Health Care Debate

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!

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4 thoughts on “Health Care Debate

  1. Explain just a bit more Marcia… I am not SURE I understand you… Although there might be a “sense” that denying health care to some because they don’t have money or a job is the same as disallowing a person from a bathroom on the basis of skin color, but I don’t think in the end the parallels hold up. But I think the Christian heart might argue that providing health care is just the most loving and caring thing to do.

    And by the way, I personally am willing to pay the price for national health care (with higher taxes), but I don’t think the NATION is willing to pay it!

  2. I have worked in healthcare on both coasts. A Dartmouth the doctors were on salery! Yes, at the time they made 200,000$ and that was if they were in surgery or medicine. They were happy with that and were able to take the vacations they wanted and have all the toys they wanted. They had better work hours and actually saw you on time in the office. I see nothing wrong with putting a cap on saleries and also on law suits. That will really help make more money available for healthcare. Also when I worked in Alaska I got to see the workings of Indian Healthcare. I wanted to be an Indian! They had a great plan for prevenitive care and many illnesses were picked up before they became problems. It is much less expensive to treat an illness in the early stages before it gets out of control. The family was expected to do a lot for the patient and was given the time and training to do home care. They had the culture to take care of their own. We seem to expect the government to take all responcibility for care. I see it many times in the hospital where family keeps saying “What can you do for us?” and not enough of “What can you teach me to do so I can care for my loved one”. I have seen families ask to have elder diapers and food supplements given to them free of charge. The government should not be expected to feed and cloth too. I would pay the price for a plan like the Indian Healthcare plan.

  3. Perhaps the U.S. “culture” to take care of their own is sort of one-removed= as in, taxes going to the gov’t to take care of us/them. The gov’t is, after all, US, technically. And, given how fractured families seem to have become, I can well imagine elders not having the $$ for “diapers” & food supplements. I find myself getting close to that situation = with just enough income to pay for rent/utilities, etc. but not quite enough for certain needs; just enough to not qualify for “medical access” but not enough to pay for the medical care I need. And, why aren’t those supplements covered by any insurance if doctor-ordered & necessary for nutrition? That wouldn’t help me, since I have no insurance (not a choice, except between food/living expenses, nothing left for the large premium required). This is really a dilemma.

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