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Should we provide health care to all? Consider the biblical story of the Samaritan

More than a year ago, Kansas legislators, including moderate Republicans, voted for Medicaid expansion. Republican Governor Sam Brownback, apparently never having heard of the Good Samaritan, vetoed the bill.
More than a year ago, Kansas legislators, including moderate Republicans, voted for Medicaid expansion. Republican Governor Sam Brownback, apparently never having heard of the Good Samaritan, vetoed the bill. File photo

Do people have a right to health care?

Over and over again, many Republicans answer no. They have stranded both Kansas and Missouri among just 14 states that refuse expansion of Medicaid to help 450,000 of their poor uninsured citizens. Thirty-six other states and the District of Columbia have approved Medicaid expansion.

While some rural hospitals close for lack of paying patients, Kansas has lost nearly $3.4 billion in mostly free-to-Kansas federal Medicaid money. On the Kansas Hospital Association website, check out their whirling “dollar odometer” to envisage our moment-to-moment losses.

Back to the question about the right of people to have health care.

Jesus of Nazareth answered it 2,000 years ago with a parable. He said a certain man on the road to Jericho fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing and left him nearly dead. Two high-status citizens, a priest and a Levite, saw the man’s desperation but passed him by.

Then came a member of a clan despised at that time by many in Palestine.

Luke 10: 34-35 in the King James Bible states that the Samaritan went to the injured man, “and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.”

That is not the radical Republican program in Kansas and Missouri, where five years passed as they kept discovering fresh “moral” reasons for denying health insurance to 450,000 people. A one-time aide to former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said expanding Medicaid for the poor would be “morally reprehensible.”

More than a year ago, Kansas legislators, including moderate Republicans, voted for Medicaid expansion. Brownback, apparently never having heard of the Good Samaritan, vetoed the bill.

Could that be the very reason President Donald Trump appointed him ambassador at large for religious freedom? Certainly, his veto marks him as a man free of religion, at least the Good Samaritan sort. And here we go again in the current Kansas legislative session.

“The governor just called for the Senate to pass a bill that Bernie Sanders – a socialist – endorsed,” said Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle. “And that’s not going to happen in the Kansas Senate.”

Wagle is a member of St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church in Wichita. Surely she feels frustrated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which in 2017 announced:

“Reform efforts must begin with the principle that health care is not a privilege, but a right and a requirement to protect the life and dignity of every person. All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care.”

A longtime friend of mine spent much of her life working in Kansas City for Catholic Charities, one of the most comprehensive aid agencies in the region — religious, but also practical in helping needy people regardless of race, religion, country of origin, disabilities, gender, age or sexual orientation.

What was it that the Good Samaritan told the host at the inn?

“Take care of him.”

Contact Charles Hammer at hammerc12@gmail.com

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