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Islamic and Muslim Perspectives on Medical Care to the Uninsured

By Dr. Jukaku Tayeb of Detroit’s Huda Clinic

According to recent estimates, while 47 million citizens are uninsured, we spend a total of two trillion dollars annually on health care. Expenditure is approximately seven thousand dollars yearly per capita, and constitutes sixteen percent of the Gross domestic product. Although we spend more than most developed countries on health care, we continue to remain deficient in overall access to medical care. In addition, relatively poor health indices further support the condition of our medical system.  

As a global leader, our country is beginning to recognize the imperative of addressing our condition. Most involved find it difficult to comprehend why we have failed to provide care to so many while still spending the amount of money we do. The moral imperative of providing solutions for the general populous is now being actualized in the Huda Clinic.

As a leading voice for good in the world, we should be at the forefront of providing basic health care for all citizens. With the benefits that our society offers, we should consider a system that proclaims health care as a human right. The unfounded implication of a “communist take over” or “socialist system,” has prevented our society from even considering ideas and projects, from well-meaning citizens, to address our condition. We must ground ourselves in our common goal of undertaking society’s responsibility in providing health care to those with limited access. 

Here are some facts.

National Health Expenditures (NHE), Aggregate and Share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 1960-2017

Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and U.S. Department of Commerce.

Recent Census Bureau data demonstrates that the condition of the uninsured continued in 2006. According to figures released in August 2007, 47 million people — 15.8 percent of the total U.S. population — were uninsured in 2006, up slightly from 15.3 percent in the previous year. In addition, nearly twenty percent of uninsured Americans – 8.7 million individuals – are children.

Condition of the uninsured is not exclusive to any particular race nor confined to the poor. 46% of the uninsured have an income level 200% above of the poverty level.

Over six in ten (60.4 percent) of all uninsured working adults are employed full-time.

Broad strategies proposed to fix the system.

The problem clearly affects all segments of the society, both wealthy and poor. Any attempt to curtail the growing problem must be comprehensive.

The American Medical Association, which represents a large segment of physicians has proposed a broad perspective to overhaul the system and bring in much needed reform. This will hopefully allow broader coverage while reducing cost ensuring that total expenditure does not increase. The following are excerpts from AMA’s recommendation:

1. Reduce the burden of preventable disease. Reduce risk factors for disease and prevent the onset of chronic illnes
2. Make health care delivery more efficient.
3. Reduce nonclinical health system costs that do not contribute to patient care.
4. Promote value-based decision-making at all levels.

Drug therapies, insurers designing health plan features, and Legislators determining public health budgets or mandated Coverage of particular benefits.

Given the aforementioned, Muslims who believe in the sharing of wealth as a guiding mandate from God, have a responsibity towards fellow humans. Given the scope of the problem, we must utilize a plan that incorporates multiple strategies. Legislation will be a key factor in the process. The financial demand of providing care to all will no doubt be great. Reaching out and involving others with like-minded values will be important in accomplishing these goals. The first priority is to establish the common understanding that accepts basic health care accessibility as a human right that cannot be compromised. Once such a value judgment is established, the details of how this is implemented can then be addressed.

In the meantime Muslims should continue providing medical care to the needy no mater how trivial. Getting involved, and learning first hand the pain others go through, will allow us to empathize with those in need. Muslims have been doing this for centuries through trusts called waqfs. These waqfs built hospitals and clinics that served all, irrespective of religion, social class, citizenship and residence.

Serving the Detroit area, Huda Clinic is part of a growing trend by Muslims. Furthering the purpose of fulfilling God’s mandate, we will continue being merciful and compassionate to our fellow humans. Sharing wealth is at the core of this process even if has become a socially unacceptable especially in political circles.

The experience of seeing the small clinic in its thread-bare existence, serving the poor and in the process bringing different Muslim communities together is truly inspirational. Working for a common cause in conjunction with medical students from Wayne State, the University of Michigan, and other colleges regardless of race and religions is moving.

Muslims should visit such places and projects to be inspired and to see how small deeds are important to us to learn great lessons. Simple acts bring people together and  help each of us in obeying God’s command.

Islamic Shura Council, Muslim Physicians of Greater Detroit and Islamic Association of Greater Detroit have been very supportive of this project. It is my hope that other communities and organizations will get involved as well.

J.Tayeb, MD
Vice Chair , Board of Directors HUDA Clinic


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