Responsively Yours: As Long as I Have My Health
- As Long as I Have My Health : Audio version (MP3, 4.9MB)
- Cover of Response, February 2009 (PDF, 311K)
- Content of Response, February 2009 (PDF, 177K)
- Harriett Jane Olson is deputy general secretary for the Women's Division.
Greeting a neighbor recently, I engaged in the New York City game of “my space is so small ... ” until I realized the reason this young couple with a new baby is navigating around packing boxes is that my neighbor worked (past tense) at Bank of America.
“As long as we’re all healthy,” he said. How long will that couple and their baby stay healthy without workplace-related health care? Of course, his gap in employment may be short, but what of others who are not connected to a workplace plan? What of small businesses, part-time workers, millions of low-wage workers, or people whose plans are being scaled back in the economic squeeze in such a way that their needs are not covered or the deductibles and copays are too expensive?
Lack of health care coverage affects everyone in society. Families and individuals who don’t have health care coverage are less likely to have regular preventive care, which is needed for long-term health. They are more likely to wait longer to seek treatment for ailments, which can be more costly and hazardous to their health. One-third of the U.S. population is uninsured or poorly insured. More than 45 million people have no health insurance.
The lack of insurance affects all income brackets. While about 25 percent of the uninsured are officially poor, Covering The Uninsured reports 21 million uninsured have incomes between $25,000 and $75,000 and 7 million have incomes that are at least $75,000. United Methodist Women is partnering with the organization, Healthcare-NOW! to embark on a campaign that would provide health care for all with a Medicare model. As the new Congress and the Obama administration turn their focus to health care — a critical part of sustainable economic recovery — you will be hearing more about how we can make our collective voices heard.
In poor nations of the global South, the situation is even more dramatic. In many places, there has never been a social safety net to meet the needs of the poor. Under rules imposed by international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund there have been drastic cuts in spending for public health and a push towards privatization. This means more and more hospitals and clinics are available only to those who can pay.
In India where I recently visited schools and institutions supported by Mission Giving, instead of a gap in the middle of the economic ladder, the gap is at the bottom. Access to medical care for unskilled workers, day laborers, and rural or urban poor is not provided on a systemwide basis. The Methodist Church in India maintains a long-standing tradition of providing charity care, as well as serving the general population, though this is a complicated proposition in today’s increasingly technological and highly specialized practice of medicine.
For populations in areas of conflict like Sudan, Zimbabwe, Gaza and Somalia there are often questions about access to health care for anyone at all. Supplies, medicine, health care, fuel and clean water are valuable commodities, which are subject to the depredations of contending parties. This comes on top of years of efforts to claim essential medicines and water as basic human rights, even as global trade rules in the interest of transnational corporations have pushed to make these private commodities for profit.
As always, women and children are the most vulnerable. Sanitation, proper nutrition, capable assistance at birthing and access to reliable contraceptives are sacrificed in struggles for resources, power and profits. Women and children often pay the price as entire societies convulse. The number of combatants killed or injured does not adequately measure the human cost of violent conflict. The price paid by the women and children who survive is enormous.
How do we follow Jesus in a world in which the health of these people whom Jesus loves is threatened by systems and conflicts, which they have little ability to change? Isn’t this the same Jesus who instructed the 70 to “go among them, teaching and healing”? Perhaps our teaching ought to be more closely paired with our work in healing and addressing systems that might better deliver health care to the beloved children of God.
Harriett Jane Olson
Deputy General Secretary
Date posted : Mar. 23, 2009