As family physicians, we were dismayed to read recent comments from Rep. Roger Marshall when asked about Medicaid expansion. He stated: “Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ ... There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.”
It’s clear that Jesus’ words, when understood in their original context, were meant to spur generosity towards the poor, not apathy and tight-fistedness. Jesus’ comment, “the poor will always be with us,” referred to this passage from the Torah: “... For the poor you will always have with you in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” (Deuteronomy 15:11)
Jesus was rebuking Judas, who criticized a woman for anointing Jesus with expensive oil. Judas’ criticism was intended to line his pockets, not provide help for the poor.
Where do Rep. Marshall’s Kansas Congressional District 1 residents fit into his characterization of the poor?Population: 715,330 Enrollees in the healthcare marketplace: 19,300. Of those, enrollees who have premium tax credits: 16,200; enrollees who have cost sharing reduction: 12,100. Drop in the uninsured rate from 2013 to 2015 in the district: from 11.6 percent to 9.3 percent Uninsured as of 2015: 66,500 (still too many) Median income: $48,559 Percentage below the federal poverty level: 13.7 percent (98,000)
As family physicians, we care for low-income, underinsured, Medicaid recipients and the uninsured every day. They are our neighbors. They are Rep. Marshall’s constituents. He was elected to represent ALL residents in his district, not just those in upper income brackets, not just those with health insurance, and not just those who voted for him.
This is not the time to use scriptural quotes inappropriately to speak ill of the poor. We need to work together on solutions that provide health care to benefit all Kansans. We challenge Rep. Marshall to truly reflect Christ’s spirit and the spirit of our great state in his actions and future comments about the poor and needy.
— Lynn Fisher, MD, FAAFP, is the president of Kansas Academy of Family Physicians and lives in Plainville.