Reform Jewish Leader Joins Other Religious Leaders to Call for an Expansion on Children’s Health Coverage
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Washington, D.C. March 6, 2007- In a speech delivered today at the National Press Club, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center joined with fellow prominent faith leaders to discuss the importance of expanding health coverage to cover America’s uninsured children.
“It is no surprise that the first spontaneous prayer ever uttered in the Torah was a prayer for healing. According to the biblical story, Moses’s sister Miriam was stricken with leprosy and Moses, upon hearing the news cried out the words Eil Na R’fah Na Lah, God, please heal her (Number, 12:13).
Today, it is our health system itself that needs healing. So today we say Eil Na R’fah Na Lah for the system that has left 9 million of our nation’s children uninsured. We must heal the racial inequality in our health care system and do more for the nearly 1 in 4 Hispanic children who lack access to life-saving care. We must heal the economic inequality in our health care system and speak out for the 6 million children who though living below 200% of the poverty line, are not enrolled in S-CHIP and Medicaid. We must heal the spiraling costs of healthcare, and stand up for the hundreds of thousands of children last year who lost coverage because their families could not afford it. And we must begin this today.
Children without insurance, last year, were 13 times less likely to have a relationship with a primary care doctor or clinic. Even a single child who is denied access to a primary care physician is unacceptable; millions are unconscionable. Children without insurance were twice less likely to have seen a doctor for a well visit. Even a single child denied a well visit is unacceptable; millions are unconscionable. Additionally, children without health insurance are twice as likely to die from their injuries after being hospitalized as children who are insured. Even one child who could be saved, but is not is unacceptable; millions are unconscionable.
Children without insurance miss more days of school, get poorer grades, and are held back more often than children with insurance. Any child who suffers from a poor education, due to a lack of health care is unacceptable; millions are unconscionable. Even one child without insurance is unacceptable; millions are unconscionable.
In the Talmud we learn in the “Ethics of Our Fathers” that without physical sustenance there can be no learning (3:21). Yet in that same passage we learn that without learning there can be no physical sustenance. And it is our obligation to stand here today and teach that our nation’s future and well being depends on the physical well being of our nation’s youth.
We join together on this March day, on the verge of spring and on the cusp of Congress beginning its reauthorization of SCHIP. As our trees soon begin to blossom and our days become warmer we can, for the first time, ensure a new season for America’s children. We have the means and tools to help every child access quality, affordable health insurance. If we fail this year, it is the failure of moral vision and political will. We must be courageous. We must be tenacious. We must be unwavering in this pursuit. And we must ask no less from our Congress. The health of our children and therefore the future of our nation depends on it.”
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the
Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.