Issue: Spring/Summer 2014
Justice In Health Care
Myron Glick ’88
In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” In 2014 I still see this injustice every day in my work at Jericho Road Family Practice in Buffalo, N.Y. Many of our patients are uninsured, on Medicaid, or are refugees.
Every day we have someone call us or walk into our office with a heartbreaking story. I have seen a man walk in blind because he was uninsured and could not afford to pay for cataract surgery. I have diagnosed lung cancer and have watched in dismay as my patient calmly told me he had decided not to undergo treatment because he did not want to leave his family with the hospital bill to pay. I have listened to a married couple of 25 years discuss the possibility of obtaining a divorce so that she would qualify for Medicaid and would be able to afford her medications. I have examined a man with an inguinal hernia larger than a football who refused to go to a surgeon because he knew he could not afford to pay the bill. I have watched a 50-year-old man suffering from liver failure who refused to stop working because he knew if he lost his job, he would be unable to afford his health insurance and then would be unable to pay for his life-saving medical care. These stories are repeated over and over. Many people die every day simply because they lack timely access to medical care. There is little justice in our health care system.
The Affordable Care Act is starting to make a difference by providing health coverage for many people in need; however, all insurance plans are not created equal and do not cover the same care. People with Medicaid often struggle to find specialists who will accept their coverage. They have longer waits to see the same doctor and to get the same care. High deductible insurance plans are becoming more common and are creating new challenges for many who cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars for their life-saving chemotherapy and other needed care. This is not justice.
Injustice in health care is also illustrated by the disparity of health outcomes between the poor and the rich. Too often people living in under-resourced communities suffer from higher rates of chronic disease such as asthma, diabetes and obesity. They die younger and suffer more chronic disabilities. I see refugee children with high lead levels because they are living in old, beat up houses. Obesity is common in the community we serve where playgrounds, parks and grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetables are rarely found. Injustice and inequity in the community is a major contributing cause of the poorer health outcomes of the most vulnerable people we see every day at Jericho Road. Poverty is not good for your health. It can kill you.
Justice is broadly defined as the quality of acting with fairness, impartiality and with equality toward others, to give each person equal protection under the law. The biblical idea of justice is closely related to that of righteousness. In fact, the Greek and Hebrew words for these two concepts are essentially the same. Righteousness and justice in the Scriptures demand the individual person to live a life of moral uprightness and to treat others and especially the poor in a fair manner. Biblical justice is both a personal and community responsibility.
At Jericho Road we have tried to create a model of care that is welcoming to the poor and the uninsured such as refugees and others who are most vulnerable. This means accepting all insurances including Medicaid and having an income based sliding scale fee schedule for uninsured patients. Our goal is to provide the same care to each patient whether he or she is the President of the United States or a refugee who just arrived in Buffalo from a refugee camp in Kenya. We advocate for our patients to help them navigate the health care system outside of our office. This requires great persistence on the part of our team. We simply believe that this is what Jesus would do and so are determined to do it – no matter the cost.
We also believe that part of what following Jesus means for us at Jericho Road is to continue to advocate for real systemic change. We tell stories of what we have seen at every opportunity, we urge the Church to speak up and be counted on this moral issue of our day, we advocate for continued changes in our nation’s health care policy. As a follower of Jesus in 2014, I pray to stand alongside the prophet Amos and Martin Luther King, Jr. to work for the day when “justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” for the day when justice is restored in our nation’s health care system, and all people are treated as if they are created in the very image of God. In 1997,
Dr. Myron Glick ’88 and his wife, Joyce, opened the doors of Jericho Road Family Practice on Buffalo’s West Side. Over the past 17 years, the family practice has grown to include two sites with fifteen medical providers (including Myron), and now sees over 40,000 patient visits per year on the West and East Sides of Buffalo.