Moral Question on Health Care Needs Answering: Faith Leader

Not much ground seemed to be gained for the bipartisan passage of a health care bill at Thursday's Health Reform Summit in Washington.

Partisan flags flew high during the six and half hour debate, with Republicans unmoving in their requests to "start from scratch" on legislation and Democrats seemingly staunch in their plans to use the reconciliation process to push the current bill through the Senate if necessary.

President Obama's closing plea for the group to make bipartisan efforts to "actually resolve something" in a month or six week's time was seen by Republicans as unreasonable.

"It's not going to be possible with that kind of an approach to come together within the time frame that he indicated," Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl told reporters after the meeting.

But while the "political theater" on health care seemed to continue, one faith leader saw a glimmer of progress at the end of the debate.

The Rev. Linda Walling, Executive Director for Faithful Reform in Health Care, an Ohio-based interfaith coalition, noted that the "heart" of the health reform issue was raised during President Obama's closing remarks, where Obama asked the summit whether the "30 million people without health care" should have access to it and how it's going to be paid for.

According to Walling, Obama's request was the "moral question" on health care that has "never been answered," and which she adds is also the key question to bringing real progress to health care reform.

"I think that's where it is, that we have not decided up front that it's the right thing to do," Walling told the Ecumenical Press.

"If our first statement is 'everybody will be in when we're finished,' then the way the other questions get answered look very different than the way they're being answered now," she said, adding that for her group and others in the faith community, the answer to the "moral question" is a resounding "yes."

"People of faith have been saying throughout this debate that yes, everyone should be included. And we've been saying that we believe we are blessed with the abundant resources, wisdom, and talent to do it," Walling said in a blog posting.

"What we lack are the moral vision, and the political will to act on it," she says, adding that "voices of faith are needed more than ever" in the health care debate.

While Walling declined to say whether she supports the use of reconciliation to pass the current bill, she noted that her group is in favor of "meaningful health reform now" and that the current bill does offer opportunities for "millions of people to have access to health care that they have not previously had."

"What's important for us is that substantial progress be made to cover more people, reduce costs, hold all parties in the system accountable, and make health care more accessible to everybody that lives in the United States," she said.

Walling also noted that in the interest of time and the lives of American people, offers to "start over" on health care legislation don't seem reasonable.

"These offers to start over don't acknowledge that if we wait another year, 45,000 more people are going to die, and that every day that we wait 123 people die," she said.

"Starting over is simply not a moral option."

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