Explaining Health Care Reform & “Christian” Reflections Thereof [REPOST]
[Editor's Note: This is a repost of an article posted in August. It was fairly popular at the time, and in light of the potential difficulties the current health care bill may be facing due to the fight for Senator Kennedy's Senate seat, I thought it might be helpful to post this up again. I'm also posting this to go along with a recent post I put up on my personal blog called "I sort of want this health care bill to die." It has to do with this Massachusetts's Senate race and health care reform. I hope these resources spur your thoughts on these issues facing our country.]
Below is a series of illustrations by Dan Roam and Dr. Tony Jones of Digital Roam explaining the current Health Care system and proposed reforms to that system. This is by far the best explanation I’ve seen. So much so, it is forcing me to break a bunch of my own rules concerning this site and perhaps even give some new freedoms for what I post up here. Take a few moments and look through this series of slides and familiarize yourself with these ideas. Analysis will follow below. A couple of things before you start: I have no idea why this guy calls these “napkins” nor do I know why he says there are only four. Don’t let that distract you too much. The quality is such that I am more than willing to forgive these minor lapses of clarity.
Okay, everyone up to speed now? So are there any uniquely Christian thoughts on this? First, of immediate concern for those Christians whose consciences are so inclined to view abortion as a fundamentally political and legislative issue (no sarcasm in that statement, by the way; it’s a totally valid way that the Holy Spirit moves in many believers); in Obama’s most recent weekly address, as he “debunks” various ideas being spread about the reform, he says: “Some are also saying that coverage for abortions would be mandated under reform. Also false. When it comes to the current ban on using tax dollars for abortions, nothing will change under reform.” So apparently (at least from what the carefully phrased political talk) it would seem that these sets of reform do not concern abortion.
So with the one health issue it seems Christians have anything to say something about out of the way (yeah, there was some sarcasm in that one), what else does the Christian have to engage with in this debate? Well, before we get quite there, two foundational things that have plagued my thinking about this:
First, I believe it is the clear testimony of the New Testament as to what the ideal would be. If the government just scrapped all of its social policies and health care aspirations and came up to Christians and said, “okay, from the floor up we want you to form the health care system you think is right”, then (in a Biblically ideal world) these Christians would make a completely privatized system driven by the free market – no medicare, medicaid, welfare, or “public option”. Instead, the Church would take responsibility for the poor, the sick, the elderly and the like. Christians, through local churches, would give of their time, their money, and themselves to see to it that all those that lacked would be cared for. They would do this out the overflow of their hearts because they had been so changed by the Gospel of a God who came to us while we were sick and poor and gave of His time, His resources, and indeed, His very life, that we would be made well. This would be the health care of the Kingdom of God.
But, as Mr. Of-Hippo (a.k.a. “Augustine“) helped us understand, Christians are members of the City of God, but they dwell in the City of Man. And this brings me to the second plaguing thought of mine: where the Church fails in its duty and calling as the City of God, is it the right of the City of Man (the government) to step up and pick up the slack? I don’t know. Part of me says the Church needs to see how bad things can get with neither them nor the government helping before they’ll actually take action. Another part of me feels compassionless and insensitive at that thought. But, for whatever it’s worth, most people I respect seem to have the former sentiment rather than the latter.
But nevertheless, the Church has not been given this opportunity to make a system from scratch. We have an existing framework we must work from. And I think we can. When (not if) you went through the above slides, do you remember when they talked about the existing system, and the three plans that are on the table? The existing system was referred to as “Restrictive Private Insurance”. The three plans Congress is currently debating include the “Less Restrictive Private Insurance” plan where everything stays private, but insurance companies are forced to lighten their limitations on coverage; “Private/Public Plan” where there is a non-profit public option that competes with the private companies (non-profit? That’s not much of competition, if you ask me); and a third plan with Private Insurers existing alongside Private “Co-Ops” or “Exchanges”.
It’s this third plan I think most reflects the Biblical picture of health care that can be employed using the existing political structures. In it, people in particular groups (by neighborhood, city, state, region, etc.) pay into one giant pool, and whenever someone in that group gets sick, they are able to utilize the group’s collective pool of money. Whether or not you ever use it is not the point, you are freely sacrificing your resources for the benefit of the whole.
I really like this choice, and like I said, I think it represents the heart of a Christian way of functioning in this City of Man. Heck, it’s the way that local churches are supposed to function in the first place. That’s what the “offering” time is for. It is everyone freely pooling their money together to benefit others – both within the congregation and without – whether or not they ever actually need the help themselves.
In a curious final development. I was shocked and surprised when I looked back at the slides above to find out the names of the various plans on the table. I saw that this “Co-Op” option was not supported by Republicans, the ones usually assumed (incorrectly, I believe) to hold the most “Christian” views in politics. Rather, this was actually one of the plans supported by none other than the now-late Senator Ted Kennedy. I didn’t see that one coming.
So here’s to you, Ted. Though I have strongly and bitterly disagreed with you on most issues my entire life, bravo for shocking me and showing me the narrow-mindedness of my assumptions. I hope this particular plan is pushed through.
Remember: give me feedback and comment on the blog. I need to know where I’m off on this if I am. Where I’m not off, I hope this helps.