Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Do the rich need to pay for the healthcare of the poor?

In a recent Huffington Post article, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz criticized the Republican health care plan and puts forth what he asserts is the Jewish perspective.
Today, Senate Republicans unveiled their so-called healthcare plan—the Better Care Reconciliation Act—conceived in secret and designed to deprive millions of people access to affordable health care, while cynically giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. These Senate Republicans, who so-often like to flaunt their spiritual credentials, would do well to remember the obligation to pay for the cure of a person who has a life-threatening illness: “From the straightforward reading of Sanhedrin 73a, we see that one is obligated to do everything to save him, and if not, one transgresses the negative commandment: ‘Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor’” (R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Minchat Shlomo, V.2, 86:4).

Personally, I am not entirely convinced that Rav Auerbach is correct, that the obligation mentioned in Sanhedrin 73a of hiring others to save, in cases of external acute threat to life (such as drowning, mauled by beasts, attacked by robbers), would extend even to internal and chronic conditions*.  Or that Rav Auerbach's position is widely accepted.

Regardless, I always encourage people to look up the sources, because people on the religious or political right or left -- that is, a lot of authors out there -- can be tempted to take sources out of context. Here is what Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach actually writes:

"4: The obligation regarding expending money to save a sick person:
Regarding the obligation to finance the costs to save the life of a dangerously ill person, from the straightforward reading of the gemara in Sanhedrin 73a we see that he is obligated to do everything to save him, and if not, he violates the prohibition of 'Do not stand idly over the blood of your fellow. (In my humble opinion, it is obvious that the sick person himself is obligated afterwards to repay him.)  
And if it be said that upon this prohibition, which requires an action, there is no obligation to despoil all his wealth, still, a tenth or fifth he is still obligated. And in this particular case, it seems more logical that this prohibition is much more severe, and indeed he should be required to despoil all his wealth..."

And it continues, but I am going to stop here.

Since Rav Auerbach writes that obviously the sick person must pay back, the idea seems to be that if these medical expenditures are holding up the procedure, that the wealthy (or really, anyone who can provide the money) must provide it to save the life. But that does not mean that the poor sick person is not on the hook for the expense. Rather, 'it is obvious that the sick person himself is obligated afterwards to repay him'.

Therefore, I am not sure that this would be a convincing argument to those wicked corrupt Senate Republicans who really want to oppress the poor, but on the other hand want to listen to Gedolim.

* While we don't make such distinctions nowadays, there is a tension between 'verapo yerapei', you shall surely heal him', and the criticism of King Asa for going to doctors, and a distinction is made between internal vs. external. See Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Rabbenu Bachya.

1 comment:

Yavoy said...

All this Ignoring the fact that the God those God fearing Republican fear is the Christian God, not the Jewish one, which makes the entire argument a bit pointless.


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