Evangelicals and Health Care (Updated)

I have to confess to always being perplexed not only by American opposition to universal healthcare, but to opposition to universal healthcare by evangelicals on purportedly theological grounds. I was simultaneously amused and confused by the image on TV of two pastors prostrating themselves before the Supreme Court and praying that Obamacare would be thrown out. Did they really think that God would be opposed to everyone in America having access to healthcare (even if legally required to purchase it)? I thought Jesus went around healing the sick, the blind, and the lame … for free? Didn’t Christians set up the first hospitals in the world? Has anyone heard of the Leprosy Mission and the work they do around the world without asking for a person’s insurance number? So the question is why the opposition to universal healthcare and why is the conservative evangelical constituency among the most vocal in opposition to it?

I have always lived in a country with universal healthcare, both in Australia and the United Kingdom, and though those systems have many flaws, they are eminently superior to a system where millions of citizens do not have access to healthcare because they cannot afford it or are discriminated against. I have been blessed with a good measure of health for the most part, but myself and my family have spasmodically relied on government provided health care to get us through serious injury and illness. I experienced first class care when I took ill with a bout of viral meningitis in the UK several years ago. My youngest daughter also receives very good assistance with hearing and learning difficulties through government programs in Australia. So I am a big supporter of universal healthcare.  Again, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than what people get in Africa and America.

I am also fairly well aware of the American system with HMOs, Medicare, Medicaid, and the furor surrounding Obamacare. I travel to America often, converse with Americans about healthcare whenever I can, and I’ve done some research with health professionals on the healthcare system in several countries. So I feel competent enough to offer some commentary on universal healthcare and the American evangelical objection to it.

Wayne Grudem’s book God and Politics speaks for many in its opposition to universal health care. I have a tremendous respect for Grudem (I once had breakfast with him at the Tyndale Fellowship) and I concur with his stances on same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and abortion, etc. However, it looks in many places like Grudem has already made his mind up on politics and seeks to give his political perspectives biblical sanction (see in particular the critique of Grudem’s theological method by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “The Voice and the Actor,” 62-63 in J. Stackhouse, Evangelical Futures). Grudem gives several reasons for rejecting universal healthcare.

1. Inefficiency. The absence of incentives from a competitive free market will lead to inefficient practices and,therefore, result in spiraling costs and reduction in services.  My response is that the free market is driven by profit and not by concern for its citizens’ welfare. Insurance providers make money by charging the maximum amount they can while providing the least service they can and by marketing themselves better than other insurance providers. But consider this: while it may be cheaper and more efficient to sub-contract out our border security, the liberation of Kuwait, and eliminating Al Qaeda terrorists to a mercenary organization of ex-US Marines, we don’t do that because we only trust an organization with accountability to the people to protect us from harm and to prosecute our strategic interests. I could give the same example with environmental protection, education, and banking regulation. The same applies to healthcare. We trust ourselves, i.e. the officials we elect, rather than CEOs, hedge funds, market forces and profit incentive to be the guardians of our standard of health and medical care. What is more, inefficiency can be curtailed if you have a health system that is heavily reviewed by independent agencies (i.e., an ombudsman) and if government control of healthcare is held accountable by a free media who report on waiting lists and funding levels and a good political opposition who aim to eliminate waste and provide better system than the current government.

2. Rationing. Grudem complains that a government funded health scheme will lead to a rationing of healthcare and government then decides who gets treated and who does not.  At a certain level this is true, but it is not called “rationing,” it is called “triage.” Every waiting room in every hospital has to prioritize on who needs the most urgent care based on the severity of the case and the resources available. The problem I have with Grudem’s model is that the delivery of health care is not determined by the person with the most critical need, but by the person who has the most money (or best policy). So Grudem is right at one point, America does have the best healthcare in the world … but only for those who can afford it, that’s the problem. This system encourages doctors to discriminate against persons on Medicare and Medicaid because it is less lucrative for them to treat them. The solution is not the abolishment of medicare and medicaid, but the integration of private and public health so doctors can work in both streams effectively without huge disparities in fees received – again, this happens in Australia quite well.

I would actually endorse some of Grudem’s approaches to the healthcare crsis such as tax credits for those who take out private insurance because it it encourages people to take out private health cover and thus takes the pressure off the public system, establish health insurance collectives to help people gain private insurance at discounted rates, capping medical liability insurance, and allowing people to purchase insurance from companies interstate. The question of treating people with a pre-existing condition is more complex and I confess that I simply need to think further about a solution esp. in respect to the American system. But not giving such people insurance or else forcing companies to insure them is certainly problematic on either account. But when Grudem says: “Some provision should be made to care for those who cannot truly afford medical insurance … some kind of fund that would enable the truly poor to obtain a basic health insurance policy,” I think he makes a noble concession, yet one that undermines the entire thesis for a strictly private approach to healthcare. A good private system that is regulated and competitive is indeed good, but it does not obviate the need to establish a safety net so that every citizen in our country has access to the best health care that can be provided, even if at government expense.

I should also point out that there is nothing biblical or even theological in Grudem’s arguments. It is a fairly standard GOP perspective on healthcare. But what if we were to bring Jesus into the healthcare debate, what would it look like? Well, I want to point out several things to my American friends about healthcare, government, and Christian faith:

1. Beware of The Cult of the Individual and the Idolatry of Greed. American and evangelical opposition to universal healthcare has nothing to do with the Bible or Theology, but is driven purely by a cultural and economic ideological bias; a bias (or at least a disposition) of which very few are even aware that they possess. The American emphasis on freedom, civil liberties, individualism, low taxes, laissez-faire economics, and small government has always predisposed them against too much government regulation and intervention in the life of the individual.So it goes: Why take my money and redistribute it to someone else who is too lazy to work? Tell’em to get a hair cut, a real job, and then get their own healthcare! I get the point, I enjoy freedom, I benefit from a free market, I don’t like taxes either, and I don’t want my country to turn into the next Eurozone catastrophe where there is low productivity and a culture of entitlement. But it seems to me that this emphasis on individual liberty is advocated at the expense of commitment to and compassion for our wider community. There is no mitigation of economic opportunity and no disparagement of individual responsibility to think of ourselves as socially responsible for each other, working in and for our wider society to achieve a collective good that we cannot otherwise achieve individually. What is more, the libertarian approach is really a form of social Darwinianism, namely, every man for himself and survival of the fittest. To an outsider looking in, the American mythology of freedom is the cult of the individual. The libertarian view of “leave me and my money alone” owes more to Darwin and Nietzsche than it does to Jesus or Moses. Our treasure is in heaven with our good deeds, not in the Bank of America. In Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan did not baulk at the cost of paying for the healing for the wounded stranger, an action that is irreconciliable with certain tenets of conservative American economics. So I don’t mind paying taxes, especially if it means that no child will ever go without needed medical attention, and to prevent any person from having to choose between financial ruin and seeking medical attention. The challenge I have for my American friends is to see their history and culture as things not to be baptized with Christianity, but to be weighed and measured against the biblical worldview and its ethical corollaries. American is a truly great nation (they saved Australia’s butt in WWII!). You guys have the best and worst of everything: great prosperity and great inequality; Chik-Fil-A and White Castle; Billy Graham and Benny Hinn, Jim Hamilton and Denny Burk (or is it Denny Burk and Jim Hamilton – I forget which one is the bad guy!), but it is not perfect as ya’ll know, and among its imperfections I think are the cult of the individual, a near-worship of economic prosperity, and a cultural inclination on reneging on moral obligations to anyone other than ourselves. The opposition to universal healthcare can only be given religious currency by either repeating the words of Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” or by quoting the apocryphal saying, “God helps those who help them themselves!” It has no traction in the Judeao-Christian ethic, nor in the teaching of Jesus, the instruction of Paul, and has no place in the testimony of the Christian tradition.

2. Varieties of Universal Healthcare. A big problem is that Americans simply do not understand universal healthcare (hence the talk of these “death panels,” which incidentally do not exist). Universal healthcare is not necessarily socialism since Australia is not a European socialist state, nor is New Zealand where much cost for public health care is still borne by the individual. Note also that there are a variety of models. The UK and Australian models are very different. In Australia we have a two tier system with public health and private health sectors. In fact, just today, I visited my step father in a public hospital where he was in intensive care suffering with a severe breathing condition, and was very well looked after. But I also booked a physio appointment for my daughter to be partially paid with private health cover. Yet in the UK there is virtually no private healthcare with only a few private hospitals. Governments subsidize health care and insurance to different extents depending on the country. In addition, not every country with universal healthcare provides government funded abortions. I know this is a major concern for American evangelicals, but government does not have to do this. In fact, in Australia, it was only very recently that government provided a partial refund on abortions and that may be reversed at our next federal election.

3. Christian Advocacy for Healthcare. Every western democracy from Norway to New Zealand has universal healthcare for its citizens except for the most prosperous nation on earth. Across the world this move to care for the sick has been driven by a Christian ethic of compassion and not by the pursuit of economic again. Now as any mission organization will tell you, there is no mission without margin, so you have to pay for it. But the purposes of taxation is not a re-distribution of wealth, but to do together what we cannot do individually, airports, defence, environment, education, commerce, etc. and to help the poor and the vulnerable. Universal health care is not a ponzi scheme any more than the USAF is a ponzi scheme. It is something that is needed and in the national interest of our citizens to have.

4. The Testimony of Americans Who Have Shifted Their Views. My good friend Dr. Jason Sexton, a recent graduate of St. Andrews University in Scotland, graduate also of the Masters Seminary in California, and current post-doc at Ridley Hall in Cambridge, England, told me of some of his experiences in Europe of universal healthcare. While in France doing a language course, his daughter Kara became critically ill with a cavernoma vascular malformation that had hemorrhaged on the left lobe of her brain. Jason told me:

When we were in Paris last summer, the leading pediatric neurosurgeon who performed my daughter’s emergency brain surgery, who trained under the leading neurosurgeon in Great Ormond Street, London, saw me editing my thesis beside my daughter’s bed in the Parisian ICU, and asked, “Are you a student?” I replied that I was finishing my PhD at St Andrews in theology. After this, he asked if we had spoken to the social worker (who were somewhat reluctant to acknowledge the fact that we were Americans in Paris on a language course with the Catholic University of Paris who had virtually “no money”). I had a date to speak with the social worker the next day, at which point the world-class and leading neurosurgeon at L’hopital Necker, the oldest children’s hospital in the world, told me: “The doctors in Paris, we’re not rich, and don’t make a lot of money. We’re not like the States – we don’t like to take the money from the families.” He was obviously aware of the inflated medical and insurance costs in the US, and wanted to encourage us in this moment. We expected the surgery and hospital costs to be outrageous, of course. But after hearing this from Kara’s surgeon, and also learning around this time that the British NHS was willing to fully reimburse our somewhat nominal hospital costs in Paris (after three weeks in Paris). We, of course, had some extra unexpected travel, lodging, and living costs, which prompted believers from all around the world to assist us financially. But after hearing this from the neurosurgeon, my wife and I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing we were cared for by some of the world’s most skilled specialist hands and minds, and that the French (and British) somehow were caring for us in profound ways that cost them something. And in this moment, we knew God was caring for us and our little girl in the very best means possible.

Dr. Christopher Hays is an American with a Ph.D from Oxford who has done post-doctoral work in the UK and Germany. Listen to his story:

Since most testimonials in this blog-entry will probably focus on the UK, let me comment on Germany, where I lived and worked for two years. German UHC requires everyone to purchase health insurance. Since I was a low-income student with a wife and two children, I paid 45 Euro a month for the state-backed insurance. This got me full medical and dental coverage (best dental care we ever received). There were co-pays: 10 Euro per quarter covers your contribution for all medical and dental fees. And when my wife got pneumonia and had to be hospitalized for 10 days, we spent a grand total of 100 Euro. When Michelle was hospitalized, even though I knew we were well-insured, I still thought that we’d be in financial trouble; after all, I’d have to take a lot of time off of my non-salaried work to watch our boys and help Michelle recover. But I shouldn’t have worried: my insurance paid 90% of my wages. And if I couldn’t have left work for other reasons, then insurance would have paid to hire someone to come watch the boys, cook, clean, and buy groceries. So when Michelle got sick, instead of worrying about money, all I had to worry about was helping her get better.  Of course, someone had to pay for that. The German people and my tax-dollars paid for it. But nobody begrudged the fact that a foreigner in a low tax-bracket was getting proper medical care. Why? Because in Europe and the Commonwealth people have a much broader understanding of human rights. Since most testimonials in this blog-entry will probably focus on the UK, let me comment on Germany, where I lived and worked for two years. German UHC requires everyone to purchase health insurance. Since I was a low-income student with a wife and two children, I paid 45 Euro a month for the state-backed insurance. This got me full medical and dental coverage (best dental care we ever received). There were co-pays: 10 Euro per quarter covers your contribution for all medical and dental fees. And when my wife got pneumonia and had to be hospitalized for 10 days, we spent a grand total of 100 Euro. When Michelle was hospitalized, even though I knew we were well-insured, I still thought that we’d be in financial trouble; after all, I’d have to take a lot of time off of my non-salaried work to watch our boys and help Michelle recover. But I shouldn’t have worried: my insurance paid 90% of my wages. And if I couldn’t have left work for other reasons, then insurance would have paid to hire someone to come watch the boys, cook, clean, and buy groceries. So when Michelle got sick, instead of worrying about money, all I had to worry about was helping her get better. Of course, someone had to pay for that. The German people and my tax-dollars paid for it. But nobody begrudged the fact that a foreigner in a low tax-bracket was getting proper medical care. Why? Because in Europe and the Commonwealth people have a much broader understanding of human rights.

5. The Example of Jesus. As we reads the Gospels one cannot help but notice that a central characteristic of Jesus’ ministry was offering healing for the sick and injured. He was no physician or witch-doctor who charged money for his actions, but did them as demonstrations of the here-and-now-saving-power of the kingdom of God. Jesus’ healings were proof that the Lord “took-up our infirmities,” Israel’s new exodus was happening, the day of liberation had arrived, and God was showing his kingly power for Israel and also the nations. Indeed, praying for the sick, anointing with oil, laying on hands, and caring for the ill were characteristics of the early church (see Rodney Stark on this who makes some amazing conclusions about this vis-a-vis immunology and Christian growth!). If we see ourselves as continuing the ministry of Jesus in some senses (obviously not in every sense) then seeking to care for the sick should be part of our kingdom vision. It was this kingdom vision that led and continues to lead Christians to set up medical centers around the world, hospitals, and clinics. If we are gonna do that in New Guinea why not in New York as well?

Conclusion

Let me acknowledge that opponents of universal healthcare are not merciless and greedy persons who delight in the plight of the poor and the sick. They want a system of healthcare that is responsible, affordable, compassionate, and does not interfere with their liberties. I can respect that. Also, I’m not saying universal healthcare is flawless, nor am I endorsing every aspect of Obamacare. But many opponents of universal healthcare are constrained by the myopia of their own cultural context, especially concerning individual liberty over social responsibility, economic prosperity over social security, and have wrongfully tried to give religious sanction to a very human set of beliefs. What is more, I find opponents mostly uninformed as to how universal health care works and the rhetoric of “death panels” and the like illustrates this all the more.

However, a cursory reading of the Gospels and imitation of Jesus’ own actions will inevitably us towards advocating for a system of healthcare that champions the cause of the poor and the sick. The problem is, of course, that many evangelicals fear “socialism” and value their capacity for economic prosperity. But for me universal healthcare isn’t socialism but fraternalism and agapeism. My challenge to them is to have a serious think about what it means in regards to healthcare to love their neighbor and to imitate Jesus. What is more, I have to ask opponents of universal healthcare to explain why in the global church American evangelicals are the only one’s -and I mean “only one’s”- who are opposed to universal healthcare?

Twice I’ve proposed having a session at ETS on Evangelicals and Healthcare and twice I’ve received no reply back. Perhaps now is the time to have such a debate as we approach the 2012 election!

  • Trevor Sketcher

    well put

  • Gary Meadors

    My wife spent her career as an office manager in several different medical settings (USA). Her last 14 years with an orthopedic surgery center. One of the major shifts we have observed is how medical practice has moved from private centers to large corporate centers. Her last setting, with about 8 high end surgeons was private for years. It was a happy place. It was a place where the doctors could and would show mercy to those with less means and show care for their employees. BUT…about 5 years ago they were bullied into a large, powerful, corporate group that was taking over the city…join us or we will bury you. This corporate setting is not managed by the doctors but by business directors. The doctors lost their freedom…you work for us, they were told. They were angry. But anger slowly subsided as the end result was better for them financially (although the staff was consistently downgraded in wages and benefits). It is not a happy place…but profits soar. At the end of the day, greed–the focus on accumulation of wealth–rules.

    I am not sure if or how the evil trinity of the AMA, drug companies and the health care insurance providers can ever be revised in their philosophy of life and therefore their practices. This is a disease in the USA context and no cure is in sight.

    An interesting analogy of this same corporalization philosophy is that it is the major problem in American higher education. Just go to the website of the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) and see their literature on this issue.

    • Wayne

      Good point. A good question to ask is always, “Who is this going to benefit the most?” Obamacare has been touted as some kind of godsend for the patient; yet it doesn’t escape my attention that upon the ruling by the SC, hospital stocks immediately soared.

      • Gary Meadors

        I don’t claim any insight into how the ruling will eventually play out, and given the spin and counter-spin from the lawyers, I’m not sure anyone else really knows. There is far more heat than light in all the verbiage.

        One interesting piece to me was several TV interviews with primary care physicians (many of whom are on the lower end of the money scale but still have high values to serve people) and hospitals that do not turn away the poor (usually community hospitals) were pleased with the ruling because they saw a light at the end of the tunnel in regard to their deficits. One may disagree about where the money comes from, but these more altruistic parties saw it positively.

        This may be why stocks went up.

        In the 1980s I wrote a dissertation on the “poor in Luke.” I took issue with Ron Sider and others’ use of Scripture to prove their points. But…not surprisingly…there are now a lot more rich Christians and a whole lot more poor in our society.

        I am now retired and in the medicare system. I am now seeing first hand the bias against the medicare system by high end doctors who expect $30-50,000 for a 1-2 hour surgical procedure and will not accept medicare even with the best additional supplemental policy. I am so much better off than the poor but I now have a bit better perspective on how it feels to lack privilege and power.

      • Lesaf

        Wayne poor and middle class (which are not become hard to tell the difference) it is a Godsend. Maybe in your life circle you don’t come across theses people but many of us do. I praise the Lords for Obamacae, Romneycare whatever you want to call it!

  • David McKay

    James Hamilton and Denny Burk are both good guys, Mike [but I'm guessing you knew that]

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Bird/1814624096 Michael Bird

      David, I know, Jim and Denny are friends, it was tongue in cheek stuff!

      • Gontroppo

        I mighta known!

  • Gontroppo

    Have you had many discussions with our American Christian friends about guns? I’ve given up!

  • Justin

    Right on – I’m an American living in the UK and the NHS has been nothing but great to our family (including 2 kids born in NHS hospitals).

    • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

      You might have been lucky to have a few good experiences with NHS, but it’s been a nightmare for many, many people, and ranks among the worst-performing health care systems in the developed world. http://www.iea.org.uk/blog/britain%E2%80%99s-nhs-nightmare-a-warning-to-america

      • Peter Kirsop

        The link you give is short on facts, lets look at the one it does give waiting lists for hip replacements. What is the waiting list in the USA for * those who have full medical insurance
        * those on medicare
        * those on other government supported schemes
        * those who are on a partial medical insurance

        Then we can talk about facts.

        Again the average Briton lives longer than the average American . Its’ a crude analysis but if health means keeping people alive the NHS trumps your system by quite a margin https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2102rank.html

        • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

          Life expectancy depends on a broad spectrum of factors and is a ridiculous gauge of the quality of health care. I’m stumped at how the US figures on government health care are relevant. The point is that government health care is a disaster, not that one countries government health care is better than another’s.

          • Lesaf

            Why is this any different then anything else the Gov makes us pay for. Hey some of us don’t mind the overreach of the Government because WE are the Government. But then there are other like you who don’t mind the massive Overreach of Corporations… just ask yourself who are you in that scenario? because if you think you area “part” of the corporation because you purchase their product you’d be wrong!

      • Owen White

        the IEA is a hyper free market propaganda organization. Try again.

        • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

          Whether or not the IEA is a hyper free market organization is irrelevant. Are the facts they presented true, or not?

      • Justin

        Oh yes, come to think of it, there was that one time where a bunch of NHS doctors laughed and pointed while my appendix exploded. Just needed a memory jog, I guess.

      • Nicole

        Brian- Show me a healthcare system around the world without at least one begrudged patient. The fact is that the medical field is vast, complex and evolving. While we have made advances we have not created answers to all illnesses, and we are not able to treat everyone efficiently, appropriately or with as much compassion, dignity or respect that the patient feels is needed. The reality is that where there is sickness- there is also a need for grace and love. A system of healthcare that is based on how much medical insurance someone is able to afford is absurd.

        • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

          Nicole do you really think that the quality of health care that you receive will increasbe with Obamacare? Rich people will get the very best health care, everyone else will have to accept a substandard level of health care that will leave many waiting in lines so long that they die before receiving health care (as is the case with every government run health care system now.

      • Deirdre

        So people in the UK live longer, are healthier, are happier with their system that we are with ours and you call it among the “worst performing”? How then would you classify our system? Maybe as the very “worst ” based on our lousy outcomes?

        • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

          As I stated in another thread here, the longivity or level of healthiness is irrelavent because there are a ton of factors that determine that. Genetic make up, eating habits, exercise habits, stresses, etc.

          • Lesaf

            Can I ask you and honest question Mark? How many hours of the day do you spend reading stuff online, watching Fox News or listening to talk Radio verses reading your bible or fellowshipping with other believers on the word of GOD? I’m not being funny at all?

      • Lesaf

        I’m sorry but blogs are not News and to they are opinion you cannot use another unsubstantiated opinion to support your unsubstantiated. Where is the empirical data that show Brits are unhappy with their NHS and if you do find a few try taking it away and then see how they feel about it! LOL

      • danzac

        Unlike the states, which has been a dream for all.

  • DeanNelson

    Putting all health care under the control of Herod, Caesar and the scribes will not necessarily increase healing of the poor and the promotion of universal love. If government wanted to increase the supply of healers, they could simply stop spending money on lawyers and law school and use that money to build more medical schools. But our rulers do not seem to be looking for supply-side solutions, but rather they want to limit demand and to increase taxes on everyone. And many of those people want to instill their values on the masses. Unfortunately their values include abortion for the unborn and euthanasia for those who are no longer needed by Caesar.
    Jesus not only healed, but He increased the supply of healers by sending out His disciples. Jesus did not hand over His ministry to Herod, but gave His message and ministry to those who would hear and obey His law and gospel. Jesus was crucified under Pontus Pilate and rose from the dead so that we might not be conformed to this world, but would be transformed by the renewal of our minds.

    • Deirdre Seim

      Using “Herod and Ceasar” as a stand in for a democratically elected government is bizarre and grossly inaccurate.
      Here in the US, we get, in the end, the government we choose. Not getting your way because your candidate lost in the election isn’t the same thing as living a life of subjugation under the absolute rule of a dictator! Elections keep coming around, and in the US, change is very, very slow because we must move a majority of people to a position consistently for years before enduring change can occur.
      Of course, no one gets 100% of what they want, we are 310 million people coming together in compromise to act as a single nation. EVERY ONE pays taxes for things that they, personally, oppose. EVERY ONE.

    • Lesaf

      Dean,
      I think you got it wrong Herod, Caesar would be teh big insurance companies! Not the gov!

  • http://twitter.com/RtRDH RodRogueDemonHunter

    Michael Bird how dare you!

    “You guys have the best and worst of everything: great prosperity and great inequality; Chik-Fil-A and White Castle”

    White Castle is awesome, and I love Chik-Fil-A too! Uhmm hmm good!

    Other than that, a reasonable and persuasive post on the HCR debate

  • Patrick Schreiner

    Thanks Mike

    It is always good to hear someone across the pond reply to our in-house debates. It brings perspective. A couple comments. First I hope most Christian conservatives are not claiming this is Jesus’ view. That is silly, as you point out. Few that I read and respect come close to saying that. Why most Christian’s are conservative economically is probably a result of many factors, part of the reason being that conservative economics are tied to socially conservative political stances in our country so it makes it easy for us to be for both!

    Second, the issue is not “we don’t want everyone to have healthcare” but what is the best way to get the best healthcare to the most amount of people. Is it by letting the free-market work “freely” or having gov intervention? There is certainly room for debate here.

    Finally you seem to commit the same error that you are accusing “Americans” of, saying that one view is closer to Jesus’ view. Again the issue is not “we don’t want everyone to have healthcare,” but what promotes prosperity for the most people for the longest period of time. Some of these policies could seem “harsh” at the time, but in the long run would teach families responsibility and push them away from a culture of dependance.

  • http://cramercomments.blogspot.com/ DavidCramer

    Good points. I think Grudem’s arguments are not only unbiblical but in some cases decidedly unChristian (though not intentionally of course). The argument about rationing seems particularly myopic, and you’ve addressed it well. I hope you can get a session put together at ETS. If that doesn’t work out, I’m sure EPS would be interested in it.

  • Fqgouvea

    For me it’s not a question of ends, but of means. I have no objection to universal health care, provided it does not come with coercive limitations on freedom and is achieved in ways that are legal. I do object to the current cock-up of a law, and I don’t believe it will achieve its goals. So one needs to be careful in generalizing about people being “against universal health care”.

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisAshton Chris Ashton

    Let’s be clear: this will not lead to “universal healthcare” in any meaningful sense.

    Also, I know you say you mean “only one’s” but that is not true. It is not only the prostrating nutters who oppose this.

  • http://johnmarkharris.net/ John Mark Harris

    If universal healthcare was paid for by a flat tax it would be less immoral. As it is, most people are voting for other people to pay for what they want. I’m fine with care for the poor, but insurance for all (paid for by a minority) breaks at least two commandments.

    • Lesaf

      because this is a spritual wibsite I’ll keep it clean but that was the biggies pile of poop I ever read!

  • RFSJ+

    If you live in the United States, perhaps you’d consider having a panel at General Theological Seminary in Manhattan.

  • LR

    If you are going to invoke Jesus healing as a basis for healthcare, shouldn’t you also invoke Jesus’ methods? First, Jesus didn’t heal everyone. He intentionally walked away from needy people in order to preach (though you don’t hear that much in missional teaching). Second, when he did heal, he didn’t do it through hospitals, insurance (government or private), or free care. He did it through miracles. Simply put, invoking Jesus in this is inappropriate, unless you are going to only heal some people through miracles and leave the rest on their own.

    The bigger issue is, as others have pointed out, how to get health care. I spend about 25% of my income on health care premiums and another 15% or so on my HSA accounts. And that hurts. I live cheap and do without stuff. But I spend that because of priorities. The truth is that a lot of people have resources, but they don’t want to spend it on healthcare.

    No child goes without medical attention. That’s a straw man.

    The biggest problem here in the US is the means: The government is forcing people to buy something, but then limiting what they can buy, and charging a fee for not buying which is not enough to cover what it will cost when you don’t buy.

    Here’s my prediction: More and more employers will stop providing employee health care, saving the thousands of dollars per employee it takes to provide it. They will then either (1) pay the tax penalty to the government which is cheaper or (2) raise employees salary less than their premiums were but at least as much as the tax penalty is thereby resulting in more profit for the employers and less care for the workers.

    And that brings up another big issue, namely, that this program doesn’t address the real problem which is cost. The reason why health care is unaffordable is, well, because it’s unaffordable. This doesn’t address affordability. It simply shifts responsibility. And it will not cost the government less; it will simply cause the government to go more in debt. And that’s not good.

    If we care about people, then we need to help people take care of themselves. “When Helping Hurts” applies well here. Nothing changed my approach towards health care like getting a high deductible plan. When I pay all my healthcare (premiums and bills) out of my own pocket, and I pay the first $1500 of bills out of my own pocket, I handle it very differently than I did when I had a $15 copay.

    You might like the UK plan, but as I understand it, it’s bankrupt. The US is bankrupt without taking on a massive monstrous financial obligation.

    • Gatann
      • Alex

        That’s not condescending at all. Many people find them quite useful and helpful for a variety of reasons.

    • Peter Kirsop

      LR you raise three points, one doctrine and I’ll leave that to my minister or others more learned than I am in that . The second is that health care is unaffordable; can you explain that please.
      The third is that the UK health plan is bankrupt. Where’s your evidence? And more to the point Australia where I live has a fully funded and successful scheme. We live longer and enjoy better heath than does America and we spend less than half per person or as a percentage of GDP than America does.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lance.collier78 Lance Collier

      The fallacy in your argument that employers will pay the tax penalty rather than pay for healthcare is that healthcare has always been provided by most employers as a benefit incentive to attract good employees. The same still applies, unless of course, society is set up to create a glut of unemployed so they will, out of desperation, accept any kind of employment just to put food on the table. I wonder how God would view this type of exploitation?

    • Deirdre Seim

      “No child goes without medical attention. That’s a straw man.”

      You are profoundly mistaken in this view. Many children in the US DO NOT receive basic preventive care or dental care because they do not have private insurance and their families cannot afford to pay for care. MANY medicaid eligible people are not enrolled in medicaid because their state’s program is “maxed out”. For example, my state of Kentucky is able to offer medicaid coverage to only about one half of the people who qualify for it.
      Additionally, you should be made aware that many doctors limit the number of medicaid patients they will see as the reimbursement rates for medicaid are far lower that those for medicare or most private insurers.
      Even in the case of emergency room care, patients without insurance or those on medicaid receive substantially LESS treatment and care than those with private insurance. Many hospitals will only “stabilize” (not treat) indigent people. They are then sent back out the door with a list of doctors and clinics that *may* accept uninsured and medicaid patients.

      • Alex

        You are spot on about the problems with Medicaid — It is “maxed out” in many states due to financial/budget constrictions, and it reimburses doctors pennies on the dollar, resulting in many doctors limiting how many such patients they’ll treat.

        Here’s the thing: Who runs and administers Medicaid?

  • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

    Wow, I’m hoping your article is just ignorant, and not nefarious. I find it hard to believe that you can not see the difference between the healing acts of Jesus and a Jesus who would, as another reply stated “Put all health care under the control of Herod, Caesar and the scribes.” It smacks as purposeful ignorance that most of us know as “deception.”

    *We* are called to extend the mercy of God. That is, us, the Christians. We are not called to forcibly take money from others and deliver the mercy of God dressed in disguise as a sovereign government initiative.

    Government health care has not proven to help the poor, it has proven to make *more* poor and deliver substandard health care that kills many of them and causes many, many more to suffer.

    Shame on you for twisting scripture to fit your political bias. Government health care does not extend the mercies of God, and rather denies His glory.

    • Gatann

      Where’s the evidence to support the claim that government control of health care makes people poor? If that is true then there should be tons of evidence from Germany, France, the UK, Japan, Switerland, and many other countries where the health systems are either totally controlled by the gov’t or heavily regulated by law.

      The truth is that the U.S. is the only nation in the world where it is possible to go bankrupt as a result of inability to pay for health care. In 2009, nearly 60% of all bankruptcies filed in the U.S. were because of medical bills. Many of those people forced into bankruptcy actually had health insurance, but because of rescission and other sinful practices the insurance co.s wouldn’t pay up. Your post is greatly uniformed and I doubt you’ll find actual evidence to support your claims regarding whether or not gov’t run health systems make people poor.

      • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

        The short answer is that socialized medicine increases the size of government and leads to socialism which makes more people poor.

        • John Crofford

          Given the choice between KNOWING that no child I know will suffer from a preventable disease or condition (and being poor) and being rich but not knowing that the kids are going to be alright, I am going to choose the kids EVERY TIME and I would hope every human being (and especially every person who would call themselves a CHRISTIAN) would choose the same.

          • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

            No child you know should suffer from a preventable disease now. Health care is currently available to any person without means at their county hospital or clinic, without charge. And for those who are consistently poor medicaid is available where they get full benefits. In 2010 40 million Americans (1 out of 8 Americans) received Medicaid benefits. Medicare is available for seniors.

          • Bill

            In Ohio medicaid is NOT AVAILABLE TO POOR PEOPLE unless they are blind, disabled or elderly. I know this because I live there, have been unemployed for 4 years and am not blind, disabled or elderly.

          • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

            Right. Medicaid isn’t available to everyone. If you need medical care, are poor, and don’t qualify for Medicaid, you’d have to visit your County hospital or clinic.

          • Lesaf

            Can you PLEASE provide us with the names and location of these “Community Clinics” because I have never seen one in Los Angeles? Or his them more of your posting stuff that you cannot provide proof? You write a blog I think writing one on all of the “Community Clinics” in the US that uninsured Americans don’t use would be a dynamic and informative read!

          • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

            First, my opinion is what I believe to be true. I have no obligation to back everything I write on a blog with footnotes so that those of you who don’t know how to use Google can be better informed. If you don’t believe me and don’t want to research the issue or would rather believe someone else, fine. But certainly don’t question my facts when you are too lazy to present any factual information of your own. Here’s a list of free and low cost clinics in LA – it took me all of 10 seconds to find it on Google. http://bit.ly/KPqJoR

          • Lesaf

            Mark its cool if you want to shape your world view around your spiritual view (that is between you and God) but don’t either makes false claims and look uninformed or outright lie and hop no one catches it!

        • Headache

          Yeah, that might be the problem with Republicans – they like short answers. Short answers that don’t actually explain anything.

        • Gatann

          “The short answer is that socialized medicine increases the size of government and leads to socialism which makes more people poor.”

          This is seriously the dumbest thing I’ve ever read.

          Brian, stop treating your opinion as fact. Especially when it is the most extremely ignorant opinion I can fathom.

          • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

            So, you decided that the best response to someone guilty of stating his opinion instead of facts….is to give your opinion. I see.

        • Luis Ramirez

          This is still your opinion, not actual evidence. You do know the difference, don’t you?

    • RFSJ

      OK, so we all agree that we Christians are called to extend the mercy of God. It’s a Dominical command, after all. So my question is, why not at least be open to any means that will attain that goal, a goal that we explicitly are commanded to work toward?

      • Brian Waynescott

        deleted.

      • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

        RFSJ, would you be ok If I robbed you at gun point to achieve that means? Are you “open” to that? *We* are commanded to extend the mercy of God. That’s why *we* should do it. Before the government got as big as it is now it was Christians who helped the poor with hospitals, public education, etc.

        • http://www.facebook.com/lance.collier78 Lance Collier

          The church doesn’t have the wherewithal to help all of the poor. The Government is the people – read the constitution. Nations, and not just individuals, are judged by God – read Revelations. If the church can be worried for the nation based on its sins, it can also be worried for the nation based on its lack of good deeds as a nation. Selfishness cannot possibly be viewed as good in God’s realm.

          • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

            The government is not the people, but rather it is controlled by the people, at large. The constitution doesn’t say the government is the people, it says the people formed the government. God does judge nations, but this is a rather pointless assertion, since we currently provide government health care to the poor through medicaid and county hospitals. The argument over Obamacare is not whether we as a nation will provide health care to poor people – we do that now. Rather its an argument about what the best governance regarding medical care, is.

    • Owen White

      “Government health care has not proven to help the poor, it has proven to make *more* poor and deliver substandard health care that kills many of them and causes many, many more to suffer.”

      Shame on you for false assertions like these given with no support other than that of propaganda sites.

      • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

        It’s not a false assertion and there is tons of evidence for someone with eyes to see. But you just believe whatever you want Owen. The greater point of my response was not to argue socialized health care but rather to point out the authors distortion of scripture to fit his political bias.

        • http://www.facebook.com/lance.collier78 Lance Collier

          The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is a good case for Universal Healthcare because it depicts how God views and treats a community based on its actions as a community. When a community denies its people as a whole, it is denying God’s people. When the community works together to succeed as a community, it can only be seen as good in God’s eyes. Those who work to deny fair treatment to everyone undermine the community and and risk God’s wrath for the entire community. This goes for a nation as well as the entire universe.

          • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

            But the Lord did not punish the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their poor governance, but rather because they were a wicked people. If we should worry aoout receiving the wrath given to those cities we should first look to the example of wickedness spoken of in the scriptures – homosexual sex
            .

            The Lord’s outcry was against it’s “people” not it’s government or community actions. “The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”

            And, even then, you should consider whether Obamacare is helpful or harmful to the poor. Currently the poor receive medical care through medicaid or county hospitals. If Obamacare passes they’ll still receive government health care, except that the quality and availability of the health care will be reduced.

          • Tom

            Hope this isn’t nit-picking but Ezekiel 16:49 states that Sodom’s crime was lack of concern for the poor.
            Genesis may well be making a similar point. Of course their threat of homosexual gang rape (19:5) is clearly wrong but it is not stated as being the key charge brought against them, rather it seems to be a particularly grotesque example of mistreatment of those towards whom they should have shown hospitality. The LORD’s description of the outcry against the cities coming up to Him and Him coming down (18:20&21), together with the idea of Lot and his daughters being delivered out of it through judgement, would all have had Exodus resonances inviting the original reader to under the “outcry” not primarily as against particular sexual behaviour but as against mistreatment of the weak/alien more generally. So it is possible that Ezekiel’s diagnosis is hinted at in Genesis itself. Either way- whether or not Genesis point us towards Sodom’s specific crimes- Ezekiel makes it clear that lack of concern for the poor was her sin.

          • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

            Ezekiel 16:49-50 declares, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me…” The Hebrew word translated “detestable” refers to something that is morally disgusting and is the exact same word used in Leviticus 18:22 that refers to homosexuality as an “abomination.” Similarly, Jude 7 declares, “…Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.” So, again, while homosexuality was not the only sin in which the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah indulged, it does appear to be the primary reason for the destruction of the cities.
            From: http://bit.ly/KPsKkY

    • cameronjwest

      Yeah, just like in the UK, Europe, NZ, Aus and every other developed country where Christians have not served mammon as much as in the US.

    • Austin

      How are taxes “forcibly taking money” from others? This bill was passed by representatives of the U.S. right? And in a republican form of government this is considered an act of the people, no? The people spoke through their reps. Or perhaps that rhetoric about “no taxation without representation” really just meant no taxation.

      Also, healthcare is now under control of insurance companies and hospitals. Why is that better than the Herods, Ceasars, and scribes?

      • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

        While we do have some say in who governs us, I do not have a choice in paying taxes. If I don’t pay taxes (and get caught), men with guns will come to my home and take me away. A representative democracy represents the majority view, or at least the winning view, but it often does not represent the will of close to half the people. In the case of Obamacare more than half of the people do not want it, yet they will be forced to pay for it.

        I can fire my insurance company or hospital if I don’t like them. And I can decide not to use their services and pay them nothing. Submission to the Herods, Ceasars, and the scribes is not voluntary.

        Now with that being said, I’m not suggesting our health care system doesn’t need repair, it does. However there are free market alternatives to Obamacare. Really, the system is already screwed up by the government so we keep having to have more government intervention to fix the problems that government caused. Once you start down the road of government intervention you just get more and more and more.

        • Lesaf

          Well since we have given the free market a couple decades to get the job done and since its failed its time for the gov to a crack at it!

          • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

            The government is what *caused* the healthcare system to cost so much! And all the other government health care systems in the world have been a flop. Yeah…lets be like them.

    • Justin

      “Government healthcare denies God’s glory” – you heard it here first folks!

      • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

        I doubt if I’m the first person to understand that God’s glory is robbed when we deliver it through government institutions instead of Christian ones, but thanks for the mention.

    • http://www.facebook.com/frank.baker.96 Frank Baker

      Calm down, sir. Your anger is unhelpful. I believe Jesus would be a huge proponent of universal health care. Fine if you disagree, but a close reading of the Sermon on the Mount (his only sermon) suggests I am right.

      • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

        Now Frank, which part of my rebuke did you find angry? I assure you that I wrote it using the same tone as Jesus Christ displayed in scripture. I was firmly rebuking the author. I didn’t SHOUT or use curse words or make disparaging remarks about his mother. I calmly but firmly rebuked him in love and truth. It must have felt like a rebuke to you as well since you apparently share the same liberal theological and political views.

        I have read the Sermon on the Mount many times, and have made a very close examination of it. I find no evidence from it or any other scripture that Jesus would be in favor of the government taking from some to provide health care to others. But I’m sure Jesus would be in favor of you and I helping the poor. I know that because it’s in scripture. What isn’t in scripture is advocacy for government programs.

    • Luis Ramirez

      In contrast to Bird, who at least gives anecdotal and personal experience to support his arguments, you claim without stating any evidence at all that “Government health care has not proven to help the poor, it has proven to make more poor and deliver substandard health care that kills many of them and causes many, many more to suffer.” Care to back this up with facts?

      • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

        From my previous post on this page:

        1. “First, my opinion is what I believe to be true. I have no obligation to back everything I write on a blog with footnotes so that those of you who don’t know how to use Google can be better informed. If you don’t believe me and don’t want to research the issue or would rather believe someone else, fine. But certainly don’t question my facts when you are too lazy to present any factual information of your own. ”

        2. “socialized medicine increases the size of government and leads to socialism which makes more people poor.”

        3. Evidence that govt. health care delivers substandard health care that kills many of them and causes many, many more to suffer. (do some research, there are many, many more examples like this.) http://www.iea.org.uk/blog/britain%E2%80%99s-nhs-nightmare-a-warning-to-america

    • jon h

      I would like some examples of where the government does a better job than the private sector, other than war

  • LC

    I would like to point out that this is not helping the working poor. Those of us who can’t afford health insurance still will not have it, and now will also have to pay an extra fine/fee/tax. This is hurting us! If this supposed universal health care truly provided health care for everyone, my feelings might be different. Also, I am not against having Medicare/Medicaid to help out those who need it. This bill in practicality will probably hurt more people than it helps. For example, I can’t afford health care, and my job does not provide it. When this law becomes enforced, nothing will change, except that now I will have to pay more money to the government, and still not have any health care! How is that helping me? Not at all. Also, someone very close to me has health insurance through his job. Since the new health care bill has been passed, his co-pays have increased so much that now he will most likely not be able to buy his next insulin, and he has very bad diabetes. Also, he can’t afford the rest of his medication. So far I only know people that this has hurt, not one person that it has helped.

    • Austin

      Have you looked at your states exchanges? Here in MA they’ve designed the various plans so that some are cheaper than the tax penalty (smart of Romney, don’t you think), and it will be the same in most states… Either that or you’ll get a subsidy if you still can’t afford it.

      By the way, the co-pay increase has nothing to do with the ACA, since it has not been implemented yet. 2014.

  • Lamourfbi

    Nearly 50 countries (even China for its 1.3 billion) provide universal or near-universal health coverage for their residents according to the International Labor Organization. What’s wrong with the almighty US that our system continues to deny a basic human right to all of its population: that of being able to go to the doctor and/or hospital without fear of becoming homeless or being bankrupt??! How many people have to die due to insurance companies’ cap on medical coverage or denial of benefits due to pre-existing conditions.
    Our Congress and other politicians enjoy government sponsored healthcare and will have it for life…yet SOME DON’T feel that the US population as a whole is entitled to the same healthcare they freely utilize! SHAMEFUL! I’m a retired educator, and I can’t tell you the large number of my students whose parents could not afford private healthcare; these students’ progress was severely hampered due to lack of glasses and hearing aids; toothaches; inability to pay for doctor’s visits, etc. This should not be in a country as rich as the US. We, as Christians, are given the great commandment by Jesus himself: “Love our neighbors as ourselves.” If we want healthcare for ourselves and our families, they our neighbors should have it too.

  • Jonathan Shumate

    Hi Dr. Bird, generally I find your posts on NT related stuff quite insightful and well put, this one however seems a bit off. I guess it is good to see how we (American evangelicals) might look from the outside. I don’t know any evangelical Christian opposed to universal healthcare, it is more the means than the principle that evangelicals are opposed to. In a country with rising secularism, such a vast expansion of government only intensifies the encroaching weight of the State upon our religious freedom. There are numerous bio-ethical issues that must be handled these days–the more government gets involved the more complicated it will get and the more alternative views (i.e. religious ones) will likely be sidelined (contraception, abortion, end of life care, etc.).
    Also, this bill that has past has done almost nothing to address the real problem–cost. In many ways it is current politics at its best–the government addresses healthcare issues by simply extending Americans’ level of entitlement without any increase in personal accountability. We have a major health crisis on our hands and in many ways our entire country’s economic prosperity is being sucked down the drain of healthcare, simply changing how it is paid for might bring short-term relief to families struggling to pay their medical bills, but it does nothing to fix the underlying parts and that is the most concerning thing about this act.
    There have been hardly any changes in the exposure of doctors to malpractice, meaning doctors will continue to have to pay incredibly high insurance premiums to avoid being sued, there have been no additions of an incentive program to encourage people to make healthy lifestyle choices (and this is important since so much of our nation’s healthcare cost stem for poor lifestyle choices (namely obesity and diabetes). Finally, there has been no word on exactly how this is all going to be paid for. If as a pastor a married couple were to come to you and say, “We found this really great house that is going to make our lives so much better, do you think we should buy it?” And you ask them what their current financial situation is, and they tell you they are near bankruptcy and that they currently run a deficit to pay for their lifestyle, you are not going to recommend for a second they do this, not until they get their finances stabilized and their other debts paid off. The U.S. government has just added on an enormous expense (Medicare/Medicaid are already the single biggest expense in our budget), when it is already in massive debt. This means the question of whether or not the government should extend healthcare coverage to the uninesured and pay for it with tax dollars is mute–we don’t have the money under our current budget.
    So it’s the sense of entitlement that is extended by this act, the bad fiscal policy that means it will only drive us into more debt, and the lack of cost-cutting measures to really begin to address the underlying problems, that I think explain why many evangelicals oppose this act. They are not at all oppose to universal healthcare and many do not like the current for-profit system, but this act is by no means a good solution. As someone on the younger side, I have great cause to be concerned because this will likely become another way in which my generation is burdened to pay for older Americans’ easy living.
    There were much smaller steps that could have been taken that would have significantly improved the state of U.S. healthcare, steps that did not require such a massive expansion of government:
    1) End the use of pre-existing conditions to deny coverage
    2) Setup private insurance pools similar to those used by employers for people needing private insurance (this is similar to the exchanges in the current act but not as extensive)
    3) Have built in incentives to encourage healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the burden of chronic illness on the healthcare system (lower premiums if you meet certain lifestyle criteria like weight, blood pressure, physical fitness appropriate to age).
    4) Change labor laws to force employers to cover their employees (raise the minimum wage, require employers to provide healthcare to any worker who works at your business after 6 months.
    5) Have tax breaks for companies to offset some of this cost, especially for small businesses. This combined with point 4 would allow for an extension of coverage to many more people and would “cost” the government money from lost revenue, but the expense would be much more predictable and would not require the enormous expense of extra bureaucracy to manage the government run healthcare that will happen now.
    6) Change the laws for how doctors can be sued and limit malpractice awards so that doctors do not have such high premiums and thus the field is more attractive to go into.
    7) Increase the use of Physicians assistants who do not have to have the same level of training and thus can exist in much greater numbers in order to address routine medical needs. This would drive down the cost of healthcare by increasing the number of licensed healthcare workers who can treat illnesses.

    These are just a few points that could have been done that would have addressed some of the major issues while not requiring the massive expansion of government that we are seeing now.

    • danzac

      Now there is a common sense and level-headed response in opposition (take note Brian Marsh). Jonathan, you should be president

      • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

        Danzac apparently only those who agree with you are “level-headed” and use common sense.

        • danzac

          Brian, funnily enough I am more against obamacare than for it and so technically I am more on your side. But your arguments and tone…..ugh.

          • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

            Sorry you read it that way.

          • danzac

            You’ve read all of the replies – everyone has read you that way. Maybe it’s time stop and examine why

          • http://Brianmarsh.com Brian Marsh

            Everyone? Really? I’m only seeing a couple people, and 17 people have liked my reply. I think it would be good if you examined your intentions and why you’re reacting so rashly to my reply. Are you a Christian? If so, then you should examine my response in relation to Christ’ responses to those who twisted scripture. While I’m certainly no Jesus, I would suggest that my arguments and tone were in line with or less “objective”than those that Christ presented in scripture. If not, you’re welcome to show me how.

    • Guest

      Of your 7 recommendations, the ACA does #1, #2, #4, and #5. Those in fact just *are* the main provisions of the ACA: Require everyone to have insurance; provide incentives for large businesses to offer insurance, and subsidies for small businesses and for individuals; create state-level exchanges to serve as state-level risk pools for individuals and small-businesses; and require insurers to insure regardless of preexisting conditions.

      #3, I believe, is at least partly included (lower premiums for non-smokers). I wish more had been done, but given the backlash to Bloomberg’s “no giant sodas” law in NY City and to Michelle Obama’s “Get Fit” campaign, I would expect such provisions to generate even more anger than the rest of the bill did.

      #6 and #7 are, if I’m not mistaken, the purview of the states: both malpractice laws and occupational licensing are done at the state level, and any attempt to do them at the federal level may well result in the Supreme Court overturning them.

      So the ACA largely does what you wanted. Not surprising, given that it is the largely the universal health care plan that Republicans were advocating not 10 years ago. The only “vast expansion of government” is the expansion of Medicaid to all Americans (not just children) under the poverty line. But even that is an expansion at the state level, and one that the states now have the option to decline.

  • Mahndisa

    Wow! I read this article and was amazed at all of the distortions of reality. The US was founded on the principle of freedom from coercive government. This means that a healthcare MANDATE is anathema to those principles. Not only that, Justice Roberts called the new healthcare mandate a ‘tax’but only the Congress is allowed to levy taxes on the population according to the Constitution. So off the bat there are issues because via their judicial activism SCOTUS created an imbalance in the legislative branch of government by overstepping its authority. But let’s get to Biblical law shall we? There are numerous injunctions on mandates in how ones monies are spent:

    1. 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV) Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
    A mandate goes against these principles.
    2. Psalm 115:11 (NIV) You who fear him, trust in the LORD–he is their help and shield.
    That means that we are to put all of our trust in God. Why pay for insurance when the Lord will provide for us?
    3.Matthew 6:28 (NIV) “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.”
    Insurance is just paying protection money to an entity that does not have your interests in mind. If you look at the risk management mathematics underlying how insurance rates are calculated, and realize that they will apply these mathematics to universal care, your stomach will turn. For that is the only way to keep costs down. The youthful and vibrant are rewarded for their fortune of health, while the elderly and infirm suffer although they’re the ones who need the most care.
    4.It is unlikely that under this new mandate that alternative treatments with no clinical trials studies to back them, but a strong folk tradition and anectdotal evidence will not be allowed. This also goes against what is in the Bible in two key areas:
    a.Genesis 1:29(NIV) Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
    b.Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach/Ecclesisasticus 38:4 (KJV) The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor them.
    5.Lastly, since the USA was founded on the principles of freedom, and we experience freedom through Christ a MANDATE is unacceptable according to Biblical law. Galatians 5:1 (NIV) It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

    • Lamourfbi

      RE: “2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV) Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. “–This Scripture refers to giving tithes and offerings to God’s storehouse.
      The Scripture that tells us to abide by the government laws was spoken by Jesus: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”. This applies to the mandates that you pay income taxes, and state and local taxes; that you have liability insurance and car registration; that you follow the traffic laws; that you go to court when you get a ticket or get arrested, etc.—-ALL GOVERNMENT MANDATES. As Christians, we obey God AND refrain from lawlessness.

      Yes, we are to trust in God AND use the wisdom of Solomon also. It is wise to have homeowners insurance, car insurance, and health insurance. When our homes or cars meet with disaster, we cannot not plead our trust in God to get our homes and furnishings replaced; nor are we released from liability if we have an accident, destroy another’s vehicle, or worse commit vehicular manslaugther. And of course, the first thing hospitals and doctors ask is for our health insurance information—-NOT “Are you a Christian and do you trust in God?” I’ve had to use my homeowners, car, and health insurance 100′s of times. I wouldn’t be without them. We must trust God, follow the laws, and use Godly wisdom.

  • Rob

    I would feel better about a the federal government running our healthcare system if someone could show me one program where the govt was efficient, fair, and effective.

    • Lesaf

      Rob, Government Run industries that work very well!
      There are 6,624 state park units in the United States, in California alone has 278.[2] There are some 725 million annual visits to the country’s state parks. All managed and run by the Government
      The US Air Force, Marines, Army Cost guard, National Guard and Navy have not only kept the US safe but help to keep smaller nations (ISRAEL) safe in very unsafe regions.
      And despite what the lobbies for Fed-Ex, UPS, and have tried to perpetrate and gullible Americans. The US Postal Service has run successfully for more than 1777.
      Air traffic controller is run by the Government… I can you imagine if this was left in the hand of private corporations? WOW I’d never fly again and would not live within 20 miles from an airport.
      I could go on but unless you are looking from Perfection which does not and never will exist in the government or anywhere else on earth, I’d say you can now rest assure that the government should be given a crack at providing health coverage for its citizens.

      • Lesaf

        Rob, do you feel better now?

    • Lamourfbi

      There are about 50 countries with universal or near-universal health care. Investigation of each of their programs would be quite enlightening, however very time consuming. Perfection is in heaven. As long as humans plan, implement, and operate any thing there will be flaws. The question is: do we want improvement so that all our residents are given the basic human right to health care? Yes we do! To deny millions of Americans health care is unconsciousable, and that’s what our current system is and has been doing for decades. TIME for a CHANGE for the people!

  • kenny chmiel

    You will serve some power in the polis, either its going to be the corporations or it’s the government, either way, modern people are trapped between these huge brokers of goods and services. My hope is for a just partnership between the two without all the B.S. of the pundits and people stuck in some theoretical language game. People are sick and people are dying. People are going broke trying to pay for their health and if helping some of these people tramples over some perceived “sacred” line you have no heart. You would watch coldly as people die because to save them would be called socialism and that word offends you. Problem is, some form of socialism has been in America for years. You people are controlled by Corporations in the name of “freedom” and you’ve been fooled, and I who live in Norway are controlled by the Government in the name of “safety.” I think I’ll choose a bit more safety over freedom.

  • kenny chmiel

    You will serve some power in the polis, either its going to be the corporations or it’s the government, either way, modern people are trapped between these huge brokers of goods and services. My hope is for a just partnership between the two without all the B.S. of the pundits and people stuck in some theoretical language game. People are sick and people are dying. People are going broke trying to pay for their health and if helping some of these people tramples over some perceived “sacred” line you have no heart. You would watch coldly as people die because to save them would be called socialism and that word offends you. Problem is, some form of socialism has been in America for years. You people are controlled by Corporations in the name of “freedom” and you’ve been fooled, and I who live in Norway are controlled by the Government in the name of “safety.” I think I’ll choose a bit more safety over freedom.

  • Rachel Stone

    @ Brian Marsh: Chill. Out.

    @ Michael Bird: you might like my post on this at Sojourners (that’s where the Christians who like universal healthcare hang out)–http://sojo.net/blogs/2012/06/29/one-deadly-infection-two-healthy-babies-and-three-broken-legs-or-how-government-hea

    @ Everyone: FactCheck.org is great. Use it.

    A great piece in the NYT from an economist at Cornell pointed out that “to claim the right not to buy health insurance is thus to assert a right to impose enormous costs on others.”

    For me, that rings true and kinda jives with that whole “love thy neighbor thing.”

    Peace, all!

  • Patrick

    Here’s how I view it. Is it best to do this via the state? It’s a valid question reasonable people should debate. Is it appropriate for a Christian to use Christian theology as a basis for this?

    Not IMO. There is simply no basis for thinking God wants us to use the coercion and crushing power of a secular state to achieve a spirit driven idea such as loving our neighbor, serving our neighbor, etc.

    That’s for the individual believer to do.

    • http://www.facebook.com/frank.baker.96 Frank Baker

      Except the individuals simply cannot do it on the scale that government can. Universal health systems work the world over. Social Security, whether you believe it or not, it an incredibly efficient system.

    • Lesaf

      Patrick with the amount of money that America’s Mega churches bring in every year is staggering… It is enough so that they could pay for every uninsured child in America to have medical care until they are 18. But they do not… If these Church’s were doing what the bible instructs them to do, there would be NO need Obabamacare in the first place. I am Glad Obama did Care! Because the churches sure as heck don’t!

  • P-Son

    I cant help but wonder how God feels. He gave His only begotten Son to us. His wasy of trying to unite His people, and yet we stand as divided as ever.

  • Ian

    Ultimately, I’m against “universal” health care because it doesn’t solve the problem of high medical care costs. Neither does Obamacare, or medical insurance itself. They all just shove the cost onto someone else, which is why problems occur with all of them. Americans pay in money, while other countries pay in other times. Socialized health care systems become tangled in a labyrinthine bureaucracy and become focused on the system rather than patients: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1252458/The-sorry-saga-NHS-year-undercover-hospitals.html http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mi31MJrRjhE
    Meanwhile there are plenty of drugs and treatments that are banned by government-run systems because they cost too much.

    And just for clarification, America actually has the highest life expectancy in the world when you remove auto accidents and fatal injuries (which don’t have much to do with health care): http://www.forbes.com/sites/aroy/2011/11/23/the-myth-of-americans-poor-life-expectancy/

  • Ian Thomason

    Wow. Seriously … wow. That some American Christians would argue against universal health care leaves me speechless. Thanks be to God that I live in Australia.

  • http://christchurchatlanta.org/ Paul Gardner

    Thank you SO much for an excellent blog. As an Englishman now serving as a pastor in the southern US (Atlanta), I dare not speak of the matter. Christians here are largely closed in their minds, and follow the latest anti health care adverts on TV, and generally think anything else is socialist! I have good church paid insurance cover but have quickly learned here that there is true rationing of health care. Two of our employees have recently had serious illnesses and both have been told that necessary and expensive drugs and surggery will not be covered by the insurance company. After lengthy written appeals by different doctors in both cases the decision was reversed, praise the Lord. In 50 years of NHS in the UK with some serious matters in our family, any decision made by any doctor was acted on straight away.
    The issue for me is the need for universal health car, not necessarily defending a particular way of delivery. As someone above noted, the German way of delivery and specially the Swiss is entirely through private companies.
    Having said all that, I think your blog does perpetutate a little the american idea that the NHS and other health services give people “something for nothing”! This highlights a VERY different approach to government in Europe from the approach of people here in the US, specially Christians. Sometimes we really dislike our governments in the UK and sometimes we’re OK with them. We are the most “moaning nation” on earth (in my experience). BUT we still think of it as ‘our’ government. We know we pay for the NHS and we are more or less happy to do so through our taxes, but none of us believe at all that we are getting “something for nothing”! Yet my american friends really do think they get something for nothing if they take any government help at all. I find it sad that they don’t see government, bad and good, as about society caring for itself.

    Thanks for a stimulating blog.

    • Mary

      Yes, here in America the government is the enemy. Unless of course we ACTUALLY NEED its’ services (LOL).

      Would we be having this discussion at all if it were about providing free education for children, law enforcement and emergency services?

      The government actually does a good job at reducing medical costs for people with Medicare and Medicaid. They knock down the outrageous amounts that the docs and hospitals charge by way more than half. However if you have no insurance you have no negotiating power and are expected to pay whatever they demand from you.

      Some people on here are saying that since there are free and low cost clinics plus Medicare and Medicaid that the poor are taken care of. Wrong! There are many, many people who are turned away! But I guess they wouldn’t know that because they have money, so they don’t have to worry about it.

  • CF

    A good argument can be made for solving the problem via government involvement, but I don’t think Obamacare is a very good solution because it doesn’t address the structural problems in the US healthcare system. Without that, we’re just piling on the mess. Compare David Brooks’s assessment: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/opinion/brooks-a-choice-not-a-whine.html

    The biggest problem (according to my lawyer friend with experience in healthcare law, and David Brooks) is that patients have no skin in the game, whether through standard private insurance or Obamacare/Medicare/Medicaid. We get lots of extra tests done because the costs are all hidden from us, which makes healthcare much more expensive.

    There are more capitalist ways (tax credits, ala David Brooks) and more socialist ways (e.g., government gives people money they could keep if they don’t get the MRI) to approach this structural problem, but Obamacare doesn’t do anything to address it.

  • ChrisRobin

    In America, a defining aspect of our culture is civic organizations (churches, boy/girl scouts, hospitals, etc.). We don’t think the government needs to solve every problem in the world so we often look to civil society. Yes, Christians cared for the poor, sick, etc. throughout the ages. However, they did it thru the church organizations though, not via the government (and there many organizations today like Samaritan Ministries and Medi-Share that do that today in the USA).

    It seems that defining aspects of every other western, developed nation is thinking the United States sucks/ is weird/ etc. because we don’t have universal healthcare (or have a huge military (which happens to defend all those countries who have universal healthcare and spend nothing on their militaries)). You may not like/agree/etc. with everything about America and we don’t expect you too (after all, we threw the King out). But please bear with us; we are a proud people.

    Lastly, I think Doug Wilson hits on a major point in this debate:

    “The heart of the problem is that the Supreme Court has now declared that there is no limiting principle in our form of government at the federal level. This means that if we are to live under limited government — which the Bible requires — that limitation must be enforced at the state and local levels and, failing that, at the level of the church. Simply repealing Obamacare as a policy matter is not enough. Obamacare must be rejected because it is inconsistent with the moral obligation of limited government, and not because it was “unpopular” or “will cost too much.” The problem we are facing is not because of a stupid law. Of course Congress will pass stupid laws from time to time. The problem is the claimed prerogative to stupidity without limit. In a godly form of civil government, we must reject anything that concludes with those fatal words — ‘without limit.’”

    http://www.dougwils.com/Obama-Nation-Building/no-fluttering-dove.html

    “When I say that the Bible requires limited government — because a claim to unlimited government by mortals is a spurious claim to Deity — I do not mean that Christians may not find themselves living under despotic regimes from time to time. Our understanding of these things (given by grace) does not automatically transfer to those despots who do not know and understand that God is the only God.”

    http://www.dougwils.com/Obama-Nation-Building/three-coyotes-and-a-sheep.html

  • Sanna Danielsson

    Wonderful article, thanks!

  • Alex

    This is a very thoughtful article and probably the best defense of universal healthcare I’ve read from a Christian perspective. I’m not convinced, but I appreciate the article. I especially find the thoughts about the cult of individualism and autonomy to be thought-provoking. We all have blinders in certain respects, so an outsider’s perspective should be welcome.

    I’ve done doctoral work in theology and have also spent years in the family business — a health insurance agency, so this is an issue I’ve thought a lot about and wrestle with on multiple levels.

    The comments unfortunately get bogged down in kneejerk arguments about the ACA/Obamacare (your politics determine what you call it) in ways the article does not. I happen to think that the new law is not helpful in that it doesn’t address several core issues, but I am warm to the idea that something must be done.

    The author is not defending the new law per se, but defending the idea that there ought to be a mechanism in our culture through which everyone has access to healthcare, and that the government is best suited to provide that.

    Detractors are arguing that government is infamous for spectacular inefficiencies, political favoritism to chosen groups, fraud, and the aggrandizement of power.

    Both points are fair and worthy of some merit. What’s the solution? It’s a good discussion to have.

    I deal with people all the time who cannot get and/or cannot afford health insurance, and it stinks. I pay an arm and a leg for my policy that really does nothing for me unless we have a catastrophic event. Now, I happen to think that the main point of health insurance is coverage for catastrophic events (because the COST of healthcare in America is outrageous for a variety of reasons), but I think those costs in the system need to be addressed.

    Here’s one idea: How about a system where everyone would get universal coverage for costs beyond $5,000 or so in a year. In my system, you’d be on your own for routine stuff and minor issues. Because most of us don’t have $5k sitting around to spend on that, there would be a potentially vibrant private market for indemnity plans or small insurance products to help cover certain expenses up to the $5k level. Perhaps employers might provide such coverage as an incentive. Giving people a little “skin in the game” produces some inducements to not be wasteful or abusive of the system.

    It’s just a thought.

  • Matt Blowers

    Thank you Dr. Bird. I live in America. I am pseudo-evangelical (I believe in the Bible, that Jesus is the only way, and personal faith experience). I say pseudo because I do NOT mix my politics with my faith. It’s not that I throw myself out; it’s that I’ve been thrown out. I believe all our political parties have much on their agenda that would bring shame to the message of Jesus. What you have written here is sorely needed to be heard.

    All one has to do in sit in front of any emergency room for any given period of time to see that your point is valid. Meanwhile, the church turns a blind eye. What is the last evangelical hospital opened in the US for the poor? What churches open their doors to provide health coverage to their members? What is the evangelical church doing for our health care crisis in the US? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Indeed, we only look to the capitalistic system for a solution, something the system has proven itself to be incapable of doing.

    IT IS A BLIGHT ON THE CHURCH THAT THE SOLUTION FOR HEALTH CARE MUST COME FROM THE STATE RATHER THAN THE CHURCH. In the scripture the only thing that we find the rich man guilty of is not noticing poor Lazarus at his door step. How many Lazaruses do American Evangelicals pass every Sunday on their way to climate controlled churches with padded seats and coffee? How much money is spent by those same Evangelicals each week in local restaurants following “church” compared to the offering collection?

  • Cecelia martine

    I am a Christian evangelical. I believe in healthcare and miracles. Last week I was taken twice to emergency for meningitis(in spain) I praise god for advancements in medical science and I praise him for his miraculous healing power. I believe in both. I have two friends with cancer who had the best medical available which failed. Both were raised up miraculously, totally healed in their dying hours while a group of beautiful Christians interceded and prayed for them. Last week as I wept for pain in emergency I was so grateful for the drugs they intravenously administered. I was asking god too…all I know is that the doctors where like Jesus to me.
    I lived in Japan for a year and had a tooth problem. The dentist wanted to pull it out. I prayed. I thought if god raised the dead he could fix my tooth..I had a miracle and it completely healed itself with no intervention after a day …it was a miracle.you don’t often here of tooth miracles but I had one! I had great faith for that miracle. Maybe if I was home in oz I might have just relied on the dentist..who knows.
    God is behind medicine, ( of course not immorally created and researched stuff..but you get my drift) and he is the God of miracles. Have a personal relationship with him and he is always with you…be it beside the doctor or surgeon or miraculously healing you. I have lived in many countries and I can tell you from personal experience, what England and Australia have is pure gold when it comes to health.
    If you really know god’s heart beat and understand just how much he loves us. Of course you would opt for medical for people..affordable, available. That is kind, that is merciful…that is mother Teresa like..that is Jesus.

  • justsaying

    I work for and American Dr. who sees local military. It is and often occurrence for visiting parents or in-laws from Canada (which utilizes universal health care) to schedule appointments. They are happy to pay any amount of money where they can have the test run that are truly needed. The most often heard comment by these citizens of Canada is….”It is so nice to actually know the truth and to have the freedom to have every test you need run.” Evidence enough for me.


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