The Affordable Care Act

I was born in East Los Angeles and raised in the town of Hacienda Heights, California.  Today, Hacienda Heights has a population of 54,308 people.  That’s about the total number of people who die every year in the United States for lack of adequate healthcare.  Imagine that. It’s as if everyone in the town I grew up in is wiped off the face of the earth--every year. 

When asked about what was the most important commandment, Jesus answered:

“The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 29-31.

If 50,000 of our neighbors are dying each year in the United States because of the lack of affordable health care, then, as followers of Jesus, we need to do something about it.   Would we want ourselves, or our children, or our mothers and fathers to die because they do not have access to meaningful healthcare?  Then, according to Jesus, we must act. 

As followers of Jesus, we should be astonished and appalled that our nation, which claims that all people are created equal, allows 50,000 people to lose their lives annually.  If we are truly about life, we should not be able to sleep until this disturbing blemish in our nation’s history is corrected.  I have to point the finger at myself, too, because I have done little to address this terrible issue.  May these words be a start.

As of 2010, close to 50 million people were uninsured in the United States and this translates into 50,000 avoidable deaths each year!7 According to a 2009 study, 1 in 4 children go without healthcare in our country, and more than 23 million kids go without adequate healthcare in any given year.8 About 30 percent of Latino and 20 percent of African American children lack a regular source of health care, and brown kids are almost 3 times more likely than white kids to lack sufficient healthcare.9

Let’s get personal.  The mother of a close friend of ours lives in South L.A.  A number of years back, she went to King/Drew Hospital (dubbed “Killer King” before it was closed) to get her appendix taken out.  They messed up the surgery, so she went back.  They tried to fix what they had messed up, and guess what—She contracted HIV at the hospital.   She went back again to complain.  Nothing happened.  No responsibility taken by the hospital for what happened.  Because she is poor, no attorney would take her case.  It gets worse.  When it came time for her to fill out her paperwork to gain legal residency in the U.S., she was forced to sign what amounted to an admission of blame for having HIV.  She lives today with HIV and no one has been held responsible.

Let me share another story, this time, literally, closer to home.  Johnny is my elderly African American neighbor from across the street.  Johnny’s daughter died four years ago as a result of childbirth complications at a local hospital.  She was poor, and she is now dead.  Would she have died if she had fancy health insurance and had access to top notch health care on the Westside?

About six months ago, my son and I walked over to visit Johnny.  He had been bed-ridden for one month in his tiny studio apartment because of enormous swelling in one of his feet.  He was sitting in the dark in order to keep his electricity bill low, and at his bed side was a Home Depot bucket filled with urine because he could not walk sufficiently to make it to the bathroom.  Johnny told me that he could not get the help he needed for his foot because it would require a long drive (of course he has no car) to county hospital, and, once he got there, he would might need to stay an entire day or more in order to be seen.  My son and I prayed for Johnny, and, I’m happy to say that the swelling went down within several weeks and he was able to walk again!

These examples, and the statistics previously discussed, illustrate to me, what the affordable care debate is really about.   It should not be about House Republicans vs. President Obama, or, about some upstart politicians trying to make a name for themselves.  It’s about 50,000 people dying every year in our country for lack of adequate healthcare, and it’s about millions more, like Johnny and my friend’s mom, suffering for lack of affordable health care.  It’s actually not even about the Affordable Care Act itself.  It’s about loving our neighbors as ourselves.



FB: Jesus for Revolutionaries

P.S., this post is based upon a selection drawn from my free E-book:  Jesus for Revolutionaries:  An Introduction to Race, Social Justice, and Christianity. That's why the footnotes start at #7 :)

7 Sidney M. Wolfe, M.D.  2012. “50 Million Uninsured in the U.S. Equals 50,000+ Avoidable Deaths a Year.” Public Citizen.

8 Christine Lagorio. 2009.  “Study: 1 In 4 Kids Go Without Health Care.” CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.

9 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  2013.  “Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care.”


Health CareRobert Romero