Health Care in the United States

1989 Church of the Brethren Statement

The righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:37-40

Our Judeo-Christian heritage has taught us that God’s holy purpose includes everyone, that every person is of worth. As God’s people, we are to be concerned for the health of all people, and to nurture health for one another. In the past, the church has accepted the responsibility of caring for others; today the church is called to a new level of involvement. As God’s people on earth, the church is called to work for high quality, comprehensive health care for all.

In 1974, Annual Conference received a General Board statement urging Christians to become acquainted with health care issues. Since then, the situation has become more acute.

Our present health care system is a mix of private and public programs, which fails to serve all of our citizens well. This country spends more on health care than any other country; yet over 37 million Americans have no health insurance, and an additional 10-15 million are seriously underinsured. Infant mortality rates are among the highest of all industrialized countries. Citizens of several other countries have a longer life expectancy than Americans, and millions of people receive no medical care because they cannot afford it. Overwhelming medical, hospital, and nursing home bills have become the number one cause of personal bankruptcy. Immunization to prevent childhood illnesses is dangerously low in certain segments of society. Furthermore, the distribution of medical care is so inadequate that it is simply not available in many rural and inner city communities. The enormous costs of treating AIDS victims is overwhelming the resources of hospitals and individuals alike. Additionally, health care providers and institutions are overburdened with bureaucratic controls, paper work requirements, and malpractice insurance costs.


I. We believe that, as tangible evidence of the covenantal nature of our Christian faith, all persons should receive adequate health care as a basic human right and as a reflection of personal dignity.

II. We believe that the responsibility for fulfilling this right must rest with both the individual and society, and that government as an instrument of society must assure it.

Therefore, we urge government bodies to promote a program that:

  1. Is universal and comprehensive, providing all persons in the United States with access to all necessary health care services.
  2. Promotes good health, recognizing that promoting health and preventing illness are more appropriate and less costly than treating illness at advanced stages.
  3. Establishes national standards for delivering health services and assessing medical technology, yet permits local boards of expert and community representatives to participate in determining which services and technology are needed and how they should be delivered.
  4. Assures the rights of all citizens to choose freely among health care providers and facilities for delivering health care.
  5. Assures the rights of health care providers and facilities to deliver care with a minimum of government control and regulation, while keeping malpractice insurance rates at a reasonable level.

III. We believe that Christians should model appropriate health care practices.

Therefore, we urge Church of the Brethren members to:

  1. Study this paper and seek to become more aware of health care issues and what constitutes a healthy lifestyle.
  2. Adopt personal lifestyles that promote health and wellness, thus reducing the risk of injury and disease.
  3. Establish congregational programs to assist members in promoting healthy lifestyles.
  4. Examine how health care is administered in the community and work to improve the quality and accessibility of local health care.
  5. Explore creative measures to help reduce the burden of expensive health care for members and others in the community.
  6. Develop strategies to improve health care in the United States and make health care services readily available to all persons.
  7. Support legislation that promotes adequate health care for all.

Throughout the Scriptures, God calls for justice and fairness for all people. Therefore, it seems particularly clear that in the richest nation on earth. God expects access to adequate health care to be a basic right for all citizens, regardless of gender, race, or financial status. While good health cannot be assured to everyone, good health care can and should be guaranteed.

Brethren Health and Welfare Association Advocacy Task Force: David Fouts, Coordinator; Ann Fouts; Forrest Collier; Evelyn Frantz; Mary Ann Harvey, BHWA President; Jay Gibble, staff.

Action of the General Board, March 1989: VOTED to pass the above resolution through Standing Committee to the 1989 Annual Conference.

Judy Mills Reimer, Chair
Donald E. Miller, General Secretary

Action of the 1989 Annual Conference: David Fouts, a Standing Committee delegate from the Mid-Atlantic district, presented the recommendation from standing committee that the 1989 Annual Conference adopt the STATEMENT ON HEALTH CARE IN THE UNITED STATES. The delegate body adopted the recommendation of Standing Committee.