“Is Anyone Among You Suffering?”

But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 1 John 3:17

As the healthcare debate has raged around us for the past few months, this scripture has often been in my mind and led me to ask the following questions: Why is the wealthiest nation on earth arguing over whether millions of people should have access to lifesaving healthcare? Why is a state with a booming economy proposing morel hurdles and eligibility requirements on Medicaid that further limit the neediest among us from accessing that lifesaving healthcare?

I believe these discussions come down to competing principles. When it comes to caring for those of us who cannot care for themselves — who should be the one to provide care?

Many believe the federal government has no role in healthcare and these decisions are best made on the state level. We might expect expect many states to care for their residents,  but  remember,  our leaders refused to extend Medicaid coverage to tens of thousands of Utahns even at a time when one hundred percent of the cost was guaranteed. They struggle to fund our children’s schools, but  spend millions of dollars on fancy roads and tax breaks for big companies.

What about the free-market? America has prospered because of the free-market system. However, this system also keeps raising the costs of health treatments and drugs to such levels that even middle-class families can’t overcome some health crises, let alone those who are less fortunate. Searching for even greater profits incentivizes insurance corporations to focus on the healthy, young, and rich, rather than on the sick, elderly, and poor.  

Should  private individuals and charities provide health care for the unfortunate? Don’t we live in the state with the highest rates of charitable giving? I sincerely wish  I could use my money to pay for the treatments and care of those around me. However, I’m only one person and often am barely able to provide for myself. I know many others have similar desires. But when wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of only a few, can we risk lives on the chance that enough people will donate enough to the right kind of charities? Not everyone has a religious obligation to give charitably as is common in Utah.

Personally, I would advocate for more national government control in order to guarantee universal access and drive down costs. But I  recognize the arguments against me (even if I would argue back) — inefficient bureaucracies, overcommitted federal dollars, and a perceived lack of any mandate or authority.

We may have valid disagreements over who  should care for those in need, but one thing is clear: we shouldn’t move towards a system that will increase the suffering of those around us. Principles are important, but people are more important. If we have to choose between people and principles, we should always err on the side of people.

If Republicans (including our own Utah Representatives and Senators) continue to shun Democrats and pass some disastrous healthcare plan, our nation will join our state in abandoning those in need: people with disabilities who depend on Medicaid for survival; families facing medical bankruptcy because they may soon have lifetime caps again; those struggling with addiction or mental illnesses who may now be barred from care because they need help more than they need to be shamed into working.

In the name of ‘principle,’ we cannot abandon our moral duty to provide for our ‘brothers’ who hath need. As one of the wealthiest nations on earth and one of the most caring and innovative states in that nation, we cannot afford to ignore their physical and financial suffering — it will only lead to our own moral sickness and death.

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