Bishop addresses health care debate: "I don't have that luxury"

Bishop addresses health care debate: "I don't have that luxury"

On a Friday in May, at about 1:30 a.m., I began to experience excruciating pain in my stomach. My wife, Delphine, rushed me to the hospital. After several tests, the doctors determined I needed surgery to remove an infected gall bladder. My stay in the hospital lasted a little less than 48 hours.

A few weeks later, I received an alarming bill for my treatment. The invoice was accompanied with a letter stating I should not send money until the insurance company paid its portion of the charges. The bill was so high, I don’t know what I would have done without health insurance.

I couldn’t help but wonder what a person without insurance or other means to pay would have done. The hospital bill could have bankrupted most middle-class families. I shudder to think what a person receiving minimum wages would have been forced to do. I have since learned that 80 percent of all bankruptcy cases filed in Tennessee are related to medical bills. I believe that many of these bankruptcies were not filed by the unemployed, but people who were good, decent hardworking people prior to their health problems.

I have seen and heard all the talking heads in this health care debate. I know that by writing this column, I will make some readers mad while others will cheer. My point here is not political but theological. I ask myself: Why would God want me to be concerned about health care? The response that comes to me is the story of Cain and Abel.

Remember that after Cain killed his brother, God appeared to Cain and asked, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain’s response was, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” God replied to Cain, “What have you done?”

I know the politicians are debating the affordability of health care, but my debate has to do with Cain’s reply: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” In other words, does God expect me to care for my brothers and sisters?

At some point, Congress will make a health-care decision primarily based on cost, political expediency, and compromise. I don’t have that luxury. Whatever our representatives and senators do, it won’t be enough to help everyone, and even if it is, I still believe God calls me to care for others. I still believe that my caring must become action.

Matthew 14:14 says, “And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” When I read the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, this part speaks to me: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” I hear this as a call for us – blood-washed, forgiven, and set-free people – to do all we can to make earth a reflection of heaven.

The Church can not escape our call to go to the pool and find the man who has been there for 38 long years and offer healing to him. The Church can not avoid our responsibility to care for the bent-over woman, the crippled, the lame, and the man beaten, robbed and left to die on the Jericho Road. So, let the politicians have their debate. I am told that the current health-care legislation is more than 900 pages long, and even if the bill passes in its current state, more than 27 million people will still be left without health insurance.

I trust that as a citizen you will follow the debate, but when the dust has settled, the Church must find a way to work the works of He who has sent us.