To the Editor: As family physicians, we were dismayed to read recent comments from Rep. Roger Marshall when he was 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 toward 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 1st Congressional District residents fit into his characterization of the poor?
Enrollees in the health care marketplace: 19,300. Of those, 16,200 have premium tax credits and 12,100 have cost-sharing reduction.
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).
Family physician care daily for low-income, underinsured Medicaid recipients and the uninsured. 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, M.D., President Kansas Academy Of Family Physicians Plainville