Carroll County Times

Piel: How do we love and care for one another in the health care debate?

Our neighbor George recently commented on the combative issue of health care for Americans. Instead of starting with health care as either "privileged " (those who have money) or a "right" (those who have little or no money) he suggested that we need to put a "faith foundation" under the discussion.

That faith foundation is contained in the Christian scriptures (Matthew 25.31 ff) where Jesus said "for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." When did we do all of these things, we asked. And Jesus replied "just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."


We, as believers are called, even commanded, to care for one another. The "new commandment" (John 13.34) of Jesus is to love one another! The question is, how do we love and care for one another in the health care debate? Should all Americans have access to affordable health care? Isn't this a national issue and not a state-by-state issue? Please don't make it a Democrat or Republican, progressive or conservative issue. Make it a human-rights issue!

We must admit that coming to an agreement about a national health care program is not easy. In fact, it is politically contentious. When Obamacare was enacted the loyal opposition spent eight years with repeal motions. Now that they have the power to create a Trumpcare we still can't get it done because of infighting. Some conservative groups want a total dismantling of Obamacare. Why not keep what is good (helpful to Americans) change the rest (to make it more helpful) and change the name to Trumpcare so he can get the credit? Insurers have made it clear that they don't want a new health care law. Rather they want the old one fixed. But it appears it will never happen because there are those who hate (is the word too strong?) on one side Obama and on the other side Trump.


It almost seems like the lawmakers in power want the present health care program to slowly and painfully die because it will then allow them to not only push repeal but to come up with their own "Trumpcare" system. And what is that new system? Behind closed doors 13 men gathered to produce a softer version of the House plan which would still leave over 23 million without health coverage, cut the federal subsidies for people to purchase health care which is critical and reduce Medicaid spending which would be a disaster for many young and old. Even the "softer version" would give the already rich a hefty tax cut and in turn the middle and especially the poor would suffer the most.

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George said that he recently heard someone say "I don't want to pay for other people who have serious illnesses (pre-existing conditions/Medicaid) because it will raise my insurance premiums." Funding for those with preexisting conditions may be on the chopping block. Or do we offer these sick people (who seem like a burden to some in our society) a health program and then price it so high (or at least allow states to give insurance companies the right to charge fees so high) that they might not be able to afford it? Or what about the young person who says I don't want health care now and why should I have to buy it just to help out older people that I don't even know?

As part of the Trumpcare revision of the Affordable Health Care Act apparently there is an intent to "roll-back" access to birth control. If an employer says "no!" for religious reasons it will not be offered. There are those religious groups/churches who have cried out for more "religious freedom" and when they get that freedom then they want to take freedom away from others based on their religion's teaching. Interesting!

It was also interesting that when the president proposed his 2017 fiscal budget one of his staff suggested off-handed that "the administration has written a budget through the eyes of those who are actually paying the taxes" (they should get the lion's share of benefits) and those who don't (or pay little) should get what is left over. Where does the "E pluribus Unum" official motto (out of many, one) remind us that as Americans we are in this together?

Why can't health care be a bipartisan health reform bill? Last week a crazed shooter tried to kill several members of Congress practicing for a ball game. Immediately folks like Paul Ryan (and those on both sides of the aisle) cried out that in the midst of political disorder we are in this together and others said this tragedy will bring us back together. Yet within 12 hours "early morning tweets" went out once again stressing our differences rather than our unity where the opposition becomes the enemy. In the words of Simon & Garfunkel "when will they ever learn?" When will WE ever learn?

You would think that health care is about good health. You would think that it is (in the words of Jesus) "I was sick and you took care of me." Maybe we are too naïve. Maybe it's all about politics and who can get the 52 votes.

Let the dialogue continue. I only ask that you think on these things.

The Rev. Wm. Louis "Lou" Piel is pastor of Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Finksburg and can be reached at