What's At Stake
I care deeply about the outcome of the Supreme Court hearings on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because there is a lot at stake for all of us.
Families USA estimates that every week, nearly 10 people in Missouri die because they are uninsured; in a 2008 report, The Urban Institute estimated that at least 22,000 nationwide died in 2006 for the same reason. Thousands more are suffering from inadequate care, facing bankruptcy from outrageous medical bills, or living in daily fear of injury or illness.
Last Sunday, our congregation planned and co-sponsored a public meeting on health reform, attended by nearly 200 Missourians and nine state legislators. Community members turned out to urge our legislators to move past the partisan gridlock that has delayed implementation of the new law in Missouri.
One young woman illustrated what is at stake when she told the story of her father, Robert Douglas. Mr. Douglas was laid off in 2005 by his employer of 40 years. When his former employer dropped his union-negotiated retiree health insurance in 2008, Mr. Douglas was unable to obtain new health insurance due to pre-existing conditions. As a result, he lost access to the care he needed to manage his diabetes and high blood pressure. He died in December at age 59.
The ACA isn’t perfect. But it represents major progress, with new insurance rules that control consumer costs, help uninsured people gain coverage, provide assistance to moderate-income families, and protect people from discrimination based on pre-existing conditions or gender. These changes will help people like Mr. Douglas in the future.
Increasing access to health care is the top tikkun olam priority for our congregation. We have been actively involved since 2007, when we co-founded Missouri Health Care for All, a statewide, nonpartisan, faith- and community-based grassroots movement for health care for all Missourians. Our congregation was active in the campaign to pass the Affordable Care Act, and we have helped to educate the public about the new law, defend against attacks on it, and advocate for implementation in Missouri.
I am often asked how a synagogue can be involved in politics. The answer is that health reform has never been a political issue for us. We see it is an issue of morals, ethics and faith. Torah teaches us that every human being is created b’tselem Elohim, in the image of the Divine. I believe that we are obliged to honor this divinity by creating a society that provides every person with an opportunity for health and healing. Advocating for the Affordable Care Act is part of CRC’s effort to create this society.
I pray that the Supreme Court upholds the ACA in its entirety, and that our legislators work to implement it as quickly as possible.
Jennifer Bersdale is the Director of Advocacy and Communications at Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, Missouri.