According to the local paper this morning it seems that the nation is rather evenly divided over the proposed efforts of the current administration to institute reforms to the national health care system, making health care insurance pretty close to universally available and subsidized for those who are unable to afford it themselves.
In the paper today there was also an article about how the Catholic Church identifies that universal health care is a moral issue.
What ARE we to think about the topic?
Actually, having lived in Canada for 10 years, I am very partial to good national health care. It was a great blessing in so many ways. Sure there were problems. But on the whole, I think the problems were much less than what we have here in the US.
But I think it is important to think on the issue closely, and I am not so sure that what is possible in Canada is so possible here in this country. We certainly couldn’t just copy the Canadian system and expect it to work in the same way here in the US, a country almost 10 times the size.
The Catholic Church is quite bold in its assessment that national health care is a moral issue, but you will notice not many other churches making such statements, including our LCMS. The fact is that there is just not any kind of “scripture” that we can stand on to make any categorical judgments concerning a national health care policy.
BUT WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
Some people (these are often folks who would decry what Jesus says most of the time) are quick to argue that certainly Jesus would have compassion on those who are sick and would certainly help them pay for their medical care.
Yes, it is true that Jesus would want everyone to be healed. But does that actually mean that he would somehow advocate government health care as a solution?
If you actually read the scripture’s account of Jesus dealing with the sick, what was it that he did? He did not advocate government programs, etc. Jesus did the one thing that all Christians are called to do: Respond out of love and PERSONALLY and individually help and tend to the sick. I suppose this is a good principle, but a bit impractical in our modern age with a hospital visit costing thousands of dollars. How DO we live out our Christian lives here in the 21st century? Can it be that a national health care program could still be a “personal” endeavor of faith?
The thing that I suppose bothers me the most about the idea of a national health care program, and government programs to help the poor in general, is that they take away from actually living out the Christian ministry of mercy. If someone is sick or in trouble it is so easy for us as Christians (and generally speaking, the nation, Christian or otherwise) to simply “call on the government”. I don’t need to do anything! And if I get in trouble or am lazy, well, it doesn’t matter because the government will help me out. It solves a lot of our “problems” without any pain or suffering on our part (especially when we can just deficit spend and make our children pay for everything.) In the end all responsibility passes from the individual to the government. This is a bad thing!
Anyway, the fact is that there probably is no good answer to our health care problems. I suppose you could say that it is one of the “good” problems to have. If we were living in the previous century there basically wasn’t any health care except for fake potions and a rope in your mouth while the “doc” sawed your infected leg off. Is the present health system in need of reform? Yes! Perhaps it would be a fine thing (thinking of it in the most positive way) if this nation chose to be generous to those who are the most in need and who have the fewest resources to finance even basic health care. But what are the costs? And are we really ready to pay for them? I am not sure that we are prepared to face the reality. I am afraid that President Obama is not being honest about the costs. The problem with health care is that the needs are almost infinite – but the resources are finite. There are extremely complex issues and balancing acts that need to be executed in just the right manner.
I suppose the other issue I have problems with is the idea that universal health care is a basic human right. That is a very revolutionary idea – one that would have been shocking to the founding fathers of our country. Scripturally there really is no support for such an understanding. As with so many of the things we have in this world, health care is not a right, it is a PRIVILEGE! It is a PRECIOUS GIFT.
Finally, as Christians, we realize that in the end, as good as health care is for us, none of it will in the end save us from our sleep of death. We as Christians are to have our hope firmly set not on doctors and nurses and chemotherapy, but on Jesus and the final healing at the Resurrection of all Flesh! UNTIL then, we are to be all about the caring for and loving of all who are sick and poor – and doing it so that Christ is glorified in everything!
May God give us wisdom and fortitude as we struggle to find the best way to deal with this very pressing problem – to everyone’s benefit!