Healthcare is a Moral Issue

Today hundreds from across our state came to Albany to demand that the legislature pass the New York Health Act - the bill that would guarantee healthcare to every New York resident.

There are lots of reasons to support universal, single-payer healthcare in New York. (For example, it would cost less!) But as a religious leader, I support the New York Health Act for moral reasons.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, God says this through the Prophet Isaiah:

“This is the kind of worship I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families." (Isaiah 58:6-7, The Message)

The sacred texts from all our faiths are clear in their call to care for the poor and the marginalized. And if we read carefully, that call is not just addressed to us as individuals, it is an instruction about how to live in community. Our faith traditions teach us that the well-being of our society is tied up with the well-being of the most vulnerable.

That’s why Isaiah tells his community to feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked, and end exploitation in the workplace. And I am convinced that if modern medicine existed in his day, providing health care would have been on that list.

Rev. Martin Luther King - who was assassinated 49 years ago today - said this in 1964: “There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.”

The same can be said about illness. There is nothing new about people getting sick, but now we have the capacity to cure more diseases, to alleviate suffering, and to improve the quality of people's lives. To have that capacity and yet deny care from those who cannot pay is wrong.

As momentum around the New York Health Act builds, we're seeking to lift up this moral message. Together with the Campaign for New York Health, we're asking other faith leaders to come out in support of the New York Health Act. If you're a faith leader, click here to add your name. If not, please share this message with clergy in your community and invite them to sign.

We can bring universal health care to New York State, and the time to do it is now.

Rev. Emily McNeill

Acting Director