A former President calls for Christians to add their moral voice in the health-care debate.

The crisis of our health-care system touches us every day. Employers, the working poor, the unemployed, parents of young children—all struggle with a system that costs too much yet does not truly prevent suffering.

Unfortunately, the debate over health-care reform has too often been dominated by concerns about money and privilege. People of faith have not yet succeeded in putting moral issues into the center of the debate. But churches have a wonderful opportunity to make their voices heard and their actions count.

Religious groups have long been at the center of efforts to heal the sick. According to medical historian Henry Sigerist, Christianity entered the world as a “religion of healing.” Churches and religious orders through the centuries have been known for founding hospitals and homes for the aged. Just as science has advanced, so has the effectiveness of religious organizations. In 1994, some of the most sophisticated medical centers in the world are owned by churches. Roughly 29 percent of all the hospital beds in the United States are owned by Catholic or Protestant groups. But more can be done.

Approximately 300,000 houses of worship can participate locally and directly in resolving the crisis in health care. The least we can do is be sure that everyone has access to basic medical services. But our concerns should go far beyond the question of who gets access to a system geared to curing disease. Health-care reform should focus on prevention, justice, and partnership.

Churches should first realize that preventing suffering has higher ethical priority than curing disease.

Prevention is a harder concept to communicate than curative ...

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