Some year back, when visiting Norway, a friend asked my wife Cathy and me a breath-stopping question: “Why don’t people in the United States want everyone to have health care?” We couldn’t give a clear, coherent answer to her, or to ourselves.
That question becomes all the more pressing in the midst of the discussions and debates about the Affordable Care Act. Again, my breath was taken away when I read this condensed summary of reality here in the United States (taken from an article in the June 12, 2012 issue of The New York Review of Books):http: //bit.ly/NzjqVn
Except for the US, no rich nation in the world fails to provide comprehensive health care that is free or inexpensive to its entire population. Yet roughly 50 million Americans, 16 percent of the population, have no health insurance at all; most of them are relatively poor and nearly one third of them are age eighteen to thirty-four.
Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation and others finds that those without health insurance die younger, work less due to chronic health conditions, and face persistent personal financial problems brought on by illnesses. A Harvard Medical School study found that some 45,000 deaths a year are associated with lack of health insurance.
Despite the lack of coverage for one out of six citizens, Americans pay more than 17 percent of the Gross Domestic Product for their health care, more than any other rich nation by far. Yet American’s health care system is not measurably better and often considerably worse than that of other rich nations.
How can any member of a nation with such an unjust and death-dealing health care system not be ashamed? And how can any citizen who calls him or herself a follower of a Jesus, who called us to love our neighbor as ourselves, not feel an even deeper shame — and a call to do something as they consider their votes in the coming elections?