Statement of the Faith and Hunger Network of NYS

275 State St., Albany NY 12210 – 518 434-7371 xt 1#
July 31, 2009

As members of the faith community in New York State, we call upon our national and state elected officials to recognize health care as a human right by creating a universal health care system that guarantees all Americans the right to quality health care regardless of their employment status, age, gender, race, wealth, marital status or national origin.

The belief that health care is a human right is supported by many faiths. Health care is a right, not a privilege or a commodity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights holds that every human being has the right to health, including health care.

To date, the “universal” health care proposals being advanced by the White House and Congressional leaders fall far short of making health care a human right. Access to health insurance is far different than guaranteeing health care. These various proposals would leave millions of people without adequate insurance. Meanwhile, even though leaders such as President Obama, Senators Schumer and Kennedy, and Governor Paterson all recognize that single payer would be the “best solution,” they have so far refused to include it in the negotiations. This is wrong.

Protecting private insurance companies and their profits is incompatible with the effort to make health care a universal human right.

As Amnesty International recently pointed out in calling for a single payer health care system, “While the human right to health care does not mandate any particular type of health care system, of the reform proposals being discussed in the U.S. today, the single-payer plans are more universal, equitable and accountable – the three key principles of the human right to health care.”

The United Methodist Church, a proponent of single payer since 1992, notes that “from our earliest days United Methodists have believed that providing health care to others is an important duty of Christians. The United Methodist Church regards healthcare as a basic human right, as well as a responsibility both public and private. (It) advocates for health care as a human right that must be made available to all.”

The Presbyterian Church USA states “Good health—physical, mental, and spiritual—is both a God-given gift and a social good of special moral importance.” Its General Assembly in 2008 endorsed “the goal of obtaining legislation that enacts single-payer, universal national health insurance as the program that best responds to the moral imperative of the gospel.” Single payer is a “good vision of how to bring God’s shalom to the many, rather than the privileged few.”

Judaism advances two core values underlying an abiding commitment to provide health care to all of God’s children. The first is that an individual human life is of infinite value; the second is that we are endowed with wisdom and strength to be God’s partners in repairing the world. Just as the Talmud teaches that a physician is obligated to heal and that a patient is obligated to obtain health care, so too are we taught that the whole of society is responsible for ensuring that every individual has access to health care.

Islamic teachings also state “we believe that health is a fundamental human right which has as its prerequisites social justice and equality and that it should be equally available and accessible to all.”

The US Catholic Bishops have recognized that “every person has the right to adequate health care. This right flows from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all persons.” The American Baptist Church “believe(s) that health care should be viewed as a right, not a privilege, and the basic goal for health care reform should be universal access to comprehensive benefits.” Similar statements have been adopted by the Unitarian Universalists, Church of the Brethren and the American Friends Committee.

A single payer system (e.g., HR 676, S. 703) does the best job in making health care a human right. It also does the best job of controlling costs while ensuring that patients and their medical care providers decide what care patients receive rather than having for-profit insurance companies make those decisions.

Much of the debate in Congress has focused on providing a public option rather than single payer. “The Medicare-like public option does not make sense for several reasons,” notes a recent article in the Jewish magazine Tikkun. “We have yet to show that the political process can yield a level playing field for competition between public and private programs. Another round of government subsidies would give the private insurance industry yet another opportunity to further divide the risk pool. We would likely march toward even more of a two-tier system than we have now, and Medicare would face an increased risk of becoming a welfare program for sick people with significant medical problems. It would perpetuate a role for private health insurance and accept the illusion that it provides a valuable adjunct to health care financing when it is already clear that it doesn’t.”

While the most comprehensive solution must be a national solution, it is also imperative that New York State government provide leadership for recognizing that health care is a human right.

The final proposal adopted by Congress must acknowledge that there is a human right to quality health care, guaranteeing health care services for all – everybody in, nobody out, without preconditions or qualifications. How provision is made for children in the dawn of life, the elderly in the twilight of life, and the sick, needy and those with disabling conditions in the shadow of life are clear indices of the moral character and commitment of a nation. Our call for health care for all is rooted in our faith traditions’ mutual call to heal the sick and to serve ‘the least of these,’ the priorities of justice and principle of common good.

Yours in peace and justice,

Bishop Susan W. Hassinger
United Methodist Church, Albany

Bishop Howard Hubbard
Albany Roman Catholic Diocese

Rev. Terry Troia
Project Hospitality, Staten Island

Rabbi Michael Feinberg
Executive Director
Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition

Rev. Alan G. Newton
American Baptist Churches Rochester/Genesee Region

Pastor Paul Rees-Rohrbacher
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Albany

Rev. Cass L. Shaw, Albany Presbyterian
Presbyterian Church USA

Rev. Kevin Agee
Hopps Memorial Church, Syracuse

Doreen Wohl, West Side Campaign Against Hunger,
Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew, United Methodist, NYC

Rev. Dr. Clinton McCoy, Executive for Partnerships
Synod of the Northeast, Presbyterian Church

Jamie Manson
Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, NYC

Jeanne and Trygg Johnson
Unitarian Universalist Church, Penfield

Rev. Debra Jameson
FOCUS Churches, Albany

The Rev. Glenn D. Leupold
The Rev. Dr. Miriam Lawrence Leupold
Co-Pastors, First Presbyterian Church, Albany

Elder Joyce Bascom
First Presbyterian Church, Albany

Sr. Beth LeValley
Rochester, NY

Leslie Boyer, Cantor
Congregation Berith Sholom, Troy

Rev. John U. Miller, Executive Director
Capital Area Council of Churches

Kitt Jackson, Administrative Director, Capital Area Council of Churches and
Preaching Elder, Altamont Reformed Church.

Rev. Richard Witt
Rural and Migrant ministry, Poughkeepsie

Lawrence J. Charles
First United Methodist Church of Jamaica

Rev. Donna Elia
Troy Area United Ministeries

Rev. Gail and Emerson Berger
Pleasant Plains Presbyterian and Dutchess County Interfaith Council

Mary T. Gray
Grace Lutheran

Rev. Dr. Moses Oladosu
Resurrection and Life Penticostal Church, Bronx

Rev. Holly Nye
The United Methodist Church, Troy Annual Conference

Rev. Vernon A. Victorson
Pastor of First Lutheran Church, Albany NY

Barbara Batchelor
Quakers, Port Chester NY

Carol A. Nash
St. Henry’s Catholic Community, Averill Park

Joseph Smythe, Outreach Coordinator
University United Methodist Church, Syracuse

Deacon William Vaccaro, Holy Rosary Church
Port Chester NY

The Rev. Michael Relyea, Associate Pastor
St. Mark’s In-the-Bowery Episcopal Church

Lawrence Charles
United Methodist, Jamaica

Francis Lohelin, St. Joseph’s Church Food Pantry
Babylon NY

Rev. Derrick Boykin
Pastor, Memorial Community Church, West Harrison

Rev. Donna Shaper
Judson Memorial Church, NYC

Rev. Alexandra Lusak
First United Presbyterian Church, Troy

Ian Leet
President, Capital Region Ecumenical Organization (CREO)

Edith H. Leet
CREO Ecumenical Officer, Capital Area Baptist Association

Rev. Dr. Robert Loesch
Zion’s United Church of Christ, Sand Lake

The Rev. Marian P. Shearer
United Church of Christ, NY Conference, Ballston Lake

Rev. Christopher Boyd
First Baptist Church, Poughkeepsie

Rev. Craig Schaub
Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Syracuse

Mark A. Dunlea
Faith and Hunger Network, Albany

Pastor Beth Parker
Dean, Hudson Mohawk Conference
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Emma Lou Sailors, MD
Unitarian-Universalist, Dobbs Ferry

Rev. Linda Hoddy
Unitarian Universalist, Saratoga Springs

The Rev. Marian P. Shearer, Justice & Witness Ministry
NY Conference, United Church of Christ