Friday, June 15, 2007

Fixing Health Care

"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." --Martin Luther King Jr.

Yesterday I attended a meeting regarding the health care crisis in this country. Do you believe there is a health care crisis in this country? There are 46,000,o00 people who do not or cannot get affordable health care here in the richest nation in the world. I heard a few other statistics yesterday, others about disparities between health care for the white community and communities of color. But mostly I heard stories. And I told stories. I heard the story of a pastor whose daughter was denied mental health coverage, and his feelings of betrayal. I heard the story of a man who has to choose between surgery and his home. He is still paying off a $60,000 medical bill. For myself, I know that disparities exist even among clergy, where coverage is often excellent. I know that clergy in rural areas have less access and fewer resources. I know that people in rural areas often have fewer resources -- particularly for mental health coverage.

We heard a few statistics, it's true, but this was not a day for "experts" to come and talk to us about what's wrong with health care, and what we can do about it. For the truth is, we know what's wrong with health care. All we needed to do was begin sharing stories of our own lives and the lives of people we know and care about, to begin to see that this is true. The first task then, is to begin and continue to tell our stories -- to stop giving all of our power to "experts" who tell us what can and cannot be done, who keep us believing that our dreams are impossible to achieve.

We heard the story of Jairus' daughter, and the story of the woman with a flow of blood. We heard the story of her courage in a system that denied her healing. How she reached out and took it. How she didn't wait for "permission." We admitted that most of us are "Jairus" -- most of us have power and access to health care, although there were a few among us who did not. And we admitted that as "Jairus", most of us have more power than we are willing to admit, or use. The catch is, we have to band together. We have to organize. We have to show those in power that we are serious.

In September, there will be a joint meeting of clergy and religious leaders and members of the SEIU. We will be talking about our commitment to changing the health care system. And we are planning to have 500 people at this meeting.

Do you have a story to share about yourself or someone you know who is not treated with dignity by our current health care system? Do you know a child who is a child of God -- but doesn't have access to basic care? Do you know an older person who has fallen through the cracks?

Tell your story. It's true. It's powerful. And it's the beginning of change.

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