PRESIDENT Obama has urged Americans of faith to speak the truth to friends and colleagues about the nature of his proposed health-care reforms (News, 21 August).
In “40 Minutes for Health Reform”, a live phone-in and webcast with 140,000 listeners from faith communities last week, he expressed concern at the misinformation that, he said, was distorting the debate.
People of faith were united in the moral conviction that no one in the United States should be pushed to the edge of financial ruin because he or she was denied coverage by the insurance companies, the President said. He denounced the “ludicrous notion that somehow we are setting up death panels that would decide whether elderly people get to live or die”.
He also dismissed allegations of a government takeover of health care as “fabrications that have been put out in order to dislodge people from [their] core moral and ethical obligations to be [their] brothers’ and sisters’ keeper”.
“Whenever we have sought to change this country for the better and promote justice, there have always been those who want to preserve the status quo.”
He urged: “Knock on doors, talk to your neighbours, tell them the facts. Speak the truth. Time and time again, men and women of faith have shown us what is possible.”
The webcast, initiated by the Sojourners, is the start of 40 days of lobbying and campaigning by faith groups, described in the programme as “a steady drumbeat and a clear call for truth telling in the debate”. Callers and speakers told of hardship and death as a result of the inaccessibility of health care.
The director of domestic policy at the White House, Melody Barnes, reassured a Roman Catholic parish nurse anxious to support the reforms that no one would be forced to purchase insurance that included abortion coverage.
Speakers repeatedly emphasised that health-care reform was not about partisan politics but about people’s lives. Public meetings and prayer rallies are being set up across the US, from Missouri Voices for Healthcare Reform, led by a rabbi, to a campaign in Arkansas called “No More Band-Aids.”