T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights opposes both the House and Senate legislation that will leave millions more Americans without health care. Our insistence on the moral duty of the government to ensure health care for all comes from our grounding both in human rights, and in Jewish teachings.
The Senate’s “Better Care” Reconciliation Act of 2017 and House of Representatives American Health Care Act of 2017 are immoral bills that will take healthcare away from millions of Americans, and result in increased suffering, financial burden, and even death. Those most likely to be hurt by these bills include those who can least afford to be without healthcare: individuals with significant health challenges or past illnesses, are low-income or seeking treatment for addiction, and seniors.
Jewish law insists that the community bears responsibility for providing health care for all people, regardless of ability to pay. The Shulchan Arukh rules, “If one has medicine that a sick person needs, it is forbidden to charge more than the appropriate price.” (YD 336:3) Extending responsibility to the community as a whole, Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, one of the most important twentieth-century legal authorities notes, “When poor people are ill and cannot afford medical expenses, the community sends a doctor to visit them, and the medicine is paid for by the communal fund.” (Tzitz Eliezer 5:4) And Rabbi Shlomo Goren, former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel declares, “the government may not excuse itself from responsibility toward the sick since the government is responsible for the health of the people.” (Assia journal 21:40)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights requires that all countries provide “standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including . . . medical care.”
We are dismayed that some members of the United States Congress want to deny healthcare to millions of Americans. The United States is one of the most advanced countries in the world, and boasts some of the best doctors, hospitals, and medical facilities. And yet, if these Members of Congress have their way, these health services will be out of reach for many. We urge Congress to reject both bills and ensure that any future changes to the Affordable Care Act expand access to quality health care, rather than diminish this access.