Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Presbyterians Are For Single-Payer

Thanks to the moderator of the General Assembly for posting this on his blog. While not a statement like the one articulated by stated clerk, Gradye Parsons, it does provide information regarding the actions of the various General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Stated Clerk, Gradye Parsons, has articulated the actions of the General Assembly regarding health care reform quite eloquently:

The General Assembly has been clear that Congress must enact comprehensive health care reform that will provide all persons with access to health care services.
This is what needs to be said from everyone who speaks with influence and moral authority.

Just so folks know, the PC (U.S.A.) advocates single payer.

Health Care Reform | Questions and Answers
From the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

What does the PC(USA) support?

  • For over 60 years, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assemblies have been calling for reform of the U.S. health system, urging the establishment of a national medical plan that will ensure health coverage for all persons residing in the United States.
  • The most recent General Assembly (2008) “endorse[d] in principle the provision of single-payer universal health care reform in which health care services are privately provided and publicly financed… as the program that best responds to the moral imperative of the gospel.” [Minutes, 2008, p. 1133]
  • Any reform plan should be guided by these values:
  1. Universal Accessibility: We believe that all people possess inherent worth as children of God, and that God’s promise extends to all. Health coverage must be available to all persons living in the United States, regardless of income, race or ethnicity, geography, age, gender, employment status or health status [Minutes, 1994, p. 574; Minutes, 2002, p. 634]
  2. Equity: Because the right to acquire adequate health care springs out of our worth as living human beings, rather than out of any particular merit or achievement belonging to some but not to others, adequate health care should be defined equally for all people. [Minutes, 1976, pp. 203-207]
  3. Responsible Financing: Since society has an interest in the health of its people, those individuals and organizations who can pay should help to finance the care for those individuals and families who cannot pay [Minutes, 1991, p. 817]. While concerns for the costs of health care are appropriate, these concerns must continually be balanced against the objectives of access to adequate, quality care for all. The sacrifice of access and quality at the shrine of cost containment is too high a price to pay and should not be tolerated [Minutes, 1988, p. 525].

Does the church support socialized medicine?

No, the church supports health reform that is privately provided and publically funded. Socialized medicine generally refers to health care systems that are run by government, in which medical facilities are owned by government and health care providers are employed by government. PC(USA) General Assemblies have not commented on such a system, nor is the U.S. Congress considering such a proposal.

Why does the church support single-payer?

The single-payer health coverage envisioned by the 218th General Assembly is a system in which health insurance is publicly financed, while medical care is provided by private practitioners. One example of a single-payer health care system would be a “Medicare for all” approach, though single-payer requires only that financing come from a single source, rather than the multiple sources that currently provide U.S. health coverage (employers, government, individuals, etc.). The 218th General Assembly (2008) adopted an overture supporting the principle of single-payer health care. The overture outlined the serious crisis in the U.S. health system, highlighting the rapidly swelling ranks of the uninsured, the increasing occurrence of medically-caused bankruptcies, and efficiency of government-run Medicare and Medicaid programs, when compared to private insurance companies.

On what authority is the church speaking on this issue?

In keeping with our polity, public witness by the National Offices on the topic of health care reform is based entirely on General Assembly policy. The Stated Clerk’s recent statement (Aug. 2009), which can be viewed at, draws almost exclusively on the Rationale of the 218th General Assembly (2008) overture on single-payer health reform, the entirety of which can be found at

What is the role of government and why should it be involved?

The 1988 General Assembly summarized John Calvin’s explanation: “civil government is ordained by God to order and serve the human community and therefore to be held in respect and honor. Service in the public order is the highest vocation for Christians. The civil state by its own definition and tradition is to serve the causes of justice, the common well being. We believe that the church must not only call upon the political order to serve the causes of justice but actively participate in efforts to shape public policies and institutions so that they serve human needs effectively and equitably.” (Minutes, 1988, p. 47)

Why does the church care?

Presbyterians believe that God desires shalom – wholeness and healing –for every person, not just for those who can afford it. Health is much more than the absence of a physical or mental malady or the pursuit of physical or mental perfection. Jesus’ command to love our neighbor requires persons with plentiful resources both to comprehend the condition of those persons without basic health care and to share the means to health. [Minutes, 1999, pp. 341-342]

What is the PC(USA) doing now?

The PC(USA), through its Washington Office, is engaged in public witness at the federal level. On health care, the Washington Office is following closely the legislative process and evaluating health reform proposals in light of General Assembly social witness policy statements.

Further, the Washington Office is engaged with ecumenical and interfaith partners to lift up the voices of people of faith. Through Washington Office organizing and publications, Presbyterians are invited to get involved in the public policy process.

The ministry of the Washington Office is to communicate General Assembly policy to decision-makers and to provide resources to Presbyterians, so that they might be engaged in public debate and witness.

How do I get in touch with the Washington Office?

You can reach the Washington Office by eMail or phone (202) 543-1126.


  1. Okay, they are for single-payer and they (you) helped to get public support for health care reform. But, I'm curious to know how you feel *now* that Obama has threw the public option under the bus, which was probably planned all along!

    ...I'm still wondering how you can put the blame on the tea party activists when they are for no government involvement in healthcare, that means that they are urging the Republican Party and Washington to oppose any health care reform bill! You on the otherhand >>seem<< to be urging lawmakers to pass health care legislation even though it is fraught with corruption and a huge gift to the insurance industry. The industry interests that own and control our government always get their way.

  2. Hey Rachel,

    A couple clarifications:

    Congress not POTUS will make legislation for health care reform.

    It will be a battle. Hard to predict what will happen.

    I am personally for single payer as I think that is the most just system to provide health care to all people.

    Public option is second-best. If that is what we get, then that is what we get.

    Lame insurance reform is lame and in my opinion, FAIL.

    So I as a citizen will do what I can to voice my support for universal health care in some form.

    I think it is basic human decency for us (the government--we are it) to care for each other.

    Health care is fundamental to a creating a caring society.

  3. As far as teaparty activists are concerned, I don't blame them for anything. I ridicule them because I think they are goofy and playing into the interests of insurance corporations. But hey, anyone can protest. Good for them.