The Church and Health Care

By Daniel Darling

This election cycle, health care has dominated the news. We’ve had the nomination of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, whose state health care plan was considered a liability in the GOP primary. We’ve had the conservative opposition to President Obama’s health care plan (now universally labeled Obamacare, even by supporters). And then we recently had the very surprising verdict of the Supreme Court to uphold Obamacare, with the majority opinion written by conservative justice, John Roberts.

How should Christians think about this issue? I’ve been a bit conflicted. On the one hand, most evangelicals are against Obamacare, mainly because it is seen as a one-size-fits-all government takeover of the health care industry. I’ve read a lot of evangelicals who lament the loss of our freedom, with a government empowered to make us buy insurance. There is also much concern about the HHS mandates which force religious institutions to cover the cost of contraceptives, something Catholic vehemently oppose. So it’s a religious freedom issue as well.

Though there are many troubling aspects of Obamacare, it’s harder to make a direct Biblical case against it, like you can against abortion, same-sex marriage, and other liberal policies. The closest thing is the Bible’s seeming endorsement of free-market capitalism as the best system in a broken world. I say seeming, because you can’t directly say the Scriptures endorse capitalism, but it’s the system that most closely resembles biblical wisdom (provided it is bulwarked by robust institutions, particularly the Church). (If you’re interested, I spoke on this earlier this year at our church).

So, perhaps you see Obamacare as creeping socialism. Many Christians do. It troubles me like it troubles them. I’d like to see more of a state-by-state solution or perhaps just a reordering of the entire system. But I guess I’m conflicted in that I wonder if there is a conservative alternative to Obamacare. I’ve heard many things over the years such as “allowing purchase of insurance across state lines,” or “tort reform.” I know that conservative policy organizations and think tanks have some pretty robust, more free market ideas. When John McCain ran for President, he actually presented a fairly robust health care proposal.

But what troubles me about the GOP and the conservative movement in general is that there seems to be no real push to get these plans passed. We know we don’t like Obamacare or Hillarycare or anything the liberals have offered. But in the years that the GOP has been in power, they have not made a serious effort to fix health care. And the one guy who did try something in his home state, Mitt Romney, is considered liberal for having done so.

Surely we’re not okay with millions being uninsured, are we? I’m saying this because as a pastor, I see first-hand the struggles with our health care system. If you can’t afford health care, you’re really dodging a bullet. If you happen to get seriously sick, with something like cancer or even just an accident, you can get treatment, but you’ll saddled with debt you’ll likely never pay off. I’ve seen good, hard-working people crushed under the weight of treatments. And if you have been sick, or have preexisting conditions, you have no hope of coverage. This is a real problem. I’m not sure what the solution is. I don’t think it’s Obamacare, but as a conservative, free-market, capitalist, I’d like to know what the better solution is. More importantly, I’d like to see it become a national priority.

I think it also touches our prolife sensitivities. Thousands of people die every year of preventable diseases, for lack of adequate health care. A culture of life will do everything it can to alleviate this suffering and prolong life.

Perhaps it’s not a government solution at all, but a faith-based, market-based solution. It could be that the government, at this point, is too involved and is driving up the costs. If so, then I’d like to see conservative politicians add health reform to their agenda.

I’m not an expert in this field and I don’t really know the solution. But I do know there is a problem.