The Right Thing to Do

I was happy to see that my home state, North Carolina, has passed a bipartisan solution to expand Medicaid. Southern states have suffered disproportionately to find solutions for the health insurance crisis, leaving many families to choose between healthcare and paying their bills. The national political divide over the federal funding of Medicaid expansion has left us to ignore the financial, economic, and quality of life benefits from this move.

When the leaders of North Carolina stepped back, however, to ask how they might best benefit the people they serve, they saw that many of the challenges that police officers face daily with mental health situations, the crisis in their rural hospitals, and the needs of the working poor to buy food and pay utility bills, the need for change outweighed the partisan political debates that obscure real solutions.

I have been a hospital trustee. I understand better than I used to how complicated the healthcare and insurance systems can be. I also learned that in truth we all are paying for everyone’s health care one way or the other. It can either be organized and intentional or haphazard and full of inequalities and financial burdens. The most important question seems to be left aside. More of our citizens would benefit from expanded access to better care. Healthier people get better faster, are able to work longer and more productively, and babies consigned to poverty have a better chance to get a good start in life. Families might not have to be bankrupted at the end of life by an elderly parent’s care. Infant mortality and poverty are moral issues, not political questions. The politics is only about “how?”

Polls show that most Alabamians are in favor of expanding Medicaid when asked. It would mean receiving enormous amounts of federal funding to help our most vulnerable citizens receive better care.

I appreciate so many good things that Governor Ivey has done. Our legislature, under her leadership, has already expanded Medicaid to cover babies up to a certain age. The template is already there. To solve problems, we do not need political slogans and partisanship. We need to do the right thing.

A close pastor colleague and friend, the late Dr. Philip Wise, was a pastor in Montgomery many decades ago. When a question arose in his church about an issue related to race and the mission of the church, he went to a wise older leader of the congregation to ask his advice. To push forward would undoubtedly create conflict in the congregation. To pull back for the sake of unity would come at the price of doing what the Bible required of them.

This wise leader listened to him and asked, “Pastor, what is the right thing to do?” He said his answer was clear in his heart. “Go forward with the work of reconciliation.” The wise older head, said, “Well, pastor, why don’t we do the right thing?”

I have thought of that story from time to time through the years. It is hard for churches, communities, and states to stand above the divides among us until we ask this question.

I lived in my home state of North Carolina for ten years of my life altogether, longer than anywhere else I have lived until we moved to Alabama in 1993, where I served as a pastor for twenty-eight years. I have retired in Alabama, and it is my home. I love Alabama and its people. It is a great place to live.

I want Alabama to be a place where Infant mortality goes down and our people, especially our children, have access to the care they need.  I don’t have all the answers about the how, but that isn’t really my question. Our governor and legislature are charged with the responsibility of the how. I just have asked myself the question my friend asked his layman years ago, “What is the right thing to do?”

And my answer is, “Why don’t we do the right thing?”

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Gary Furr

Gary is a musician, writer and Christian minister living in Alabama.

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