I have stated often in my posts that to understand poverty, we must see the human face of it. Here it is: “Maria is a 53 year old woman who works two part-time jobs and is a key caregiver for her extended family. She has diabetes, hypertension and recurrent bleeding from her uterus. Most months she cannot afford her medicines. She is beginning to have eye problems and nerve problems because of her diabetes. She is at increasing risk of suffering a stroke because of her high blood pressure She often needs to go to the emergency room with severe bleeding from her uterus; she is stabilized and discharged and told she needs to have a hysterectomy. She can’t afford this with no medical or health insurance.”
This is a composite picture written by Dr. Gerard S. Brungardt, a physician who I met when he was medical director of the hospice for which I was a chaplain. I know the doctor as a caring and compassionate person who has worked as a volunteer physician at the Guadelupe Clinic, a local free medical clinic, for over 25 years and put together what he has experienced in this composite face of poverty and health care in an article in the Wichita Eagle .
Dr. Brungardt notes that “with access to KanCare, Maria would be able to have a regular doctor she could call with questions and concerns, one who would care for her diabetes and hypertension. She would be able to get her medicines on a regular basis and get the surgery she needs.” But what he says next in his article in the Wichita Eagle is what is important: “Most important” he says, “she would feel like a member of the community—-someone who counts, someone her community recognizes as important enough to provide with the basis need of health insurance. ”
Maria’s example highlights the key reasons why we should expand Medicaid in Kansas that has been blocked by the governor and the legislature, thus denying basic healthcare to thousands of Kansans just like Maria. Dr. Brungardt emphasizes that the most important reason to extend that care goes beyond just health care. It confirms for people their dignity. Brungard refers to Pope Francis, “who has untiringly reminded us of the dignity we all carry within ourselves in communion with those around us. WHEN WE ISOLATE SOMEONE FROM OUR COMMUNITY THAT PERSON EXPERIENCES A POVERTY MORE PROFOUND THAN MATERIAL POSSESSIONS. They experience the poverty of being denied their innate human dignity, of not being recognized as someone who counts, of not being treated precisely as a someone.”
We have relegated almost a quarter of the population of Kansas t0 a position of inferior status as human beings. How can those who did this, our governor and our legislators, look at themselves in the mirror every morning, knowing what their actions are causing? How can we, as Christians and churches, look at ourselves in the mirror every morning that we do not demand that this change?