Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.Matthew 25
Rarely in the Bible do we get glimpses of Angry Jesus. But rest assured, he gets salty. As a good Jewish Rabbi in the ancient near east, it was incumbent upon him to profess positive messages about God’s Kingdom, as well as fire off the occasional warning shot.
And, generally speaking, Jesus reserved his starkest warnings (sometimes with whip in hand) when those on the margins–i.e. those struggling in society– were not being cared for.
On this blog, I’ve made a few cases for why Bernie Sanders and his policies are uniquely aligned with the Christian faith. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be providing some context for readers that might want to take a deeper dive into how an intellectually rigorous faith can and should prompt an active, rich theology. One that doesn’t stray from American politics, but rather, engages wholesale.
After all, Jesus was killed for political insurrection. Suggesting Christians sit idly by on the sidelines is not and has never been part of our calling.
“Health care as a human right”
I’m not going to spend time in this piece discussing the cost of Medicare for All. Regardless of what ding it may have in our wallet (and economists are all over the board), the simple math is it will be far cheaper and most effective than the current, broken health insurance system.
The value proposition? Everyone gets health care.
And unless you’re a billionaire, you pay less.
Oh, and …
26,000 people annually stop dying because they’re denied coverage.
Almost 200,000 people annually stop going bankrupt because of illness.
Would that be worth a few extra bucks from your paycheck? For the Christian, specifically, consider this rhetorical question. Because of course it’s worth it. The cost of not providing comfort for the sick is, according to Jesus, to take the fastlane toward the path of destruction.
For Christians, our entire faith is predicated on caring for the poor and sick among us. If we don’t, we effectively render the death of Jesus meaningless.Tweet
According to the Sanders plan, Medicare for All provides comprehensive coverage at the point of service, while substantially limiting the out-of-pocket costs for prescription medication. Your doctor doesn’t change. Your hospital doesn’t go away. Nothing on the delivery side changes, because that isn’t the point of Medicare for All.
Only the middle man (Health Insurance Industry) goes away.
This, of course, is a good thing, because something we should all be able to agree on–both the secular and religious among us–is that profiteering on the health and lives of human beings is morally obtuse at best, and inherently evil at worst.
Though many in the media will wrongly claim Medicare for All as “radical” or “socialist,” it’s actually common practice in developed nations. No one would accuse the UK, Canada, or Australia as being “socialist” countries, yet each offers universal healthcare.
In fact, the U.S. is among only a few countries not to offer a nationalized healthcare system. And the bulk of the ones that do not are located in the African continent.
A God-willed “government” program?
Biblically speaking, the case for Medicare for All–which serves more or less as the branding for universal healthcare coverage–is obvious. The Bible is replete with passages that implore (but in most cases demand) the people of God to care for the poor and sick.
And, no, it doesn’t make any caveats through how that care is delivered. In other words, claiming that God wouldn’t achieve his wishes through a modest government tax increase is a non-starter and intellectually dishonest.
In the ancient world, modern democracy hadn’t yet been invented. Because we’re not under a king’s rule (at least not yet), it is the people in our American society that determine elected leaders and set the course for policy decisions. In the day of Jesus, the Jewish people were under the boot heel of a decidedly undemocratic Roman empire. They didn’t get a say.
In 2020, that has (thankfully) changed. We do get a say with how those on the margins are treated. We do get a say with how to best care for the sick and vulnerable among us.
And Medicare for All–a comprehensive, affordable, and efficient way to ensure health care as a human right–isn’t merely an obvious choice. It’s a biblical one, too.