I am a Pastor and I buy my health insurance though Obamacare.
I also have clinical depression and under the new American Health Care Act I am very worried about being put in an expensive “high-risk pool” with other people with pre-existing conditions.
So excuse my bluntness when I say – The idea of rounding up sick people and putting them together to fend for themselves is an old one.
And because I’m a pastor the idea of high-risk pools reminded me of how they treated sick and disabled people back in Jesus’ day. They didn’t put sick and disabled people in high-risk insurance pools, but they did put them in a separate group:
They called them unclean.
If you had genital discharge from pregnancy complications – you were declared unclean and sent out of town.
If you heard voices in your head – you were declared unclean and sent out of town.
If you got leprosy and your skin started rotting – you were declared unclean and sent out of town.
And many of the people who were sent out of town gathered to into a small self contained group with other sick people, hence the leper colony.
Sick people would band together to take care of each other. Sometimes the families and friends of the sick and unclean people would drop off food or supplies. But they weren’t allowed to live near unclean people or even touch their loved ones.
In the time of the Bible there was no germ theory and no DNA tests and so you could try and justify this ancient high-risk pool as an early form of quarantining…
But you have to dig a little deeper. Because the category of unclean was simultaneously a physical and moral category.
The prevailing belief of the day was that people got sick because they did something wrong. This is best shown by the quote from a Jewish man named Peter who met a blind person and asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
In the absence of science they relied on a moral universe.
So people felt morally justified in sending the sick out of town. They didn’t have to try and treat them. They didn’t have to feed them. They were morally and physically sick and sent out of town to fend for themselves.
And while you may think that 2000 years later we have a higher moral compass, I give you the recent quote from Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL 5th District) on why Americans are morally justified in putting sick people into “high-risk insurance pools” with other sick people:
It will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool that helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives. They’re healthy; they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.
And to Rep. Brooks – and all those in favor of rounding up the sick people and making them fend for themselves – let me tell you about a man who didn’t let labels like unclean stop him from providing health care. His name was Jesus.
Jesus walked right into leper colonies and helped them.
Jesus met with bleeding women and helped them.
Jesus spoke with people who heard voices and helped them.
And when Jewish people asked him if people got sick because they sinned he shook his head, “No” and got to work providing health care. Jesus didn’t believe that getting sick was the result of a moral failure. He taught that everyone deserved to be treated – and treated with respect.
Because Jesus taught us to “love our neighbors as ourselves” or the modern equivalent – “Put your neighbor in the risk pool you would like to be put in.”