US Health Care Debate – Christian Options?

image Saturday’s Irish Times outlines the options facing President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in their efforts to pass health care reform in the United States. I’m an American, and I have followed the somewhat tedious rounds of debates with both amazement and despair.

Many Americans believe they have the best health care system in the world. That’s what the Republicans have said, although they also have said that the system is broken. Then there is Fox News, whose presenters continually shout about how horrible ‘socialised’ health care is in the UK or Canada.

Many Americans who support the Republican Party think about health care in moral terms. They think that Obama’s health care plan will provide services to people who are too lazy to work, and that this is deeply immoral. Many Americans see this as a Christian position. I know because I have talked with people who hold these views. I have heard them quote a verse in Proverbs that says that if a man won’t work, he shouldn’t eat.

The problem is that the present health care system in the US doesn’t even provide for people who will work. This past summer, my husband and I rented an apartment in the southern US from a couple of retirement age. The man, who had a university degree and worked hard his whole life, had diabetes. He had taken a 35-hour-per-week job for the city, which according to the city council guidelines, was part-time. This meant that he didn’t have a very good insurance plan. He was essentially working full-time to pay for his medication, which he ordered off the internet from Canada.

To me, it is deeply immoral that something like this has happened to a kind and hardworking man.

I can think of many other cases like this, some involving members of my own family. In light of that, amazes me that conservative Republicans have been able to co-opt the ‘Christian’ and moral debate about health care.

On the Huffington Post, Sojourners’ Jim Wallis has offered alternative moral and theological perspectives on the healthcare debate. Contrasting the Democrats efforts with those of George W. Bush, he laments the high cost of military spending and adds,

… the tax cuts that George Bush pushed through Congress overwhelmingly benefited the richest people in America–virtually all analysts agree with that fact. But many Americans haven’t really calculated that the cost of those tax cuts for the rich was literally double what health-care reform is projected to cost. Double. … How does that square with the biblical emphasis on the priority of the poor? There is simply no way to justify the habitual behavior of the current Republican party’s clear preference for the rich over everybody else.

Wallis ends his post by asking,

Anyone care to provide a theological foundation for the Republican policy preferences for the rich and for war? I would really like to see it.

Sadly, the Republicans have little need to theologically justify their preferences for the rich and for war. This is because so many of their supporters are caught up with arguments about the immorality of the poor individuals who just might benefit from health care reform.

God bless America …

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