Big Bandaid

[the following is a revisited look at observations and comments I made 2 years ago on the healthcare bill]

I’ll admit that I am not an expert on public health, government operations, or economics.  So I’m not going to talk about what I don’t know.  I’m not qualified to evaluate this bill.  I invite others to do that.  But if the extent of your knowledge about this new bill has come from chain emails or infotainment personalities with an axe to grind, think again before mimicking what you only assume is trustworthy.  And I will say that this here article is in no way a defense of the new H.C. bill.  It’s a treatise on how to better talk about it even though you know very little about it.

So before we begin, let’s consider a few things. The best place for Christians to begin is their Word of God.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.”

“Gather of it, every man of you, as much as he can eat…according to the number of persons who each of you has in his tent… And they gathered some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; each gathered according to what he could eat.”

“Pure and undefiled religion is this, to look after widows and orphans in their distress and keep oneself unpolluted.”

So we know the Bible teaches that we should not hold all of our earnings to ourselves, but let the economically downtrodden be able to glean from our excess. Of course, they also should be willing to work. Given. After all, “he who is unwilling to work, neither should he eat.” But some who are willing are unable to. Keep that in mind. Because often they are mistaken as the unwilling.

And now a parable of Jesus retold in a modern setting related to our subject of today:

A certain man was walking down the road, having not a car to drive, suffering from a preexisting condition that prevented him from finding affordable insurance through the providers he came across. He collapsed from his condition on the side of the road.

And a professed Christian passed by the injured man and said “clearly this misfortune befell him because he did something bad. Like the earthquake victims.”

And another professed Christian passed by the injured man and said “oh that poor guy. I’ll pray for him.  I’m so blessed.”  And he went on his way.

Then a liberal radical communist stopped and said “I will drive my comrade to the hospital and give from myself according to my ability to him according to his need” and he put him on his insurance.

Now, the above tale should would shock some people. Take care to notice that the first two men were professed Christians, but not active ones. The tale I reconstructed also assumed that this radical commie could afford to put the man on his insurance, and isn’t just an armchair marxist but an active one. A real Christian would at least drive the man to the hospital, even if he could not afford to put this man on his insurance. The story is merely meant to illustrate a hypocrisy among SOME–not all–professed Christians. It is not meant as a defense of communism or anything of that nature, nor a defense of the bill.

The purpose of my application of the parable is to address the problems that the bill was created to solve.  In a land where so many taught Christ as King, and put their trust in the money that bears “in God we trust”, they trust the system of money-dealing that has only exasperated the struggle to help the sick and needy.  The cost of medicine has become too high.  Had that problem not existed, we might not be having this debate.  So no matter what the bill does or does not do, the fact is that there has been a big problem and that many have come to the conclusion that some kind of intervening legislation was needed to help resolve it.

So no matter what time and condition we are living in, a Christian should be willing to pay a sum to ensure that their neighbor may be taken care of.  That being said, this does not mean, of course, that any legislature passed that raises taxes in an effort to take care of more people will succeed. To give liberally (and yes, I mean liberally) must also be paired with discretion.  And a tax is not really a giving, but a taking.  A gift is not a gift if it is extracted from me once a year and I don’t know what is done with it.

As a Christian I prefer that individuals and communities provide care for those in their community.  For me to merely put some dough in an envelope once a year and just expect a shapeless body of rule to represent me and make broad decisions about how that money will be used is unsettling.

I do not object to socialist policies, when they work decently.  Everything we are taxed for by the government and rendered as a service in return is socialist (using the term as an adjective).  Public roads, public schools, a non-private police force—all socialist.

Socialist medicine can be successful.  Scandinavia provides us a few examples.   Granted, their healthcare systems have issues, but that point is irrelevant, because our system has issues too.  Canada’s healthcare is socialist.  “But people in Canada are comin’ to America to get healthcare,” you say.  That is true, and a valid point.  But a)it’s not a mass exodus of people as if the system is broken, and b) many Americans are going to third world countries for health care because ours is too expensive.  All systems have their flaws.

So I fully believe healthcare reform needed to take place.  But here’s where I will offer a critique of this bill based on what I do know:

Firstly, Obama promised Americans he would not raise taxes on those making less than 200,000$.  This bill makes that statement a lie.  For every lie a leader tells, the less reason he gives me to trust him, whether he says he did not cheat on his wife while at work or he said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  It also doesn’t help when a leader pulls a stunt like Pelosi did: “We have to pass the bill in order to see what’s in it.”  No, you don’t take a pill to see what it does.

Secondly, I do not believe socialism is right for America, not necessarily because I have a low view of socialism, but because I think America’s populace has a low view of economic responsibility.  Here are problems I see at work that exasperate this public health problem:

-privateers taking advantage of people (from greedy pharm. companies to greedy insurance men to sellers of toxic products)
-individuals not taking care of their bodies (America’s obesity rates—need I say more?)
-government neglect
-lazy people who actually could work and chose not to (“I have a condition: I can’t work without a migraine”)
-irresponsible doctors (not all docs, just the irrrsponsible ones)
-a lack of benevolence from church groups (we could do better and we know it)

Thirdly, I believe that the government needed to legislate changes to healthcare in the interest of protecting the public, but I’m inclined to agree with Ron Paul, who knows his constitution, when considering whether the US government has the right to write the kind of legislation that just passed:
Ron Paul’s Statement
“The fundamental hallmark of a free society should be the rejection of force.  In a free society, therefore, individuals could opt out of “Obamacare” without paying a government tribute.”

He has a point.  It’s a mandate.  By definition, if you refuse, you will be punished.  Christ said that this was how the kingdoms of the world simply operate, they use force.  But it is not to be so with his followers.  So I cannot endorse the legislation as wise on that account.  You cannot compare this legislation to car insurance because a)Only those with cars have to buy the insurance, whereas being alive is now a prerequisite for health insurance, and b)Car insurance is mandatory because you can accidently hurt people with your car.  You can’t accidently hurt a person with your blood pressure or lungs or gout problem.

However, what Christ said about paying taxes tells me that I am to pay them regardless of how they are used.  If he said that we should “give to Caesar what’s Caesar’s” in a time when idol worshippers extended an unholy empire across half the earth and held gladiator tournaments, then it would be just as true today.  It doesn’t mean that earth kings will use the money wisely, but that they are set in their place to render services and we as “sojourners” in those kingdoms must pay what is due.  However, Jesus himself, though obliged to pay an unreasonable or abused tax, was still critical of bad policy (the incident with Peter and the temple tax in which he indicated that those who should be exempt should be exempt).

With that in mind, consider the words of Stephen Colbert:

Now, the most obvious surface critique of this statement is the assumption that if we do not like a bill by a government that mandates tax increases for  universally applied healthcare system, we must not care for the poor.  I think very many are motivated by that sentiment.  But I know all kinds of people who serve the poor and prefer to do it themselves, or for their community to do it.  They do not trust our government to attempt it.  This being Colbert in one of his more personal moments (when he’s not being his mock personality).  He is a Catholic himself, part of a religion that historically seeks to work alongside governments in delivering social justice.

But I think his statement was more about how we perceive the role of the Church and the role of the state in the affairs of the world.  See, many believe that America is a Christian nation in a covenantal sense, that somehow the founding architects made a pact with God to create an exclusively Christian nation.  That’s an idolatrous lie, as many of the founding architects were freemasons, and a few of them were agnostics.  But if it were true, then we would have to accept this truth: If America is a nation that requires itself to create only laws that enforce Christianity, then this applies to all things.  If we should mandate Christian sexuality through martial law, then we must also mandate Christian charity through martial law.  We should make people go to church.

Do you really want that?  What did Jesus say about how the kingdoms of the world work?  They do things by force.  Christians do not.  When these kings place force upon us, sometimes it is because we have done wrong, and sometimes it is because of our faith.  In Israel’s history, when the people forgot God with their ways, he allowed other nations to oppress them and institute unfair laws.  But at least those nations protected them, because while God punished them he still cared for them.

So, consider the possibility that if this bill be an unconstitutional, not to mention unethical, application of force, that it is in part a punishment for the failure of a people who, though professing faith in God, failed to apply his love to the poor.  People are forced to purchase insurance, and that is unethical.  It is also against our very Constitution.

So, has it been that Babylon placed this yoke upon us because of our own disobedience?  Is it proper for me to call this legislation persecution, or is it a natural consequence of our culture’s failure to place our values in the right place?  These questions come to my mind in such a time, and I do not have the answers.

If so, then let us take on this yoke until something is resolved.  If you do not want to purchase insurance, then so be it.  Pay the fine, however unethical it may be, and move on.  God is in control.

Here are things that may worry you, as they do me, assuming Mitt Romney is telling the truth:
It is even more certain now that future generations will have to pay the price of irresponsible decisions made by this generation.
The federal government now stands between me and my doctor, and not to the side.

And, because I do believe in hope (and its audacity), I’ll try to point us to what is good about the bill, assuming Obama is telling us the truth about these things:
The penalty fee is only for those who do not get insurance.
Seniors receive a discount on their prescription drugs.
Each state gets to design their own set of plans, though I’m sure there are mandated guidelines.
Healthcare provides will no longer be able to discriminate based on pre-eexisting conditions.
Healthcare providers can no longer jack up your rates because you get cancer or something.

Now that this bill is signed in, I sure hope these things are true.  If the big bandaid is coming down on us, it better heal well.

But, as I said yesterday, if only we were as concerned bout our taxes bein used to bomb children as we were bout payin for other peeps’ opiates.

7 responses to “Big Bandaid

  1. Ok, here’s my stream of consciousness… Let me start with where we agree: 99% of what you just said. There, that was easy. Now on to the more interesting part; where I disagree…

    You mentioned that there was a problem, and therefore some sort of legislation was needed to fix it. Here’s where I disagree. While some doctors may rashly treat a symptom with medicine, just to cover up the symptom, a good doctor will first diagnose WHY there is a problem in the first place.

    The root of the problem goes back many years to about 1910, when the powerful Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research lobbied congress to require licensing for all medical schools. While this surely benefited the Rockefeller Institute by reducing competition, it forced about half of the medical schools to close. As a result of the now limited availability of medical training, the costs for medical training skyrocketed, while the number of doctors decreased. This chain reaction led to higher hospital costs, and higher doctor salaries. As licensing requirements strictly restricted the school’s ability to compete, the entire medical profession became skewed towards high-tech, big money investment, and prestige rather than competing based on the perks they could provide consumers. Therefore, throughout most of the last century, health care prices continued to rise.

    As the problem became evident, Government further increased their market interference with insurance programs such as Medicare and BlueCross. As more “free money” was pumped into the healthcare industry from the government, prices continued to rise. The solution to the problem of high prices actually resulted in making the problem worse.

    I think it is a dangerous road to go down, when we look to the government to solve all of the problems we see in today’s economy… especially when those problems are a result of previous government interference. If anything, Congress should have worked to repeal their previous legislation, allowing competition, and the high demand for more affordable healthcare to drive down prices.

    You also made some comments about how socialism is good, when it works. But that’s the problem… socialism doesn’t work. It ignores economic law (or twists it from its true nature to make it sound like it’s ideas are valid). Here’s a quote from an amateur economists’ facebook status. He seems to sum up my thoughts very well.

    “Economics 101: In the unhampered free market, the law of supply and demand causes the price to gravitate towards the “market clearing price”. This is the point where the price is the lowest possible, while still allowing the supply produced to satisfy the demand. Therefore, when government interferes, it can only result in higher prices, shortages of supply, or both. It’s not even a matter of conservative vs. liberal opinion; it’s economic law.” …This is true with healthcare, road construction, education, you name it.

    All that said, our problem is a result of immorality and failure to take responsibility. It is immoral to use government force to steal rather than making an honest profit by serving the consumer. When the personal risk of “getting fat” or “smoking” is eliminated, because of “free government heathcare”, the problem gets worse. The answer is not going to be found in government. It will be found in a restoration of morality, personal responsibility, and freedom.

    Oh, and here’s the article where I stole most of my research (I’m sure I quoted closely enough to break the official plagiarism rule)

    P.S…. Is “Healthcare” one word? Or do I have to type it as two separate words; “health care”. The red squiggly line says it has to be two different words. But I mixed it up throughout my response, just to be sure I got it right.

  2. Thanks a lot Tyler. You’re my first in depth commenter.

    I didn’t know about the Rockefella reaction. I do have a question about that: As far as diagnosing the problem, was the problem introducing a licensure law, or the way in which this law was lobbied and carried out, which only benefitted Rockefella at the expensive of the nation? In other words, could a law have been carried out that fairly required licensure without focusing the prerequisites in an unbalanced and non-patient-centered way?

    I was aware of the government interference with healthcare that came from Medcaid and such. But then, if the government is partially responsible for the problem, would they not then be responsible for a solution? Would they not need to introduce some kind of legislation to undo some of what has been done? Not the one that was passed, but something?

    Also, I agree that competing care can help medical business and patients, but what if hospitals competed merely to win patients and not really help them? Doesn’t some legislation prevent this? For example, a pharmaceutical company sells a pill that is not required by the government to be passed as safe. They bribe docs to recommend it. People buy it. Now, granted, private efforts like journalism could expose the scandal, but should we completely rule out the idea of the government legislating protection against this? Of course, granted, this kind of stuff happens now with all the govt. interference, compounding the problem.

    Does capitalism ALWAYS lower prices merely because of competition? Or do sketchy decisions made by big businesses in order to keep the prices lower also factor in? Such as outsourcing business to countries where children labor in unsafe factories, or cheap and unsafe chemicals put in food that should be natural? If businesses compete for a low price, what is to keep them from cutting corners where the public can’t see?

    I think healthcare is two words, but it really doesn’t matter. I’m not one of those grammarians. I’m a multi-dialectical egalitarian.

  3. Good questions. I don’t know if my answers will be any good or not, but this is a comment space on a blog, so it doesn’t matter if my answers are actually any good, as long as I get my chance to vent and make myself feel like I’ve done my service to correct all the ignorance in the world…

    First of all, the main problem is morality. Immoral choices always have consequences, regardless of our government or economic system. Changing the system does not change morality, it only allows it to be manifested in different ways. For example, instead of taking advantage of the consumer directly, i might seek for government to pass corrupt policy to take advantage of the consumer. So our efforts should be directed towards finding a system which provides the most justice to protect the innocent.

    Sometimes it takes a little bit of imagination to picture how a particular industry would respond once government steps out of the way. I wonder what people would think, if government was the only producer of shoes, and someone were to suggest privatizing the shoe industry. How could a free market produce all the different sizes needed? Wouldn’t it be wasteful to produce so many different styles? Who would protect the consumer from fraudulent or low quality shoe producers? And shoes are arguable much too important to leave to the unpredictable nature of free market anarchy!

    So when it comes to health care, how would the market respond without government issued licenses? Medical licenses serve two purposes: they limit competition, and they ensure quality health care (at least in theory). The first purpose is selfish and bad, but the second is very good. But the only way they achieve the second goal, is by limiting options for the consumer. For example, midwives, nurses, or chiropractors may be able to provide certain services just as good as doctors, for a much cheaper cost. Some consumers would prefer this value. But government licensing doesn’t give the consumer this choice, forcing them to spend money they did not wish to spend, for a service they did not value.

    While it’s difficult to know EXACTLY how a free market would respond, i can imagine a couple of ways the market would continue to promote quality health care. For one, as competition increased, it would become more important for doctors to maintain good reputations. By forcing doctors to maintain reputations through high quality service, the free market would place some very strict regulations on health care providers.

    Private certification boards would also thrive once the government was removed. They would give some sort of official stamp of approval to doctors who met certain qualifications. If their certification was of high enough reputation, consumers would desire it, and doctors would therefore desire it as well. This would achieve the same end as government licensing, without using force to push others out of the market all together. Because of the way an economy works, I think free-market regulations would end up being much stricter and more efficient than our current system.

    And yes, government got us into this mess, therefore they have a responsibility to get us out. But they can only fix the problem by repealing their bad policies from the past. They should not try to “fix” their previous mistakes by repeating the same kind of mistakes.

    Here’s a parallel I saw on a funny t-shirt. It read, “I take asprin for my headache caused the Zyrtec I take for the hayfever I got from Relenza for the uneasy stomach from the Ritalin I take for the short attention span caused by the Scopederm Ts I take for the motion sickness I got from the Lomotil I take for the diarrhea caused by the Zenikal for the uncontrolled weigh gain from the Paxil I take for the anxiety from Zocor I take for my cholesterol because exercise, a good diet, are regular chiropractic care are just too much trouble.”

    We cannot keep looking for government to treat the economic symptoms caused by back government policy!

    Ok, I’ve rambled for awhile now, so I’ll try to address your last two paragraphs more briefly.

    And what about those who might just try to “get more customers” rather than actually helping others? Well, how well does this motive work in other sectors of the economy? The market has a fantastic record of weeding out inferior goods. I also believe government has an important role in enforcing justice (Romans 13). This means they should punish those who take advantage of the ignorance of others for their own personal gain, by intentionally providing bad medicine, etc.

    And does competition always lower prices? No. But in the free market, producers will always find it profitable to meet the desires of consumers in a more valuable way than their competitors. If consumers want lower prices, the market will respond. If the consumers want more quality, the market will respond. If the consumers wan greater quantity, the market will respond. I can explain this in more detail if you want, but I’m getting tired of typing, and I’m sure you’re getting tired of reading.

    Have a good night!

  4. I enjoyed the responses, and I find them well reasoned. I certainly believe in free markets, but I’m skeptical that a market is truly free if merely left to the forces of supply and demand. Businesses can have their own kind of control, and use their own kind of force. Maybe we’re getting into semantics about capitalism and corporatism.

    I just think of illustrations like the Old West: a gold camp sets up. There’s no law, and al the businesses are small. Now let’s say there’s a sheriff and a couple deputies. That’s all as far as law. Then one of those big gold barons come in with Cornish workers and abuse them. They try to unionize to gain leverage and he has them killed. The sheriff and his men can’t do much. The territory isn’t Uncle Sam’s yet so soldiers can’t come in. But as you said, it’s really about human nature. The forces of state and business are both susceptible. I believe in small govt. and small business. I don’t really want a move to see one minimized unless the other is too. Problem is they’re both shaking hands too much these days.

    • “Problem is they’re both shaking hands too much these days”. Exactly.

      Government plays a big role in enforcing justice. I’m all for strengthening their ability to do so.

      Also, it’s not the size of the business that matters. Small business can be corrupt, and big businesses can make an honest profit. But all should be held to a standard of justice.

      I also really liked your concluding sentence… “if only we were as concerned bout our taxes bein used to bomb children as we were bout payin for other peeps’ opiates.”. Right on.

  5. Enjoyed reading this. The more I study history and markets the more I’m convinced that sin will always reap bad consequences in some shape or form in this life, whether done between individuals, in secret, or between millions of people at a voting booth. I’m also more convinced that the market is the most moral and just way and therefore most prosperous way of allocating goods. Free market being understood as one that defends justly earned property, protects individuals from enslavement by the more wealthy/powerful, rejects the use of gov’t force to benefit some group over another, etc (i.e. not crony corporatism). I do not know of any time in history when there has been a truly free market protected by a truly just government.

  6. Pingback: Electing Faithfulness Part 7: Consult Your Doctor—The Health Care Issue | CALEB COY

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