U.S. must offer health care for all who need it

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Is health care a right or a privilege?

We believe it is the former, an inalienable human right. Thus we heartily endorse health care reform, including a robust public option.

Over the summer, the health care debate has devolved into name calling, perfect fodder for cable news but unbecoming of this serious subject. We are all for debate, but in clip after clip, we’ve seen angry town hall protesters bent on defaming the administration any way they could.

This administration is far from perfect, and we have criticized it before. But when crowds start comparing the Obama health care reform effort to Nazi Germany, they have utterly removed themselves from rational discussion.

Health care should not be a partisan issue. Certainly in the Jewish community it is not.

Many national Jewish organizations —  including the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Women International and United Jewish Communities — vigorously are calling for universal health care.

The Republican Jewish Coalition is the sole Jewish organization opposing this desperately needed reform.

We understand the worry that a public option could open the door to health rationing and runaway government spending. But the House bill as it stands now deals intelligently with those concerns (the Senate’s version remains unfinished and up in the air).

Besides, as anyone who ever had to battle an insurance company knows, the system as it stands is largely founded on rationed care. Most private health insurance plans are fine, as long as the insured stay healthy.

But people don’t. And with nearly 50 million Americans uninsured and millions more underinsured, this country faces a disastrous health care crisis. Two out of three bankruptcies are due to medical debt. This cannot go on.

Any bill that fails to include a public option is not reform, but a useless Band-aid. Branding such an option as “socialism” is preposterous (let’s see those critics give up their socialist Medicare and Social Security benefits).

Critics of health care reform like to say the United States has the best health care in the world. If you can afford a Tiffany plan, or if you’re a member of Congress, that may be true.

But for too many Americans, falling ill too often means falling into debt. This cannot continue if we want our society to thrive. Jewish ethics demand nothing less than affordable health care for all.