Thursday, July 30, 2009

Health Care: What Would Jesus, Paul, or Teddy Do?

I’ve been following some of the current health care reform news lately. One of the more helpful pieces is a New York Times editorial, "Health Care Reform and You." Here is the site:

The author notes that “The reforms would help the poorest of the uninsured by expanding Medicaid… Some middle-class Americans … would get subsidies to help them buy coverage through new health insurance exchanges…” The plan would also help the underinsured through health insurance exchanges that would begin in 2013. Additionally, the plan would help people who lose health insurance when they lose of change jobs.

An aim of the plan is to reduce health care costs, which are raising in part because “the system … pays doctors and hospitals for each service they perform, thus providing a financial incentive to order excessive tests or treatments.”

A major problem with the plan is $1 trillion needed to help uninsured Americans, which would presumably be funded through taxes on wealthier families. Another problem is choice: what if you want a more expensive treatment and the system refuses (as in the case of a Kentucky woman, back in the 1990s, who, if I remember the case correctly, was approved for a lumpectomy but she wanted a mastectomy).

Yet another problem, according to the NY Times piece, is that the reform plan may threaten Medicare Advantage plans which help many people (including my elderly mother). Yet traditional Medicare may still cover people’s costs.

Conservative commentators worry that the “nationalizing” of health care will simply add a new layer of problems to the existing system, since who will manage such a large scale government program? Will doctors and hospitals continue to provide good services if their payments are reduced? Does anything in the system address the problem of malpractice lawsuits and doctors’ need for expensive malpractice insurance. See for instance Dennis Prager’s comments at

In addition, a CNN Money report listed several freedoms that would be lost in reform: freedom to choose the content of your health-care plan, freedom to choose high-deductible coverage, freedom to be rewarded for your healthy lifestyle, freedom to keep your existing plan, and freedom to choose your doctors.

Needless to say, Jesus was interested in people’s health! During the Middle Ages, until the 16th century, hospitals were church-sponsored and -operated facilities. In our own time, the way Christians fall on health-care issues is closely related to their political options: whether freedom of health-care choice is more beneficial in the long run, whether government regulation is appropriately introduced in order to address a social concern, and so on. Although I haven’t surveyed all or even most of the media discussion on this issue, I think it’s interesting that GOP President Theodore Roosevelt was certainly an advocate of appropriate government regulation for the sake of the public good. But his progressivist example is less frequently heard these days among the GOP than “government is the problem” rhetoric.*

Interestingly, I found a website for “Christian Healthcare Ministries” based on people sharing one another’s medical costs, based upon the mandate of Galatians 6:2! See
Would Jesus and Paul favor such a program, or a large government program aimed at the common good (remember that Paul was not anti-taxation and anti-government: Romans 13:6-7), or some other solution?

* Later that same day I found this essay from a progressivist point of view:

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