Access to affordable health care has proven to be a difficult issue for the people of South Dakota. Our study topic for 2014 focused on this question: To what extent does the government have a responsibility to make sure everyone has healthcare?
Over the course of the year we heard from health care experts and studied current federal legislation. We reflected on the moral and religious implications of the issue, asking ourselves, What is the meaning of “caring for one’s neighbor” within the realities of a democratic, free-market society?
After exploring our traditions’ sacred texts as well as many aspects of the current health care situation in our state, we found that we all could agree on this moral statement:
Citizens of a just and fair society should work together to make basic health care affordable and available for all citizens, including those who are unable to pay for it themselves.
See the full context of our statement:
Health Care Access: What We Believe
Access to affordable health care has proven to be a difficult issue for the people of South Dakota. As leaders of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith traditions we felt compelled to try to find common ground on the subject of making basic health care available for all.
After a year of study, including the exploration of our traditions' sacred texts as well as many aspects of the current health care situation in our state, we found that we could agree on this basic statement:
Citizens of a just and fair society should work together to make basic health care
affordable and available for all citizens, including those who are unable to pay for it
We call on all people of good faith to consider the following basic values found in our sacred texts. These obligations have shaped our shared understanding of the health care access issue.
• Respect the basic dignity and worth of every person.
• Care for one another when we have needs we are unable tom e e t on our own.
• Make no distinctions among people according to who has much or who has little.
We religious leaders of South Dakota Faith in Public Life encourage all the people of this state to join in respectful conversation about what kind of public policies will uphold these faith-based principles about access to basic, affordable health care for all.
• Is adequate health care a basic right or a privilege?
• What is our state's responsibility in ensuring that people have access to basic,
affordable health care?
• What are the economic and social ramifications of failing to provide access to
This statement was distributed to 24,000 South Dakotans as an insert in the Argus Leader newspaper on Nov. 11, 2014. It was sent to the governor of South Dakota and all state senators and representatives, urging elected officials to make it their highest priority to find a way to make healthcare available to every South Dakotan.
SOUTH DAKOTA FAITH IN PUBLIC LIFE hosted a legislative breakfast for legislators in the Sioux Falls area on Dec. 9, 2014, offering opportunity for vigorous discussion of religious and political perspectives related to health care access.