Americans read about foreign hospitals overwhelmed by the coronavirus and mistakenly thought those horror stories could never happen here because our health care system is so good.
We spend more per capita on health care than any other developed nation, which provided a sense of security that was badly misplaced.
The virus has exposed a broken system. Our faith compels us to try to heal it.
The heart of religion is about healing our individual and collective brokenness and repairing ruptured relationships with God and one another. We must be healed, and we also must be healers, both individually and collectively.
The accounts of Jesus’ life describe him as a gifted healer who offered healing to everyone free of charge. He could have leveraged his abilities, but he chose not to.
He never monetized healing. Instead, he offered it like grace to anyone who desired it. He sent his followers to heal collectively in the same unbrokered way.
We’re meant to do so as well. As N.T. Wright puts it, “Healing is far too important and central to the stories about Jesus for those who wish to follow him today to ignore it.”
We can’t pretend about our health care system anymore. Long before the pandemic, we knew it was broken.
Millions can’t afford it. Those with health coverage face crippling debt for something as common as cancer. Premiums and deductibles soar. The cost of drugs jumps exponentially.
We saw with the opioid epidemic how a profit-motivated system inflicts suffering and death on society by pushing drugs that enrich the bottom line.
The coronavirus stripped away any remaining illusions about our system.
A doctor in a New York City emergency room wrote last month about her experiences as the virus raged. Dr. Helen Ouyang described for The New York Times Magazine how the system was ill-prepared for a pandemic that the medical profession had long predicted.
She described patients crammed into the ER, lying in their own waste while dying unattended because of depleted medical staffs.
Doctors and nurses were among the sick and dying because of inadequate protective equipment, a situation Dr. Ouyang described as far worse than in any of the “third-world” countries she visited on relief missions.
Applauding health care workers every evening or posting grateful memes isn’t enough. We have the resources we need to fix the system. What’s missing is our resolve.
Profit will always be part of the system, but we can’t allow it to be the engine driving it. Providing healing at an affordable cost for all God’s children must be the overriding intent.
There are many ways to do this. We need wide-ranging discussions to plot the best path and then enact changes, knowing we’ll get pushback from those making enormous profits off the current, broken system.
When healing is turned into a high-priced commodity available only to those who can afford it, we get a sick society. What we need now is healing. And people committed to being healers.
(Photo courtesy of atomicity @creativecommons.org)
Tomorrow: Monuments to war