Health Care for All

Health Care for All

By Jana Gregory, St. Michael & All Angels, Portland

A bald-headed man with glasses in a button-up shirt stands talking into a microphone labeled with a sign saying "con"

In preparation for Convention, the parishes of St. Michael & All Angels, Portland and Good Samaritan, Corvallis developed the resolution “Urging Support for Universal Health Care in Oregon.” The Central, Metro-East, Columbia, and Southern Convocations (comprising 40 congregations) and the diocesan Commission on Poverty and Homelessness joined as co-sponsors.

A woman with short blond hair wearing a green turtleneck and denim jacket speaks into a microphone labeled with a "pro" sign
Opponents and supporters of the resolution speak during the debate at Convention.

After debate, Convention voted to adopt the resolution, endorsing and urging passage of a state law, either legislatively or through initiative, to establish a universal health care system providing health care for all people working or residing in Oregon.

The resolution provided that the diocese would: become a member of Health Care for All Oregon (HCAO; www.hcao.org); the Commission on Poverty and Homelessness would create a Health Care Task Force of parishioners from throughout the diocese to study, educate and receive feedback from congregations on all issues reasonably related to universal health care in Oregon; and that the Convention would urge all congregations to study the issues and become members of HCAO.

What led these parishes to develop such a resolution? Taking scripture to heart. Healing the sick was central to Jesus’ ministry in the world (Matthew 9:35) and to his identity as the Messiah (Luke 7:21-22). Jesus’ healing ministry was freely made available to all (Luke 4:40; Luke 5:15; Luke 6:18), and Jesus empowered his disciples with the authority to heal the sick in his name (Luke 9:1-6). Jesus’ healing ministry continued after his resurrection through the Apostles (Acts 5:15-16).

As followers of Jesus, we Episcopalians find ourselves called by the Holy Spirit to continue Jesus’ ministry of healing the sick. Through our baptismal covenants, we solemnly promise to seek and serve Christ in all people, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being (BCP p. 305). As Christians we believe that health care is a human right, and that working for a system of universal access to health care to make this right meaningful is a faithful expression of and proper engagement with our baptismal covenants.

A resolution supporter prepares to talk to Convention attendees in the Exhibit Hall.

The Episcopal Church has long supported the concept of universal health care. In 1991 the General Convention delegates adopted Resolution 1991-A010 that asserted the right of all individuals to medically necessary health care, including long-term services, and encouraged the church at all levels to advocate for legislation for comprehensive medical benefits. In 2009, as Congress considered passage of the Affordable Care Act, several resolutions related to access to health care were considered and adopted at General Convention, including Resolution 2009-D048, which served as a model for this diocesan resolution.

The Commission on Poverty and Homelessness co-sponsored the resolution because bankruptcy due to lack of affordable access to health care is a primary cause of poverty and homelessness. The inability to pay for medical costs contributes to approximately 57% of all personal bankruptcies. Our current system of for-profit health insurance, delivered mostly through employment and supplemented in very important ways by Medicare and Medicaid programs, still leaves approximately 195,000 Oregonians without insurance, and therefore without reasonable access to basic health care. Congregational and individual membership in HCAO provides reliable information. Consider who in your parish has the appropriate skills, knowledge, experience and interest in health care and health insurance fields to serve as a member of the Health Care Task Force. Interested people should contact Jeanne Kaliszewski, Convener of the Commission on Poverty and Homelessness.

Winning universal health care in Oregon will take some time. There is a state election on January 23, 2018 that, if lost, will cut funding for health care for low-income children and families and people with disabilities. The Convention delegates from St. Michael & All Angels who worked on the diocesan resolution favor Measure 101, which will continue the existing law developed by health care experts, businesses, unions, hospitals, AARP and patients to protect the health care of Oregon’s most vulnerable people. For more information visit yesforhealthcare.org.