Column: The Good Samaritan and the health care debate

Americans cannot afford to be bystanders in the debate over health care.
Americans cannot afford to be bystanders in the debate over health care.
Published July 27, 2017

The biblical story of the Good Samaritan provides a litmus test for measuring our response to health care legislation.

I woke up thinking of the familiar Bible story from the Gospel of Luke. I pictured a man lying on the side of the road. He had been robbed and beaten and stripped of his clothes and then left for dead.

According to the story, a priest saw the man and passed him by. So did a Levite (a religious person). Then along came a Samaritan (an outcast). He saw the man and took pity on him. He bandaged his wounds, took him to an inn and paid for his care until he could recover.

In Luke 10:37, Jesus tells his followers: "Go and do likewise."

I have always thought that I would be like the Good Samaritan who stopped to care for the man who had been beaten to within inches of his life. I would stop, intervene, and make sure he was cared for until his health was restored.

Recently when I turned on the news, there was President Donald Trump saying: "Let Obamacare fail." The commentators went on to say Trump had "the tools" to make this happen. He could order the government to hold back reimbursement funds to insurance companies for those who get subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Congress could also repeal without replacing the ACA — something Trump promised not to do when campaigning for president.

In the news clip that I saw, Trump laughed and said that the GOP-run Congress could just stand back and watch the health care system fail and then "everyone will (have) to come to us."

I found those words chilling. How can this be our president's solution to the health care crisis? Is he really advocating that our elected officials destroy or cripple our current health care system? Doesn't he care about the millions of people who will be left lying on the side of the road as we pass them by?

Polls say that more than 80 percent of Americans want our country not to slash health care but to improve it. They are crying out for the GOP to fix the Affordable Care Act, not destroy it. Millions fear Medicaid will be cut and they will be left without life-saving treatments.

My granddaughter is one. Jessica lives with a disease called limb-girdle muscular dystrophy. She is a rising sophomore in college majoring in applied mathematics. She lives at home and depends on her hard-working parents (a teacher and banker) to provide care for her and transportation to school, physical therapy and other activities.

She also relies on Medicaid to provide home health care two hours each morning and evening, Monday through Friday. Without that extra help, she might have to move to an institution. She needs us to act so she can continue to live her best life possible — to finish college, have a career and proudly become a taxpaying citizen.

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All across America, people in large cities and rural areas, from all walks of life, are making their voices heard in protests, town hall meetings, letters to the editor, and phone calls and faxes to their representatives in Congress. For the first time in our lives, my husband and I attended a town hall meeting this year and we plan to keep the pressure on our congressman and senators to make health care affordable for all.

What happens this week in Congress could decide the fate of generations to come. We cannot afford to be bystanders. We can decide which part to play in the Good Samaritan story.

Will you be like the priest or Levite who passed on by? Or will you stop and take action to make sure that all citizens have access to affordable health care?

If you identify with the Good Samaritan, then it is time to speak up, protest, write letters, send faxes and pressure Congress to improve our health care system, not destroy it. Millions are counting on you to take action today.

The Rev. Mary Anne Dorner is an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Southwest Florida and has served churches in the Tampa Bay area and South Florida since 1994. After retiring from parish ministry, she has taught theology and church history for Barry University and served as a volunteer chaplain at Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel. She is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of eight and lives in Wesley Chapel.