressional offices in-district, distributing healthcare reform guides in congregations, holding town hall meetings and organizing large public events. (For example, Faithful Reform will hold a vigil on the Indiana state house lawn on August 1, with an expected attendance of several thousand.) As folks across the country are denied the care they need and anti-reform special interests swoop in to kill reform, their efforts are urgent and crucial.

Ps, for an excellent observation on the Scriptural support for universal care, check out Oliver Thomas’ excellent op-ed in today’s USA Today.

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Health Care and Moral Responsibilities

July 20, 2009, 5:27 pm | Posted by

Yesterday, at the National Press Club, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele answered (and asked) some questions about health care reform.

During the discussion, Steele was asked if he thought it was “morally acceptable for 30-40 million Americans to be without health insurance” and he answered “I don’t know if that’s a consideration for politicians versus a pastor”

Well, we know a few pastors who’ve been answering that question.

Most of us in the faith community think it’s a question for pastors and politicians…and everyone else.

People of faith from across ideological lines have joined together to say it is morally unacceptable for so many Americans to be unable to access quality health care and the remedy to this problem will certainly involve the government working together with communities and congregations.

The multitude of robust advocacy efforts pushing for comprehensive health care reform are a testament to the depth of the faith community’s commitment to this issue.

For now, we’ll give Steele a pass for missing our ads, after all, they didn’t run in his area. The national faith demonstration for health care reform, however, was a short distance from Steele’s office at RNC headquarters.

In any event, should Mr. Steele wish to learn more about what pastors think about health care reform, we’d be happy to connect him with some clergy we know are eager to talk about our shared moral responsibility to reform the health care system.

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Health care reform on the horizon

July 14, 2009, 5:23 pm | Posted by

House Democrats unveiled health care reform legislation yesterday, and both Pres. Obama and Rep. Henry Waxman have called on Congress to pass a bill before summer recess, even suggesting that the August break be postponed if necessary. (Bill text here.)

While watching interest groups’ strategies unfold, I’ve come to the conclusion that health care reform will be as effective as we demand or as hollow as we allow it to be. There’s a great onus on advocates for reform to continually pressure their Members of Congress to make sure we can all access and afford quality healthcare. This of course extends to local faith leaders who are already making a difference.

Nate Silver had a post yesterday that shone a light on a particular slice of Congress: Democrats (including numerous members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition) from districts that voted for McCain and have higher-than-average percentages of uninsured people. In other words, legislators who must balance major human needs with ideological and political demands. For example, 24% of my former Congressman Marion Berry’s (Blue Dog, AR) constituents are uninsured, premiums rose almost six times as much as income from 2000–2007 statewide, so the insured are squeezed as well. For many Members of Congress, supporting robust health care reform involves political risk, of which they are no doubt aware. But their constituents need health care reform, not to mention the fact that meaningful reform, with a strong public option, seems like not only a moral choice, but also a fiscally prudent one.

When it comes to life-and-death matters such as health care, political calculations shouldn’t be the basis of decision. That’s why it’s so important that faith leaders to keep reminding their Members of Congress (and their religious communities) of the moral dimensions of Congress’s critical decisions on health care reform.

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Moral message vs monied interests

July 7, 2009, 2:22 pm | Posted by

The Washington Post reported yesterday that health insurers have hired 350 former government officials as lobbyists and are spending $1.4 million per day to ensure that health care reform doesn’t hurt their bottom line. (One can’t help but wonder how much medical treatment they could fund with that amount of money, but that’s another post entirely.) Simply put, this is a gigantic push the likes of which you don’t see very often.

So it’s a good thing faith leaders are working so hard to pass reform that fixes our broken system and makes quality coverage affordable for all Americans. In addition to the radio ads Faithful America, FPL, PICO, Sojourners and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good sponsored over the Fourth of July weekend, an interfaith group of almost 30 national religious leaders gathered on Capitol Hill today for a Faith Leader Summit on Health Care, which included meetings with Members of Congress and White House staff. And last week, a group of 500 faith-based activists from across the country to lobby their Representatives and Senators. These events come on the heels of an active spring for religious advocacy on health care. These efforts and many many more are necessary in the next couple of months. The moral message that all families deserve quality, affordable health care can prevail over powerful lobbyists, but we can’t take it for granted.

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Local pastors call on Senators to make quality healthcare affordable

June 30, 2009, 9:43 am | Posted by

Starting today, a coalition of local religious leaders and national faith groups including FPL, PICO, Faithful America, Sojourners and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good is running Christian radio ads in Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska and North Carolina calling on specific Senators to support reform that extends quality, affordable health care choices to all Americans. Timed to coincide with the Independence Day Recess, the ads ground the call for reform in Scripture (Isaiah) and call for action in a spirit of love and courage. (Ad scripts and audio are available here.)

The ads are a key part of a greater pro-reform effort that includes meetings with legislators, such as a public meeting 400 Denver-area faith leaders are having with Sen. Bennett this week; distribution of congregational resources, such as a pastor’s guide for talking about health care that will reach over 4,000 congregations; and a sign-on letter endorsed by over 600 clergy who have agreed to engage their congregations in the health care reform debate.

For me, the most inspiring part of this effort has been working with pastors in places like Nebraska, where premiums have increased 3 times as fast as income in recent years and Colorado, where the recession has hit hard and premiums went up nearly 5 times as fast as income from 2000-2007. These leaders see firsthand in their congregations and their service to their communities that our broken system has severe human consequences. They articulate the moral dimension of health care reform uniquely and and powerfully. It’s humbling to listen to their witness, rooted in faith, service, courage and love. I hope the senators who hold health care reform in their hands will be similarly moved.

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