A Christian view on Health Care

Christians desire health and wholeness, and call for our public institutions to encourage such.   Just as Jesus’ witnessed to the old, infirm and sick, church communities have been intimately involved with healing.  In our modern age, many denominations established hospitals and mutual aid societies.   But we have a problem: Americans spend the most on health care anywhere, but get the worst health care in the developed world.  This is because of the system of incentives that makes profit the center of the relationship between patient, doctor, and intermediate institutions, not health.

Some would object that it is Churches and not government, who should be working for such a change. Yet, if Christians truly were to embody the virtues of self-control and charity, they would drink moderately, refrain from smoking and keep a trim waistline.   Christian doctors would provide free health care and churches would create free clinics. Churches would also create mutual aid societies and cooperatives that would help mitigate the everyday illnesses and injuries that occur on a regular basis. This would be an appropriate religious response to our current health care crisis.  However, these are often challenging to manage and require immense resources to care for catastrophic events or long-term care.

Until churches make such contributions to their communities, public reform is the next best option.  A public option would decrease inefficiencies in the private health care market, encouraging companies to cut bureaucratic fat and coordinating administrative paperwork.

As institutions, churches would benefit from a reformed health care like other small businesses.  I’m fortunate:  most of my employees have health care under their spouses.   However, I could get the public option, my church would have more money to spend on mission.   My church can’t afford my getting married.  It means I can only marry someone with better health care than I have.

Health care would change the culture in a variety of ways.  One of which is subtle.  It would integrate society in a way we have not seen since the military was integrated.  It is one of the few places where both poor blacks and poor whites will benefit.   That many of the protestors are whites who feel disenfranchised exemplifies how universal health care will crush the ideology that connected socialism, civil rights and liberalism:  a resilient theology that has been losing credibility since both capitalism and civil rights won.

The Democrats should be aware that a policy that penalizes individuals, however, will end their current position as the party in power.  A universal health care system, however, will shift both parties to the left, ending the rightwing alliance of race populism, tax-cuts and nationalism.  A strong health care system would destroy the Republican party.  Blue Dog Democrats should realize that passing such a health care program will make their positions stronger, not weaker, with their constituents.

A universal system will bring down costs, liberate a sector of the economy trapped by insurance bureaucracies, give small businesses greater freedom in hiring employees, and further integrate our culture.  A mixed economy will catalyze the market.  People will need to be employed as caregivers rather than as insurance bureaucrats.  It will be easier to hire people full time.   It will restore that constitutional idea that the responsibility of the government is for the general welfare of all people.

I understand the resistance.  The Israelites resisted Moses.  Many wanted to return to Egypt.  They created false idols.  Remember – for some people, the idols probably worked.   Just as the current health care system works for some people.  But it doesn’t work for everyone.  There is a promised land.  It’s time for us to move toward it.

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2 comments on “A Christian view on Health Care

  1. Philosopher says:

    So much debate is going on pointing out how bad the collectivist approach of the Obama/Democrats will be for our health care, but where is the advocacy of a workable solution?

    Here is a brief outline of where we need to go with US health care:

    The Modern Health Care Solution

    We need to reset our health care system back to a free-market, patient-driven system. Every other successful part of our society runs this way- why not our health care for goodness sake?! We need:

    1. Market-based pricing of health care. We need medical Care/Service/Procedures priced up front like everything else in our society- not the price/cost black-boxes of today’s employer and government-subsidized health care.

    2. Minute-clinics and similar no-appointment, transparently-priced clinics are going in the right direction of delivering this concept:
    http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2006/01/23_zdechlikm_coninfo/

    3. Just like with the fair, portability of pre-tax 401k’s, we need fair, portable pre-tax health savings accounts for everyone to save their own money over time, make their own decisions on health care, and pay it with their own money.

    4. Make health care ‘insurance’ back into actual insurance. Couple health savings accounts with high-deductible catastrophic health insurance policies that people buy like they do for life insurance or car insurance.

    5. Reform the medical malpractice system and the laws driving it. In some cases, up to 25% of the cost of individual health care is extra tests and procedures run by doctors to ‘bullet proof’ themselves from malpractice lawsuits.

    The above approach gives everyone the access, proper control, and choice over their health- not the opposite helplessness dictated by some far away, faceless bureaucrat.

    • padremambo says:

      Unfortunately, Kenneth Arrow did a pretty good job of describing why the market is clumsy with health care. I’m not sure why you use the word “collectivist” rather than “social insurance.” Essentially, a greater pool for every person, while eliminating fee-for-service, is a better way to organize care.

      1) your first point assumes that hospitals turn away sick people. Is that how it would work in real life? So if a life saving procedure is too expensive, I might decide not to take it? The level of risk is one reason this doesn’t make much practical sense.

      2) This is a good idea. But this implicitly seems to require some regulation.

      3) heh – so when the market crashes, what do people do? Remind me, since the recent crash, how well did the stock market do compared to treasuries over the 80 year period?

      4) Sounds good. But why only catastrophic care? That seems to be fairly arbitrary to me. It also doesn’t say much about recissioning.

      5) There’s not much evidence that this works, but you do implicitly raise the problem of asymmetrical knowledge and licensing of doctors. Licensing is inimical to market forces, right? Let anyone who wants say they are a “doctor” and let people make their decisions.

      Look, there is no way for the system to be perfect. “Choice over their health” presumes that people are fully rational. It’s an interesting view, but one that doesn’t hold under the evidence. I also don’t buy the idea that a “faceless bureaucrat” run by the government is much different than a “faceless bureaucrat” in an insurance company. Both have limited resources. One is interested in protecting the common pool, and the other in making a profit.

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