Making health care accessible

BY RABBI SUSAN TALVE

The Talmud teaches us that saving one life is equivalent to saving the entire world, and that destroying even one life is equivalent to destroying all of creation. And yet, we live in a state where nearly 10 people die every week because they don’t have health insurance. This is just one reason why so many of us in the Jewish community are working to change our broken health care system.

The current health care system in the U.S. hurts everyone. It hurts parents trying to support their families in jobs that don’t provide health insurance. It hurts farm and ranch families who can lose their farms if a family member gets sick.

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It hurts people living with disabilities who are driven into poverty to get health care assistance from our public programs. It even hurts people with health insurance, who don’t find out until too late that their insurance company won’t pay for cancer treatment.

We learn through the stories of our desert wanderings how vital it is that we don’t leave anyone behind, particularly those who are vulnerable.

It is unacceptable that more than 750,000 Missourians, including 150,000 children, are not covered by any type of health insurance. Insurance was supposed to create a large enough pool that all members of our society could get the care they need and deserve. Instead, it has become, for many, an inaccessible privilege reserved for the fortunate few.

The uninsured often are forced to wait too long to see a doctor because they cannot afford the visit, don’t have a primary health provider, and cannot access the treatment that can prevent a serious medical emergency. With nearly 10 Missourians dying each week due to lack of access to health care, we must say: Enough.

There is a way for your voice to be heard. Missouri Health Care For all is a non-partisan grassroots movement of individuals and groups from communities throughout the State who believe that by signing on to a shared set of principles, our collective voice will be loud enough to call for the reforms necessary to make health care accessible to all.

Our movement was founded in St. Louis in April, 2007 by a group of faith and community leaders who came together out of a deep conviction that we can do better. Today, we have more than 80 organizations and 3,000 individuals from all around Missouri, including many St. Louis-area synagogues and Jewish organizations. We are bringing together ministers, rabbis, farmers, and ordinary people from rural, urban and suburban areas across the state.

In talking to each other, we are learning that we all agree that every person in our state should have quality health care regardless of where you live, whether you have a job, your age or ability, and your race or religion.

Our movement is growing rapidly. We invite you to join us. Together, we will:

* Be a louder voice than self-interest groups who get in the way of both state and federal reforms that would increase access.

* Educate, empower and connect people across the state by building trust between our rural, urban and suburban communities. Only by listening to each other will we come up with a plan that will work for us all.

* Call for a comprehensive plan that will make Missouri a “Health Care for All” State with fair and efficient financing.

It really is possible to have a system in the U.S. that would make health care for all a reality. And, guaranteed access to health care will increase jobs and strengthen our economy. However, it will take an organized grassroots movement to make the possibilities a reality.

Please join American Jewish Congress, CRC, Kol Am, Neve Shalom, Shaare Emeth, Temple Israel, JCRC, NCJW, and the thousands of Missourians who believe that this is the time to channel our sense of injustice into a movement that will end the disparities that cause us all to suffer.

President Barack Obama, Congress, and our elected officials across Missouri are all talking about health care. Together we can get our communities involved in the decisions that are being made on the state and federal levels that will affect our well-being and our lives.

To read and sign on to the Missouri Health Care for All Principles, you can go to our Web site, www.mohealthcareforall.org.

If saving just one life is equivalent to saving the whole world, we cannot turn our backs on an injustice that is causing the deaths of ten people every week, just in Missouri. Please join us in this important movement that will help save lives, right here in St. Louis and around the country.

Rabbi Susan Talve serves Central Reform Congregation.