Resolution on Health Care in the United States (Mennonite Church, 1993)

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Resolution on Health Care in the United States (Mennonite Church, 1993)



The U.S. health care system is in crisis. It has become intolerably expensive, yet fails to provide equitable access to care or achieve a better level of health. Health care now consumes nearly 14 percent of our Gross National Product, but more than 37 million people lack health insurance.

However, the crisis in health care involves more than politics and money. At its core, the crisis reflects misguided values and beliefs: our obsession with physical health, our unrealistic expectations of the medical profession, our fear of death, our faith in unlimited scientific progress, our individualism, and the pursuit of unfair profit.

Because of these difficult problems and a change in national leadership, health care reform is a priority on the national agenda. This climate has created a new opportunity for the church to be involved in reforming the system.

The church is called to respond to this crisis through its biblical concern for both healing and social justice. The connection between these concerns is evident in the message of Jesus.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19)

The concern for justice in health care arises from our belief in the sanctity and dignity of persons created in God's image and calls us to free people from social structures which deny them that dignity. The rising cost of health care widens the gap between the rich and the poor, between those who have access to health care and those who do not.

As Mennonite Christians, we affirm the following vision of a more effective and just health care system and commit ourselves to specific actions to work toward its realization.

    I. We call for a health care system that
      A. provides access to basic health care for everyone, everywhere in the United States. As a social good, basic health care should be available to all regardless of ability to pay. While the system cannot provide everyone with all the services they might want or need, all people should have access to basic preventive, curative, supportive, and emergency services.
      B. emphasizes health promotion and prevention of illness. The health care system should encourage individual responsibility for a healthy lifestyle and for appropriate use of the system. It should emphasize health education, wellness promotion, illness prevention, and primary care.
      C. places the curing of individuals in the larger context of healing and caring for one another. We must replace our endless pursuit of curing with a broader vision of healing which stresses the overall well-being of the person and community. There can be cure without healing and healing without cure. We must always care, though we cannot always cure.
      D. recognizes our mortality and the limits of our financial resources. We must acknowledge death as an inevitable part of life, and resist the temptation to fight it at all costs. We must also recognize that financial resources are limited and that excessive spending on health care reduces our ability to meet other social needs such as education, housing, and transportation.
      E. is guided by a national health care policy which controls cost while emphasizing quality care. This comprehensive policy should guide management of the health care system by addressing issues of finance and administration, access to care, resource allocation and planning, treatment and technology assessment, medical education and research, and legal reform.

    II. As delegates we call on our congregations, institutions, and members to

      A. reaffirm our biblical beliefs about health and illness, life and death, and our hope in the resurrection through Jesus Christ as the basis from which we approach health care issues.
        1. We commit ourselves to completing advance directives (e.g., living wills and proxies) as an affirmation of our beliefs about life and death and as a symbol of our commitment to stewardship and justice.
        2. We commit ourselves to living self-controlled lifestyles, especially in the areas of diet, exercise and stress reduction.

      B. strengthen the congregation as a health promoting and heating community.

        1. We encourage the establishment of congregational health ministries programs which incorporate a theology of health promotion and healing as a vital part of our ministry.
        2. We will encourage people to make important health care decisions within the context of their congregations.
        3. We will educate ourselves on issues of healing, personal wellness, advance medical directives, health care ethics, and health care alternatives.

      C. recognize with appreciation the ministry and accountability of health care institutions, health care professionals, and other caregivers.

        1. We challenge them to fulfill their unique mission in a manner consistent with kingdom values and priorities. We call on them to go beyond professional self-interest in responding to the health care crisis.
        2. We call on both our health care professionals and members to exercise greater restraint and stewardship in the utilization of health care resources.

      D. recover a commitment to community in bearing the cost of health care.

        1. We call for the utilization of financial resources, institutions, and people to find new ways of doing mutual aid in today's health care environment. We ask the church and Mennonite Mutual Aid to reconsider the justice of commercial underwriting practices and find alternatives which embody the biblical ideals of justice and mutual aid.
        2. We call for the personal and institutional sacrifices necessary to provide justice in the health care system. We acknowledge that changing the health care system will be painful. Those of us who have power, financial resources, and access to care must be willing to pay more or do with less so that those without may have access to care.

      E. share our vision and values with government and support efforts to develop a comprehensive national health care policy which sets priorities and brings justice and order to our chaotic health care system.

    The Mennonite Church General Assembly adopts the "Resolution on Health Care in the United States" and as delegates call on our congregations and institutions to give attention to the actions identified in the resolution.

    Mennonite Church General Assembly July 30, 1993

    Context of the Resolution

    A similar, but not identical resolution was approved by the General Conference Mennonite Church Convention in July 1992. The "Health Dialogue Steering Committee" listed below was a joint General Conference-Mennonite Church committee that reported to both groups.