How Should Christians Feel About Healthcare Reform?

There’s a national debate going-on about healthcare reform, and the battle is at a fever pitch. Today’s The New York Times reports that the President Obama’s proposal is losing support with Americans who fear that reform will cause costs to rise and care to diminish in quality.

One item that is not often reported is the way in which reform could affect social policy. There is a group of pro-life Democrats, for instance, who have said they will oppose any bill that requires abortions to be financed by the American taxpayer. Russell Moore had a fascinating discussion on this very topic last week on “The Albert Mohler Program,” and I highly recommend that you listen to it. He asks how Christians should react to healthcare reform in light of pro-life concerns. You can download it here or press the play button below.

[audio:http://www.sbts.edu/media/audio/totl/2009/AMP_07_23_2009.mp3]

36 Responses to How Should Christians Feel About Healthcare Reform?

  1. Michael Bid July 30, 2009 at 6:55 am #

    Denny,
    I admit that I haven’t listened to AM programme. But …

    1. Every western democracy from Norway to New Zealand has universal health care for its citizens … except for the wealthiest nation on earth.
    2. The Christian thing to do is to provide health care for the 48 million Americans who don’t have it.
    3. This is a choice between the Sermon on the Mount (care for the poor) and Charles Darwin (survival of the fittest and every man for himself).

    BTW, loved your Letterman episode!

  2. Nathan July 30, 2009 at 8:43 am #

    Michael,

    1. There are not 48 million “Americans” without Health Insurance. That number includes all immigrants, legal and illegal. So, are we obligated to provide health coverage for anyone that enters our country? Also, why should you be forced to buy health insurance if you don’t want it. Most twenty-something males don’t use health-care, or very little of it.

    2. This country revolted from England to be separate and not like all the European countries. Massive amounts of immigrants throughout the years have desired to come here from those European countries. If there health-care is so great, why aren’t people flocking to immigrate there today?

    3. If you look at the history of health-care in this country, you should not connect your last point with Christians. Why do you think the overwhelming majority of hospitals in this country are called “baptist”, “St. ???”, “methodist”, or “jewish”. The government is not Christian. The government (especially those you lauded in your first point) also provides abortion and euthanasia for their patients in Europe.

    Let’s take your logic further. The government should provide housing for every person in the country. The government should provide transportation for every person in the country. The government should provide food for every person in the country. Etc. Etc.

    Should churches be doing more to minister to the poor. Absolutely!

    Should America free-fall into letting the government do everything. I pray not. Because the government has never proved to have the best interests of the poor in mind. Don’t forget the rich and powerful are the ones drawing up these plans. The same rich and powerful that bail out their rich and powerful buddies.

  3. Darius T July 30, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    Theodore Dalrymple had an excellent article on this topic in the Wall Street Journal this week: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203517304574306170677645070.html

    Also, Michael, check out Doug Wilson’s blog. He has some very enlightened and Christian things to say about the evils (and I do mean evils) of universal health care. http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp

  4. Darius T July 30, 2009 at 9:39 am #

    Hmm, I got moderated…

    Theodore Dalrymple had an excellent article on this topic in the Wall Street Journal this week: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203517304574306170677645070

  5. Darius T July 30, 2009 at 9:40 am #

    Also, Michael, check out Doug Wilson’s blog. He has some very enlightened and Christian things to say about the evils (and I do mean evils) of universal health care. http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp

  6. Charlie Albright July 30, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    Micheal,

    the problem with your arguments is that you are creating a false list of options. You are saying that there are only two options we must choose from: 1. support Universal Health care or 2. disregard the poor. Why can’t I choose an options that is neither of those? why can’t I be for health care reform that does not put health insurance in the control of the government? The burden is on you to show that Universal Healthcare is superior to all other options.

  7. Another Nathan July 30, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    Let me preface this by saying I am ignorant as to the politics of the healthcare reform, this is more in response to another issue that was brought up in this thread.

    As the husband of a bilingual first grade teacher, the topic of immigration hits close to home. The majority of her students are illegal, and what so many people in the debate fail to remember is that we are talking about people here. Not numbers, not an ambiguous “they,” but 7 year-old Richard and his 2 year-old sister, and 8 year-old Jaffette who had to swim across a river in the middle of the night at the age of 6. These are people, don’t dehumanize them by lumping them into the “48 million ‘Americans’ without health insurance” and label them them pejoratively as immigrants-legal and illegal.

    Also, all over the OT God tells Israel to take care of three types of people: the orphan, the widow, and the sojourner, so it seems like yes, we should take care of everyone who enters our country- or at least try to. There is the argument that these people are here illegally, and I believe they should abide by the laws of the government that God has set up if at all possible. However, 99% of the time this is not the case. Keep in mind corruption runs deep in the governments of many of the Central American countries and that these illegal immigrants are denied proper documentation time after time.

    So when it comes to health care, I’m stoked to be able help Richard have proper medical attention when he’s sick, and that Jaffette can have a metal crowns put on the rotted out molars he has in his mouth. I might be ignorant, idealistic, or both, but I’d rather help out when I can rather than gripe about not having enough money to have cable because I am paying more in taxes (see preface).

  8. Rick Mang July 30, 2009 at 12:38 pm #

    Should Christians be concerned with what they “feel” or what God’s word says? And what does God’s word say about healthcare anyway? Do the passages of scripture which speak generally of treatment of our neighbors, inform us on what we are to do with specific issues? I’m just asking.

  9. Darius T July 30, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    As wise Christian philosophers have pointed out, health care is a positive right as opposed to a negative one. A positive right is something that someone else has to provide for you. A negative right is something that one cannot take away from you. It is interesting to note that our country is founded on negative rights, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No one is allowed by the government to intrude on your negative rights. You have a right to life, and no one has the right to kill you (without moral cause). You have a right to liberty, so no one can enslave you. You have the right to PURSUE happiness (as opposed to a right TO happiness).

    No one has the right to three square meals a day or a right to chemo treatment. If they are rights, then the government has to provide them by means of coercion at the end of a gun.

    The Gospel is about freedom and willingly giving to the poor, not forcing others to provide for the poor.

  10. Scott July 30, 2009 at 1:30 pm #

    Such a loving and heart-warming reception for the poor on this blog!

    Let the poor bums help themselves & heaven forbid I dip into my wallet to do so! And by all means, use every conceivable rationalization to keep it that way.

  11. Nathan July 30, 2009 at 2:00 pm #

    Scott,

    I don’t believe that it has been stated yet in the comments that any individual should be prohibited from helping the poor. You show your ignorance of the history of this country and the history of medical care by assuming that the government must be the agent of assisting the poor. The proof of history is that individuals, churches and synagogues have far surpassed the government in providing and assisting for the poor.

    Johnson’s Great Society has already been proven by history to be one of the worst entitlements for the poor and underprivileged. Medicare and Medicaid (government run) is in shambles and yet the government now believes it can operate the entirety of health care. Please!

    I would dare say that those of us who oppose the government takeover of health care have more concern for the poor, the helpless (aborted), and the elderly.

    If the govermnet wants to help us in the healthcare arena, how about starting with Tort Reform. An Anesthelogist has to spend 200,000 on malpractice before ever putting a dime in his pocket.

  12. Brian July 30, 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    Scott,

    Perhaps we should just include a blank on tax returns where people can voluntarily pay higher taxes to fund the healthcare program if they think it is such a good idea. How many people do you think would do that? Would you?

  13. Darius T July 30, 2009 at 2:55 pm #

    I would dare say that those of us who oppose the government takeover of health care have more concern for the poor, the helpless (aborted), and the elderly.”

    Amen to that. If you hate the poor, support welfare and universal health care.

  14. Brandon July 31, 2009 at 3:05 pm #

    Everyone:

    First off, lets get our facts straight. At this point “universal” health care is being seriously considered. Has anyone actually payed attention to what Obama and others are proposing?

    Second, Nathan, you are Christian ethic is too individualistic, compartmentalized and simplistic. Christians should be in the business of promoting justice and caring for the poor in “all” areas of their lives–at home, church, at work, in missions and even in their politics.

    Its sad when unbelievers seem to care for the poor, hurting, immigrants, and illegal aliens than some believers do…

  15. Brandon July 31, 2009 at 3:06 pm #

    Revision: I second sentence should read: universal health care is NOT being seriously considered.

  16. paul July 31, 2009 at 3:53 pm #

    “Amen to that. If you hate the poor, support welfare and universal health care.”

    If you’re big on harsh generalizations that don’t hold water in real life, spout Glenn Beck’s talking points.

    You’re better than that Darius.

    I can think of plenty of “welfare” programs that do a lot of good. (state subsidized day care being one of them — and before you utter a word, don’t talk until you’re paying NYC, LA, SF or Chicago prices for goods, services and housing)

    And here’s another idea to think about — why has the rest of the world surpassed us in the manufacturing biz? Because while our businesses are going bankrupt providing health care for their workers, Japanese companies don’t have to pay those premiums. Thusly, more money gets spent on R&D and things can STILL be done cheaper and better than they can in America.

    I agree that single payer is probably not the best set up. But about the only thing worse is for profit medical insurance. Germany and Switzerland have it right.

  17. Larry S July 31, 2009 at 5:44 pm #

    Here’s a Canadian perspective.

    The Canadian system is by no means perfect. but…. about 25 or so years ago, i pastored a church in the USA. I sat with folk who couldn’t afford health insurance. I remember a young family with young children who hoped their active children wouldn’t break an arm or get sick cause they had no way to pay for their medical expenses. I remember similar situations.

    As a Canadian, unfamiliar with the US system I was shocked that people who were struggling already financially were only an accident away from catastrophy.

    I’m not an expert on the Cdn system by any means. When it comes to the abuses in the system i hear about its the unionized nurses who ‘work’ the system so they end up working over-time hours on holidays and raking in mega bucks.

  18. Paula July 31, 2009 at 7:53 pm #

    But where is the biblical mandate that the government confiscate money from one group of people to pay for health care for another group of people? And that Christians should actively, aggressively pursue such a mandate as the only compassionate Christian response to the health care problem?

    FWIW, there are thousands of free or low-cost clinics in the U.S. I live in a small rural community in Ohio and there are no less than 4 within 30 miles of my home. My mother-in-law went to one when she CHOSE to retire before she was eligible for Medicare and CHOSE to be uninsured for 2 years. She was charged a small co-pay on a sliding scale based on her income. She liked the clinic so much she still goes there even though she now qualifies for Medicare and has many more options.

    What we need is reform, not government takeover. In addition, we need tort reform so Christian physicians and clinics can serve the poor without having to carry a bazillion dollars worth of malpractice insurance. The government is a poor substitute for compassionate Christians with a gospel-centered approach to health care.

  19. Lindsey August 3, 2009 at 8:27 am #

    To be honest, it is the Church’s failure to pick up the slack in caring for the poor, sick, and downtrodden that has lead many of us to turn to the government. I agree that it’s the Church’s job to care for people, but the Church seems more interested in opposing the government’s efforts to do so than actually extending care.

    Perhaps instead of spending our time trying to figure out a biblical perspective on universal health care we should be devoting that time tending to the sick and needy. We say we are fighting on behalf of our brothers and sisters, but how many of us will give our resources and ourselves to those we say we represent?

  20. jamie August 3, 2009 at 1:19 pm #

    i’m sorry, he said that some feel like its our Christian obligation to provide health care?!?! All this health care would be is a piece of paper. He’s right when, the old man wouldn’t get a hip replacement. Washington would be telling us what was important to cover. Heart surgeries that are preventing someone dieing of a heart attack would not likely be covered. They are going to tell us it important to keep someone alive once there is a problem, and that you aren’t important to take care of once you are so old. That will also cause more unemployment due to the lack of hospitals being full. this effects us here a little to close to home, and i’m sorry i can’t be for anything that could effect my husband, mother in law and both sister in laws jobs. and on the other side, that effects family members well being. they can’t tell me that my precious grandfather isn’t worth saving b/c he’s to old.

  21. Brian Krieger August 3, 2009 at 10:11 pm #

    Interesting link:
    http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba649#_edn9

    Paul:

    You’re kidding if you think that the manufacturing demise in the US is due to healthcare. It’s due to a lot of things, but they were in place long before health care became problematic. Maybe a final straw so to speak.

  22. Brian Krieger August 3, 2009 at 11:36 pm #

    My personal feeling about Government health care is that it’s thieving, debt-producing and (as Lindsay pointed out), results in a continued reliance on someone else to do my caring for me. But as for the socialized health care versus fee for service, an interesting note that I hear. In one country, it’s weeks for an MRI but for pets, you can pay to have it done the next day. Funny and very sad (more that there is actually a high enough demand for the latter).

  23. Lindsey August 4, 2009 at 7:34 am #

    My point, though, wasn’t that government health care results in a continued reliance on someone else to do my caring for me. It was that because the Church is doing a poor job of it, it’s natural that people have turned to the government.

    Furthermore, I’m dismayed to see references to our government encouraging the deaths of the elderly and the phrase “in one country” because these are not real facts on which we can build an idea. They’re hearsay at best, and we do a disservice to any cause when we won’t take the time to find out the truth of an issue. There are enough flaws in the idea of universal heath care that we don’t have to approach it with an attitude of fear fueled by rumors.

  24. Brian Krieger August 4, 2009 at 10:00 am #

    Well, I was trying mostly to avoid appearing as one of the many that decry the great health care plan to the north, but since you query, the source was the 20/20 report. It cited Canadian vets giving a 24-hour turn around on MRI’s for pets.

    I didn’t cite anything about dying, but if you wanted stats on death, here are a few (related to healthcare):
    * – Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany, 9% higher in Canada than in the United States, and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom. Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the U.K. and 457 percent higher in Norway, 184% higher in Canada. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher. (Concord Working Group, U.S. Cancer Statistics, National Program of Cancer Registries, U.S. Centers for Disease Control; Canadian Cancer Society/National Cancer Institute of Canada)

    Or preventative (June O’Neill and Dave M. O’Neill, “Health Status, Health Care and Inequality: Canada vs. the U.S.”):
    Nine of 10 middle-aged American women (89 percent) have had a mammogram, compared to less than three-fourths of Canadians (72 percent).
    Nearly all American women (96 percent) have had a pap smear, compared to less than 90 percent of Canadians.
    More than half of American men (54 percent) have had a PSA test, compared to less than 1 in 6 Canadians (16 percent).
    Nearly one-third of Americans (30 percent) have had a colonoscopy, compared with less than 1 in 20 Canadians (5 percent).

    The MRI wait time is a microcosm of the challenges with socialized medicine. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, they don’t have time to wait for 6 months to get an MRI to confirm it.

    I agree that many church goers failed (you definitely have that pegged). I would say, though, that is not a failure of the Church. Most churches here have a very strong benevolence ministry (or several). The couple of Christians I know who are doctors do the free clinic work (my sampling is 2 and both do, so in my study, 100% of Christian doctors give of their time ;-). We send medical mission trips as well (though those are abroad, not local in the absence of a Katrina). The challenge is people to actually put in the effort for it (and, as a sidebar, the fact that many don’t want anything to do with “church” at all). The culture has saturated the church in that manner. Why should I go and help, there’s welfare and assistance programs and childcare available…….etc. Why go help when we can throw money (especially when most of it is someone else’s money). Socialized healthcare just reinforces the idea that it’s OK, someone else will take care of this problem for me. It is not a dichotomy to be against the currently proposed socialized healthcare and continue helping the less fortunate.

  25. Lindsey August 4, 2009 at 12:10 pm #

    Thanks for the stats, Brian! They definitely help me as I formulate my own thoughts. Do you know if research indicates a causal relationship between health care provision in the countries you listed and the incidence of diseases? Are there any other possibly influential factors (lifestyle, for example)?

    Japan also utilizes universal health care and sees an incidence of breast cancer in 8.6 per 100,000 females while the U.S. sees 21.2 per 100,000 females. Additionally, our country sees 106.5 heart disease deaths per 100,000 people while in Japan the numbers are 30 per 100,000 people (nationmaster.com). I’m not saying that Japan is better of due to its health care system; just pointing out that there are more factors determining these numbers than health care.

    I also think that we tread on dangerous ground when we would more readily ask what the culture is doing to push the Church away than what the Church is doing to push the culture away!

  26. Josh November 29, 2009 at 2:50 am #

    The Christians who are opposing health care reform for “Christian” reasons are doing one thing and one thing alone: conflating being Christian with being a conservative Republican. There are no biblical reasons to not support health care reform, whether it be universal single payer or not. There is no sound Christian argument against the government raising taxes for health care; remember what Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar…” In fact, there is no sound argument against the government paying for health care with tax dollars if you support any of the following: public education, public parks, public libraries, public services (EMT, police, fire), public water works, etc. These are all paid for by tax dollars. I see public education as especially analogous in this case.

    And the argument that charities and churches would do a better job than the government paying for health care is dubious. If they would they already would be. The health care crisis is not a new thing. Plus there is no way to ensure all people would be covered under any kind of voluntary system of that type.

  27. Josh November 29, 2009 at 2:56 am #

    Why do people think that government paid health care is anything close to stealing? If this is the case, then you should think that all taxes are cases of stealing. But surely you don’t. Inevitably most people who make comments like that send their children to public schools (or go/went to one themselves), utilize public parks, services, roads, etc. The argument simply leads to an absurdity.

  28. Darius T November 30, 2009 at 11:52 am #

    Josh, I would recommend doing some reading on the subject… and I don’t mean books by Michael Moore or some leftist imbecile. It’s difficult to know where to start when you clearly don’t have any grasp of a Christian worldview. Probably start with negative versus positive rights…

  29. Josh December 1, 2009 at 1:05 am #

    Darius, I’m still not sure how the distinction between positive and negative rights would make any difference in this case. I would argue that there are plenty of things that would be considered positive rights in our society that you probably fully support. As I stated before, public education seems to me to be the most analogous to a public health payment plan. Education was once thought of as a privilege of monetary status, only the children of the wealthy could receive it. But now that is viewed as archaic in our society. Here is why I don’t think the positive/negative rights distinction does much. It seems clear to me that education (which surely fits the criteria of a positive right) could be thought of as a transcendental condition upon which the negative rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness rest upon. We view education as a necessary condition for people to have the maximum potential to live in accordance with these unalienable rights. So, with that view, we decided that it was beneficial for the individual (as well as society as a whole) to provide an public option in education. I view health care in a similar fashion. Decent health care (which you consider a positive right) seems to me to be a necessary condition upon which the negative rights can obtain. So the distinction between positive and negative may not do what you want it to do if a positive right is a necessary condition for the government’s protection of negative rights.

    Also, I’m not sure if you are assuming that I don’t have a grasp on a Christian worldview, but nevertheless; it seems readily apparent that a Christian worldview would entail the qualities of compassion and altruism. These two qualities are invisible in the conservative push to stop health care reform at all cost.

  30. Darius T December 1, 2009 at 12:56 pm #

    If someone needs health care, someone else has to provide it. So if someone has a right to health care, the government MUST force someone else to provide it. Thus, such a right is inherently anti-freedom and pro-tyranny.

    I don’t think there should be such a thing as public education, though at least in that case it benefits all people who choose to take advantage of it. There should be freedom to choose not to be part of public education and use one’s tax dollars privately (school vouchers, for example).

  31. Josh December 1, 2009 at 2:35 pm #

    I’m not sure that your argument in your first paragraph follows. I agree that (1) if someone has a right to health care then (2) someone else has a duty to provide that health care. That is simply the logical relationship of rights and duties. I would argue, though, that your conclusion does not follow from those two premises. It seems, rather, that the government itself has a duty to provide health care. This is especially true given the framework of the government’s essential role in protecting our rights (which I argue includes the necessary conditions of those rights). I understand that this still entails other individual’s tax dollars going towards this. However, a portion of your tax dollars paying for other’s health care and you “providing” health care for other’s are two very different things; there is a critical distinction between the two.

    Ultimately it seems that we just have two very different views on the matter. I find that a view, such as the one you have laid out, in the end still assumes that things such as health care and education are to be thought of as privileges of monetary status, which I believe leads to absurdities. It seems that we just have different philosophical assumptions going into the debate.

  32. Darius T December 1, 2009 at 4:57 pm #

    I want people to have more freedom, not more “rights.” That’s a Christian worldview. What you seem to want is more rights rather than more freedom. That isn’t a Christian worldview, at least, not a Biblical one. Rights lead to a sense of entitlement, which leads to the demise of a society. See Britain for just how well that’s going for them…

    The problem here is that the health care reform currently in the Senate will not reform anything. Instead, it will drive up prices and make it very difficult for people to get quality care (particularly if you’re old or terminally ill). What we need is for people to recognize the real problems in the current system rather than some imaginary ones and work to fix those real ones. This Democrat seems to have a good grasp of the problems: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200909/health-care

  33. Darius T December 2, 2009 at 12:43 pm #

    Josh, I don’t see it as right or Biblical to force others to pay for my hospital bills. Jesus wants cheerful givers, not cheerful takers. What you’re promoting, unwittingly I presume, is a sense of entitlement based on greed, envy, and covetousness.

    What the government needs to do is get completely out of the health care industry, not take it over. Private charities will ALWAYS do a much better and much more efficient job of taking care of the poor and sick than the State. If history has taught us anything, it is that fact.

  34. Josh December 2, 2009 at 4:38 pm #

    First, there is an equivocation on the word ‘freedom’ in your first comment. Just because the Bible supports an idea of freedom does not mean that it supports the idea of freedom you are supposing. The biblical notion of freedom is liberation from sin and ultimately all of its effects. We are freed from sin unto righteousness. The Bible in no way implies the notion of freedom consisting in autonomy to do whatever one pleases, neither does it imply freedom from government interference. Also, you are arguing on the basis of a slippery slope. You assert that making health care as a right will give a sense of entitlement which will lead to a demise of society. This is simply unfounded. I’m not sure how you arrive at such a conclusion.

    The argument in your second premise is ultimately predicated upon the assumed idea that health care is a privilege of monetary status. Any argument with that idea as an implicit premise I will simply reject because it leads to the absurdity that it ought to be the case that a person should die if they don’t have enough money. Also, if private charities will always do a better job, then why are we in our current situation? Where have these charities been while the private insurance companies have been raping people? Where have the churches been while private business, not the government, has been exploiting people into bankruptcy? The current system is the one predicated on greed, not the one I endorse. Sure, it’s nothing but greed that motivates people to want access to health care. It’s the greed in their hearts that drives them to want government intervention so they don’t fall into bankruptcy over medical bills. That is simply absurd.

  35. Josh December 2, 2009 at 4:50 pm #

    As I said before Darius, we simply have different philosophical assumptions, so we will never agree on this issue because of that. That’s okay though I suppose, at least we have the freedom to do so.

  36. Darius T December 2, 2009 at 10:43 pm #

    Josh, as I said before, I’d advise you to do some reading. Try anything by Thomas Sowell, for a start. Or Jay Richards’ Money, Greed, and God book. For what your leftist ideas have wrought in the UK, read Doctor Theodore Dalrymple’s firsthand accounts in his books of essays… start with Life at the Bottom and then check out Our Culture, What’s Left of It. Those books will get you a long ways to correcting your philosophical assumptions, if you’re willing to have them changed. You are correct, our assumptions make our worldviews. And you have some pretty false ones. I hope the reading I’ve mentioned above comes in handy. Take care.

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