We began our discussion with sharing to what extent uninsured and indigent patients are seen in each of our practices. Some of us see very few of these patients and others estimate 15-20% are in this category. We then discussed our perceptions on how the patient’s care can be affected by their status as poor or uninsured. It was generally agreed that this group of patients often delay coming for care and that caring for them is often more time intensive. Sometimes their inability to get ordered lab and radiologic exams can further delay their care and even compromise its quality. It was also agreed that this is a wide spread problem in our society since it is estimated there are 27 million uninsured people in America.
We based our discussion this evening on a story about a fellow who could have used some good insurance and is found in Luke 10:25-27, the story of the Good Samaritan. In this discussion we focused on what this story demonstrates about living out the Gospel.
We first discussed who the person was who was asking Jesus about eternal life. In modern day this person would be a lawyer. He knows all the rules and laws. We then explored why he asks Jesus ‘who is my neighbor’? We agreed he wants to set a limit on who is deserving of his ‘love’. He clearly has excluded some of the lesser people in the past and wants Jesus’ answer to justify his behavior. In response Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. We then examined this story and each of the characters in it. We talked about why Jesus choose to include a Levite and a priest as the two people who pass by the injured man. It was pointed out that Levites and priests are particularly the group of people who were designated to care for the poor, the widows, orphans and those in need. So they are neglecting their duty to go by. Some of the group felt that the main reason they did not stop was because they did not want to make themselves spiritually unclean. This may very well been part of their thinking but also, it was mentioned that this road, from Jerusalem to Jericho, was notorious for being a dangerous place and stopping would put them at some risk of also falling into the hands of robbers. This demonstrates our first lesson in living out the Gospel to those in need such as the uninsured in our society – that doing so is sometimes risky. We then discussed how sometimes caring for the poor and uninsured can be risky. Some members thought this group of people are more litigiousness. Second, because it is often time consuming to care for this group, it can be difficult to insure they comply with instructions. There can also sometimes be language barriers that make good care more difficult. Another member pointed out that sometimes their inability to get the very best studies completed by other medical groups can lead to compromise of the quality of care for which we can then be held accountable.
Next we talked about why Jesus chose to make the compassionate man a Samaritan. This was group of people who were hated by the Jewish people. The fact that he was an enemy of the beaten man and yet was compassionate points out our second point about living out the Gospel – that it requires us to cross boundaries. In a similar way caring for the poor and uninsured often requires that we cross boundaries. We discussed what type of boundaries those are and how they can be overlooked to insure that we deliver the care they need.
We then discussed what exactly the Samaritan did for this beaten man. In caring for his wounds, bringing him to a Inn, and paying for his stay there he met all his practical needs. It says nothing about him praying for him or instructing him in some spiritual way. We sometimes think that living out the gospel is all about evangelizing and praying for folks. Of course these are important, but the Samaritan shows us that often just meeting practical needs is enough. This is our third observation on living out the gospel. We talked about how we have sometimes participated in mission trips that simply met practical needs. We also talked about how rendering medical care to the needy is meeting a practical need which serves the Gospel.
Lastly, we talked about how living out the Gospel starts with receiving the Gospel. To demonstrate that we discussed how this story affected the lawyer who asked Jesus the questions. It was mentioned that Jesus turns the lawyer’s question around 180 degrees. Jesus makes the man reflect on how it would be to be the beaten man. Instead of asking who do I need to be a neighbor to, Jesus asks who would you want to be your neighbor if you were lying in the road? The answer, of course, is everyone. This hopefully gives us inspiration as we daily meet the needs of the uninsured and indigent.