At a political convention last week, a young woman – a candidate for a seat she is a longshot to win – gave her reason for seeking election. She was running because of her mother.
A year ago, she said, she spent time with her mother who was dying of pancreatic cancer. The two talked of their lives, their desires, their failures and successes, their dreams for the future.
“The one thing we didn’t talk about were the medical bills associated with my mother’s illness,” said the young woman. “We didn’t have to, because my mother was covered by Medicare.” The candidate vowed that she would push “Medicare for All” if she were elected. In the last months of life, she said, the conversation between the dying and their loved ones should not be filled with fears of bill collectors and financial ruin.
While I’m not a Bernie Sanders supporter, the “Medicare for All” concept has broad support. The recent tax cut gave the average Joe extra money each month to buy a couple of Big Macs and a supersized Diet Coke. That same money – and, yes, a little more – could be devoted to Medicare coverage for the general population, improving the country’s health and eliminating the major cause of U.S. bankruptcies.
A customer of mine, an ardent political conservative, raved about the “great health care from Medicare” as he battled numerous late-age hospitalizations. At the same time, however, he also fought the idea that government should assist his hundreds of employees with their own health insurance. Once he passed away, his son expanded health coverage for the workers saying “what was good for Dad, is good for his employees also.”
There will always be naysayers. Some will object that medical care is not covered in the Constitution. (And neither is public education, highways or clean water.) Others will fear fraud in a broad-based government system. (To combat fraud, throw a few doctors and hospital administrators in jail; that would stop 99 percent of them from gaming the system.) Others will simply balk at anything defined as a government program. (I don’t see these people urging Congress to close up Hill Air Force Base or sell Zion National Park to Chevron.)
To my mind, if we truly are a “Christian” nation, we cannot turn our backs on those less fortunate (though, without insurance, even the “fortunate” can lose their life savings and assets due to a costly medical bill.
This isn’t just me saying it. In recent weeks, it has been the position of Pope Francis who said we will be judged, not just on our position regarding social issues like abortion, sexual controversies, and church attendance, but also on support and compassion for the physical needs of suffering people.
Wrote the Pope, “Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm, and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of human life. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, the destitute, the underprivileged.”
Abandoned refugees…People facing major medical calamities…the weak and the vulnerable. The courage to face up to our responsibilities and show humanity is the real way Christians should “walk the walk” and display their spirituality, he says.
I applaud the young woman who is speaking out during her campaign for public office. Her late mother would be proud of her. And even though she likely will not win at the polls, her voice will resonate to those who view compassion more importantly than toeing a political party line.