They Have Names
by Rev. Dustin Bartlett
On Thursday, our country officially celebrated the National Day of Prayer. Coincidentally, this Thursday also marked the passage of the American Healthcare Act in the US House of Representatives. It’s already being celebrated by the Trump administration as a “repeal and replacement” of the Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare.”
For the last eight years, Republicans in congress have consistently promised to repeal and replace Obamacare. They campaigned on that promise. It’s only natural that, once they got elected, they sought to fulfill their campaign promise.
However, they also promised that certain popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act would remain – among them, the provision that insurers can’t discriminate against people who have pre-existing medical conditions.
House Republicans may have fulfilled their promise to “repeal and replace,” but they broke their promise to protect people with pre-existing conditions. The new law will allow states to get waivers so that insurance companies can charge people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums – premiums they might not be able to afford.
I know some of these people.
One is a member of the church I serve. He started getting sick about six months ago with a variety of symptoms related to his digestive system. He’s lost a lot of weight. He’s often sick and often in pain. And the doctors still haven’t identified the underlying cause of all this, despite numerous – and very expensive – tests and treatments.
Also, and not that this should matter, but he’s a young, healthy person who makes good choices about what he eats; he doesn’t smoke; he works a physical job and gets plenty of exercise. Sometimes people just get sick.
When he got sick, he didn’t have health insurance. His work didn’t offer it. He was able to get health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Soon, that protection might be gone. And without that protection, this could become a lifelong and potentially life-threatening illness only because he can’t afford to pay his medical bills.
I have another friend, a dear friend I’ve known since high school, who is in her 30s and has had cancer – twice. Two different forms of cancer. She got her second cancer diagnosis within months of having her first baby.
She’s doing well now, thanks to her treatments, but do you have any idea how much those treatments cost? Thank God that she had insurance to pay for her treatments, and that the insurance companies can’t kick her off of her insurance simply because she’s had cancer – at least for now. But that could change if the American Healthcare Act passes the Senate as it is.
My friends, they have names. They’re real people, people that I know, who could soon lose what is literally life-saving insurance coverage.
I haven’t told you their names to protect their privacy. But I also haven’t told you their names because they have many names. My two friends represent thousands – perhaps millions – of people who are facing the loss of life-saving treatments. And all of these people have names. And they have children and parents. They have sisters and brothers and friends. Odds are good that you know some of them, too.
In the wealthiest country in the world, people should never have to live with, or die from, a treatable disease only because they can’t afford the treatment.
Which brings me back to the National Day of Prayer. Praying for our country on the same day that our government is voting to strip the poorest and most vulnerable of our citizens of life-saving care is a farce. It makes mockery of the God who commanded us to care for the poor and the sick.
In the words of the prophet Micah:
Then I said,
“Listen, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of Israel.
Should you not embrace justice,
you who hate good and love evil;
who tear the skin from my people
and the flesh from their bones;
who eat my people’s flesh,
strip off their skin
and break their bones in pieces;
who chop them up like meat for the pan,
like flesh for the pot?”
Then they will cry out to the Lord,
but he will not answer them
At that time he will hide his face from them
because of the evil they have done.
- Micah 3:1-4