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Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater Headshot

Healthcare Is a Moral Right

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I find it absolutely absurd when I hear people, especially elected officials, saying, "The debate on healthcare has been too short. How can we expect to figure out such a massive change in our country with such a short conversation?" For those that don't realize -- a group that I hope would not include elected officials -- we have been talking about healthcare and fixing our system since the beginning of the 20th century. Almost 100 years! Is that a short debate? Is that not enough time to understand that corporations making billions of dollars on the health of our citizens is an immoral and irrational way to render care? Is it not enough time, from Presidents Theodore Roosevelt to F.D.R to Truman to Eisenhower to Kennedy to Johnson to Nixon to Carter to Clinton and now Obama, to figure out that we need to overhaul and change how we provide insurance and healthcare for our citizens?

The "not enough time" argument is just a smoke screen for the "we are not interested in doing this" argument, which opponents of healthcare reform are too afraid to say out loud. The "not enough time" argument is a smoke screen for the "we get millions of dollars in campaign contributions from insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and other industry lobbyists and we like that money" argument. The "not enough time" argument is a smoke screen for the "those who can afford healthcare are doing fine and those can't, well, work harder" argument that perpetuates a horrible trend in America that the wealthy dictate what the rest of the country has access to. It is time for this to end, and we are very close to making that happen.

I stand in full support, along with the thousands of people in Washington, DC right now, of raising our voices louder and stronger in order to ensure that healthcare reform passes Congress. We all know the statistics: we spend more on healthcare than any other industrialized nation and we are not even in the top 20 of nations in regard to health and mortality rates. We live in the wealthiest nation on Earth -- the wealthiest nation in the history of the world -- and millions of our citizens can't see a doctor. 45,000 of us will die each year because of a lack of healthcare. This is a moral outrage, a moral disgrace and a moral ineptitude that is no longer tolerable. While I was not able to make the trip to Washington today, I was prepared to risk being arrested in order to try and shut down the insurance lobby meeting happening at a hotel in DC. I participated in HCAN's "Citizens' Arrest" campaign and urge you to do so too. Go to the Health Care for America Now website and join now! Together, as a united front of caring, concerned and mobilized citizens, we can show our government that we are watching, that we are active and that we want healthcare reform now.

We need to stand with President Obama, who is under unimaginable pressure to cave on this issue, even though a huge majority elected him president, primarily on healthcare, which he campaigned on for over two years. The current bills in Congress may not be perfect, but they are just the beginning. Other major legislation, like the Civil Rights Act and the Clean Air Act, all had amendments added in the months and years after their initial passing. That is how government works. But we need to get this legislation in the door. Now is the time to risk more, speak louder and take bold action; those who are against this reform are making their case and we must counter them with force and conviction. We might not have a Dr. Martin Luther King, RFK or Nelson Mandela leading us today, but we must summon the courage, strength and moral outrage of these leaders to motivate us and spur us to grand action.

I am raising two children and I want them to live in a country that is fair, just, equitable and morally responsible. We have catered too long to the special interests, the corporate lobbyists and health insurance companies who report billions of dollars in profit while more and more of us lose our coverage, can't afford coverage or can't find a job with healthcare benefits. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege and it is high time that the United States of America join the rest of the civilized world in providing this basic right to all of its citizens. No more excuses, no more waiting, no more stalling, no more empty promises. Now is the time, today is the day and we are the ones to make it happen. We must summon the wisdom and courage of the greater good within us, the good that Dr. King called us to cultivate, and help better our country. Every major change that we have enacted took this kind of courage, witnessed this kind of resistance. This is our call and together, united, we can answer it.

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