I gave an open invitation to any of my Christian friends to justify their position on repealing Obamacare biblically. I wasn’t interested in the politics or economics of health care, those are easily read about in the headlines. I was interested in Christian ethics.
Jesus’s ministry and teachings provide a clear example of our responsibility as Christians: we are to care for the poor, including their physical well-being. His two most obvious teachings can be found in the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10, and his call to serve in Matthew 25, starting in verse 31. Jesus’ actions matched his words, his healing ministry was prolific, and showed that he recognized physical well-being a fundamental need of humanity. Fast forward to the present day, and the US government has voted into law a health care reform bill that is designed to expand health care to millions of currently uninsured, most of whom are on the poverty line, by the expansion of Medicaid (up to 17 million may be eligible, link) and by the introduction of insurance marketplaces where the non-insured can purchase private health care insurance (up to 29 million may look to purchase, link).
So, seeing as “millions” of low-income Americans stand to gain access to health care and improve their well-being, why is it that so many Christians want to repeal this law?
I could understand amending the law to fix its numerous flaws. I could understand repealing the law in order to replace it with a better law. But neither of these seem to be on the table. In repealing the law, “millions” will again be out of luck when it comes to sickness and disease. How can a Christian, who should be following Jesus teachings, agree with this? Even if we see Obamacare as an overreach of government or an encroachment of liberty, shouldn’t our Faith take precedence over our Politics?
Terry is a guy I’ve known for almost 4 years now, and over that time I have developed a deep respect for him. He is more than a Christian by label, he is kind and compassionate, treating everyone with gentleness and respect, and serves God as a lifestyle. He is no stranger to the health care industry, and is employed by Christian Healthcare Ministries*, which happens to be the grandfather of Medi-Share, both of which are successful health insurance alternatives – so much so that they are one of the few insurance alternatives allowed by Obamacare. His wife is a nurse and together they have served people through health care, locally and all around the world, rich and poor, for many, many years.
*I should add that Terry’s opinions here don’t necessarily reflect that of Christian Healthcare Ministries.
Terry had clearly thought out how he would respond to my question, and was quite methodical in answering it. And rightly so, because this is not a simple question. It’s a question that drives down to the very core of our belief system, and how it’s intertwined with some very big issues. Therefore it’s only fair that take a step back before we answer the question at hand. Terry laid out the foundation of his belief system:
- God should be the center of our lives, and therefore our Faith should take precedence over all our other beliefs, acting as a filter for our political and social beliefs
- The big social problems of poverty, hunger, and lack of health care are the result of sinful humankind living in a fallen world and lacking the gospel
- The Bible clearly teaches we, as Christians, have a mandate to help the poor and serve those in need physically and spiritually
- The wider Church, over time, has basically failed in the mission to take care of people’s physical needs, and government has picked up the slack with programs such as Medicaid
- The Bible says we should respect authority – in this case our government, including “giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s”
- However, man is fallible and sinful, and therefore our government and laws are also fallible, and while we should follow them, we need not always agree with them
- As Christians we should have a voice in government, and be civically active. It is good to promote our beliefs, debate, and fight for what we believe is right.
I think Terry laid out a terrific foundation on which to frame this debate, and one that can be defended Biblically. Not surprisingly, I agree with all of his points above. And furthermore, we both believe that health care in the US is in need of reform.
I asked Terry what his top problems with Obamacare are:
- The law was impossible to fully understand when passed – to quote Nancy Pelosi: “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it”
- The law is being changed continuously without proper legislative process
- The penalties for not having health care after 2016 become severe and are unfair
- Even though the law allows current health care alternatives (such as Medi-Share), it prohibits the formation of new health care alternatives
- Millions are having their current health care plans cancelled, requiring them to upgrade to plans which meet new minimum standards and may cost more
These are all valid points and are certainly matters that should concern us. So I gave him for granted that the law has problems in how it was passed legislatively and in certain important provisions, but what about the intent and actual results of the law?
I asked Terry a few more questions:
If the law makes health care more available to the working poor, is that not better than the current system?
He agreed that yes, IF the law actually delivers what is promised and intended, Obamacare is an improvement as it relates to more people having access to health care.
If the intent of the law is to bring health care to the poor and working poor who wouldn’t otherwise have it, do you agree with the intent of the law?
Terry again agreed that IF that was indeed the intent, then he agreed with it in principle. But Terry seemed to express some doubt that this was actually the intent of the law.
So it seems that some Christians may not be opposed to the intent and outcome of the law, IF they come to pass. But they are opposed to the way it was implemented and the potential long-term political ramifications. And this brings me to the big question:
Given the number of poor, disadvantaged people that will benefit from Obamacare, do you still want to repeal it? Certainly if we measure the amount of good that will result, it outweighs the negatives?
Terry’s response: Your question presumes that Obamacare will benefit a large number of poor and disadvantaged people, but I am growing in my skepticism that there will be more people helped than hurt by the plan. This could be just a short term problem. However, no one knows for certain. Clearly, the declarations of what it will be have not come close to being reality if we look its current progress. Should I be patient? I have no choice and remain at peace. HOWEVER, IF more disadvantaged people and the poor benefit from Obamacare without major negative impact to as many more, THEN, no, don’t repeal it. Change it legislatively.
And so we arrive at the end. Terry and I share common principles, and we both look to Jesus and the Bible to shape our ethics and politics. But we don’t share the same opinion on Obamacare, mostly because the facts are still out. When we try to look into the unknown future of health care, we have different projections of what Obamacare will achieve.
For the record, I personally support Obamacare because I believe it will benefit millions of people who are currently uninsured through the expansion of Medicaid and through the insurance marketplaces, and while I agree that it was not introduced properly or rolled out effectively, it should not be repealed because the benefits outweigh those negatives. If there are certain provisions that are unfair, unethical, or violate our religious freedom, then let’s amend those through due process.
I believe, along with almost all other 1st world countries, that we should care for our citizen’s health. We have state schools and law enforcement, which indicates we value education, law and order, and protection higher than our health – but for anyone who is sick, we know everything else comes second to our health. Jesus recognized this, and so should the US. We are the wealthiest country in the world (by total GDP), and yet we can’t look after our own?
I don’t believe in handouts, but I do believe in hand ups. I don’t believe health care is a hand out…you have to be healthy to raise a family, go to school, or get a job. In this sense, health care for the poor is an investment in our citizens and our country which benefits us all. But even if it only benefited them, I’d still support it, because I believe my Faith demands it.