The United States health care system has been broken for many years, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated longstanding racial and socioeconomic inequities. While the landmark Affordable Care Act made significant strides in moving the United States towards a more just and equitable health care system, more ambitious and substantive change is needed to create a world consistent with the prophetic vision of wholeness, justice, and compassion for all.
Now is the time for Congress to take bold action and ensure that every American can access the medical services they need. Urge your Member of Congress to support the Medicare for All Act of 2021 (H.R. 1976/S. 4204).
Millions of people remain uninsured and unable to access health care. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 80 million people (nearly half of all adults under 65) were uninsured or underinsured, and nearly one quarter of Americans skipped medical visits due to high cost. Since the pandemic began, 27 million individuals have lost their health insurance because they lost their jobs. Communities of Color and low-income people are less likely to be insured and face disproportionate barriers in accessing and utilizing care.
The American health care system also remains extremely inefficient. Despite spending nearly twice as much money on health care as a share of the economy compared to the average OECD country, the United States scores at or near the bottom of most international health indicator lists. In fact, the United States has the lowest life expectancy and highest chronic disease burden and rates of suicide and obesity compared to peer OECD nations. Disparate health outcomes exist across a variety of metrics for Communities of Color, low-income individuals, and LGBTQ+ people. The system wastes hundreds of billions of dollars on unnecessary administrative costs, which continue to rise and are unsustainable over the long term.
The Medicare for All Act (H.R.1976 in the 117th Congress/S.1129 in the 116th Congress) seeks to address the fundamental inequities and inefficiencies that have plagued the United States' health care system for decades. Specifically, the Medicare for All Act improves and expands the existing Medicare program to ensure that all comprehensive health services are covered, including primary care, dental, vision, prescription drugs, reproductive health services, and long-term care services and supports. Under Medicare for All, there would be no out-of-pocket costs for patients for any services, and all patients would have the freedom to choose the doctors, hospitals, and other providers they wish to see. In addition, the bill emphasizes achieving health equity and provides a way for the government to address the growing crisis in rural and urban communities which face dwindling numbers of hospitals and clinics. This bill would ensure that all Americans could access quality health care, regardless of employment status, ability to pay, or previous medical conditions. By simplifying the health care system, cutting administrative costs, and improving payment systems to hospitals and providers, the Medicare for All Act would also generate significant cost-savings for the country.
Judaism is clear about our responsibility to ensure health care for all people. Jewish tradition teaches that human life has infinite value and that the preservation of life supersedes almost all other considerations. Providing health care is not just an obligation of the doctor, but for society as well. It is for this reason that Maimonides listed health care first on his list of the ten most important communal services a city must offer its residents if the city is to be found worthy for a great scholar to live there (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot IV:23). Doctors were required to reduce their rates for poor patients and, where that was insufficient, communal subsidies were established (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 249:16; Responsa Ramat Rahel of Rabbi Eliezer Waldernberg, Sections 24-25). Adopting Medicare for All is a necessary step to fulfill our sacred mandate to provide quality, affordable health care for all people.
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For more information on this issue, visit the RAC’s health care page or contact Assistant Legislative Director Jacob Greenblatt at email@example.com.
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