A Resolution on Health Care (General Conference Mennonite Church U.S. Assembly, 1992)

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Preamble: The American health-care system is in crisis. The system has become intolerably expensive, and fails to provide equitable access to care or achieve a better level of health. The cost of health care is rising much faster than the rate of inflation, with health care now consuming more than 11 percent of our Gross National Product. Nevertheless, fewer and fewer people are being served by the system. Over 34 million people, including 12 million children, lack health insurance which would provide them with access to care.

However, the crisis in health care involves more than just politics and money. At its core it reflects misguided values and beliefs: our obsession with physical health, our unrealistic expectations of the medical profession, our fear of death, our faith in unlimited scientific progress, our individualism and the pursuit of unfair profit.

The church is called to respond to this crisis out of its biblical concern for both healing and social justice. These concerns are evident in the message of Jesus: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19).

Historically, the healing ministry of Jesus (Matthew 4:23-25) has been carried forward by the church in efforts to restore health and wholeness to individuals and communities. One example of this mission is the founding of hospitals and medical missions throughout the world.

The concern for justice in health care arises out of the belief in the sanctity and dignity of persons created in God's image. This commitment to justice calls us to free people from social structures which deny them that dignity. Our concern for stewardship calls us to use our limited resources wisely and in the promotion of justice.

Thus, as Mennonite Christians, we are called to help shape the vision for a better and more just health-care system. We must also actively work to help bring it about. Therefore, we affirm the following vision of a health-care system and commit ourselves to specific actions to work toward its creation.

I. We call for a health-care system that

    A. provides access to basic health care to everyone, everywhere in the United States. As a social, and not strictly individual good, basic health care should be available to all regardless of ability to pay. While we cannot provide everyone with all the services they might want or need, all people should have access to basic preventive, curative, supportive and emergency services.

    B. emphasizes prevention of illness and health promotion. The health-care system should encourage individual responsibility for a healthy lifestyle and for appropriate use of the health-care system. To enable people to be responsible we should emphasize health education, wellness promotion, illness prevention and community-based primary care.

    C. places the curing of individuals in the larger context of healing and caring for one another. We need to shift from our endless pursuit of curing to a broader vision of healing which stresses the overall well-being of the person and community. There can be cure without healing and healing without cure. We must always care, though we cannot always cure.

    D. recognizes our mortality and the limits of our financial resources. We must acknowledge death as an inevitable part of life, and resist the temptation to fight it at all costs. We must also recognize that the financial resources available for health care are limited and that we cannot continue to spend without jeopardizing other social needs.

    E. controls cost and spending while emphasizing quality care. While the system should continue to emphasize quality of care, it should control cost and spending through more simple administration, reduced malpractice litigation, increased emphasis on primary care and the wise use of technology. is guided by a national health-care policy. This comprehensive policy should guide management of the health-care system by addressing issues of access to health care, resource allocation and planning, technology assessment, medical education and medical research.

II. As congregations, institutions and members we resolve to

    A. reaffirm our biblical beliefs about life and death, and our hope in the resurrection. Questions about what we want from a health-care system are fundamentally religious in nature. These foundational beliefs should provide the basis from which we approach the healthcare system.

    B. promote the congregation as a healing community. We must integrate a theology of healing into our worship, teaching and small group ministries, incorporating the practice of prayer and anointing for healing in worship services and implementing congregational health-ministry programs.

    C. educate ourselves on issues of healing, personal wellness, advance medical directives, health-care ethics and health-care alternatives. Through education we can help congregations become health-promotion communities.

    D. recognize and affirm the ministry and accountability of health-care institutions, health-care professionals and other caregivers. These people and institutions possess valuable skills, knowledge and abilities. We support, encourage and challenge them to fulfill their unique mission in a manner consistent with kingdom values and priorities.

    E. recover a commitment to community in bearing the cost of health care. We should utilize our financial resources, institutions, volunteers and professionals to find new ways of doing mutual aid in today's healthcare environment.

    F. become advocates for a health-care system that includes fairness, accountability and accessibility. Advocacy is a natural outgrowth of our Christian mission in health and healing. We should share our vision of a just health-care system with government and encourage the development of a national health-care policy that sets priorities and brings justice and order to our chaotic health-care system.

    G. call on Mennonite health-related organizations (Mennonite Health Association, Mennonite Health Services, Mennonite Nurses Association, Mennonite Medical Association and Mennonite Mutual Aid) to lead in responding to the health care crisis. We urge them to develop consultations, statements and exemplary activities which are needed to move us from dialogue to action in redefining the church's mission in health and healing in the '90s.

Health Dialogue Steering Committee: James Waltner (chair), Lawrence Greaser, Gene Yoder, Anne Hershberger, Vyron Schmidt, Carl Good, James Lapp and Willard Krabill.

Adopted by delegates to the U.S. Assembly of the General Conference Mennonite Church, July 22,1992.

Context of the Resolution

A similar, but not identical resolution was approved by the Mennonite Church General Assembly in July 1993. The "Health Dialogue Steering Committee" listed above was a joint General Conference-Mennonite Church committee that reported to both groups.