For decades, the Reform Jewish Movement has been at the forefront of advocacy on behalf of universal health care. Millions of Americans live without health insurance, and attacks on the Affordable Care Act and other areas of the health care system have resulted in millions of people without health insurance. The Reform Movement is dedicated to protecting existing health care programs and expanding coverage to all Americans. Guided by our Jewish values, we recognize that comprehensive health care includes physical and mental health, and we believe that health care must be accessible to all people without the threat of discrimination.
Why Should Jews Care?
Judaism is clear about our responsibility to ensure health care for all people. Jewish tradition teaches that human life has infinite value and that the preservation of life supersedes almost all other considerations. As Maimonides, a revered Jewish scholar, teaches,
“it is obligatory from the Torah for the physician to heal the sick” (Commentary on Mishnah Nedarim 4:4).
Furthermore, providing health care is not just an obligation of the doctor, but for society as well. It is for this reason that Maimonides listed health care first on his list of the ten most important communal services a city must offer its residents if the city is to be found worthy for a great scholar to live there (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot IV:23). As Jews, we believe that the government has an obligation to ensure that all people can access quality, affordable health care.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most severe public health and economic crisis in a century. The U.S. has reported the most cases and deaths in the world and tens of millions are facing unemployment, food scarcity, and housing insecurity due to the economic fallout from the pandemic. Urge Congress to support the most vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The enduring legacy of slavery and more than four hundred years of systemic racism created a public health emergency in the United States. Racial inequities – including higher rates of COVID-19 and chronic health conditions, increased incidence of infant and maternal mortality, and the disproportionate impact of police violence on Black, Brown, and Native American communities – pervades our entire society. Urge Congress to support the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act of 2020 to declare racism a public health crisis, expand research into the public health impacts of systemic racism, and require the federal government to develop anti-racist public health policy.
Mental illness affects millions of people, including millions of young people, in the United States each year. Despite this widespread prevalence, mental health is often stigmatized and viewed as less important than physical health. Our government must work to ensure that all people can access mental health care. The public school system is uniquely positioned to help provide mental health services for young people.
Across the United States, millions of people lack insurance, and quality care is unaffordable for millions more. Urge Congress to support the Medicare for All Act of 2019, which would ensure that all Americans could access quality, affordable health care, regardless of employment status, ability to pay, or previous medical conditions.
The Reform Movement is committed to protecting existing health care programs such as the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program while simultaneously expanding health care coverage to all.
All people should be able to access health care without fear of discrimination. However, the Trump administration has proposed multiple policies to repeal critical civil rights protections from the Affordable Care Act and taxpayer-funded health care and social service programs.
Despite the widespread prevalence of mental illness, many people are still unable to access care, with an average delay of 11 years between the onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment. We are working to ensure our society recognizes that mental health is an essential component of overall well-being, and to urge our government ensures that all people have access to mental health care.
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Mental Health Resources
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please know that you are not alone. Here is a list of national hotlines, crisis resources, and Jewish community resources for people experiencing mental illness.
Contact our Legislative Assistants
For more information on this issue, contact Senior Legislative Assistant Jacob Greenblatt at 202-387-2800.
What our Partners are Doing
Alongside NETWORK Catholic Lobby for Social Justice, the RAC co-chairs the Washington Interreligious Staff Community Health Care Working Group. This group works on U.S. health care policy including Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP and the Affordable Care Act. Our work encompasses protection of existing health care safety net programs and supporting legislation that increases access to quality, affordable health care.