Thursday, October 10, 2013

Christian argues the only real solution to health care is to let the church handle it.

Ran across this Christian criticism of the ACA today.

7 Things the Bible Says About Obamacare

I know, I know, everyone has an opinion about the Affordable Care Act and the subsequent Republican shut down of the government. In all honesty I have no degree in economics so it’s entirely possible that you shouldn’t listen to me any more than this guy. However, I’m going to make my argument anyway, decide for yourself if it makes any sense.

His starts with these two points:

  • Caring for the sick is a good thing to do
  • Caring for the sick, however, is not the role of the government

I can applaud him for noting that caring for the sick is a good thing, so I have little problem with his first point. He tries to drive home his point with the bible which is irrelevant to me, but the article is clearly written to a Christian audience so it makes sense that he would do this.

It’s the second point I take issue with, he first sets up the idea that the government fills particular roles, and says that health care is not one of them. However, this he bases the idea for these roles on religion and since this is a secular democracy we are not bound to rules in the bible, we need more convincing reasons for this rule. To be fair, he tries to offer somewhat secular reasons for this later on but I disagree with them too.  I would also point out that his interpretation is self serving and many religious people do not agree that healthcare is an area government is not allowed to go.

Of course with the government out of healthcare, since he agrees we need it, who does he imagine will take over for the government? Why, the churches of course. In this thinking I see a big problem, though the author probably doesn’t see it as such. I’ll admit that when we go to the government for a solution there are usually strings attached, and sometimes those strings are annoying or work poorly. However, these governmental strings are at least predictable, mostly rational, and are, at least in theory, the same for everyone.

Allow the churches to take over healthcare and care for the poor we are left with a system that has strings attached to it which are completely arbitrary and could change at any moment. Even secular private organizations that help the poor often have government regulations placed upon them to keep them from using the system to abuse people they are trying to help, but churches regularly get a free pass on these regulations even now, and given this guys opinion it seems clear he would want to further limit the governments ability to regulate churches in this area. This could result in a situation that gives the church quite a massive amount of control over those with lower incomes.

Imagine a single parent who looses their job and needs food to feed their children, they go to a church for help because that is the only place to go. What is to stop this church from requiring this person and their children to attend church? Nothing as far as I can tell. This may be an acceptable situation for Christians because they feel it is their god given mission on earth to convert everyone by any means necessary. However, for someone like myself who finds the moral teaching of the church morally suspect they would be forcing me to choose between my religious rights and the ability to feed my family. Further, they could change these rules at the drop of a hat for no reason at all.

It may not be the authors intent but they would have created a system in which true freedom of religion will be a right only consistently granted to the rich and middle class. Further the system is ripe for abuse by bigots of all types. Of course some churches would work to eliminate these problems no doubt, but now instead of one government bureaucracy every denomination will end up with their own separate bureaucracy to govern their own separate healthcare/insurance system. How exactly would this save us anyone money?

The third point:

  • The ACA forces compliance

Well, he is right about this, but there is nothing wrong with the government expecting compliance; that is called law. The government does this all the time, this is how it works if you want to live in a society with other people. We agree to give up certain rights for the good of all. If you want to argue that this particular instance goes to far that’s fine, but don’t pretend that living under the rule of law is some crazy idea that the government just started forcing on us when Obama was elected president. The government also fines us for not wearing seatbelts, and they tax cigarettes, and beer and all sorts of things.

Fourth point:

  • The ACA violates religious liberty.

This is one of the more ridiculous points that the religious right has been pushing. The notion is that Christian owned companies like Hobby Lobby are justified in refusing to include medical coverage in their employment package for certain legal medical products/procedures that the owners happen to have moral issues with. This is patently ridiculous, no one has interfered with their religious beliefs, as no one is asking that they personally take any part in or be subject to said medical treatments. Refusing to offer insurance coverage to employees based upon your religious beliefs is interference with your employees religious freedom, not the other way around.

A quote from this section I found particularly informative:

What your lawmakers should know: Government is not above the Christian principles upon which it was founded, and cannot force Christians to do something that violates their consciences.

The author has bought into the completely false idea that the government was founded on Christian principals, but was is particularly troubling is that he asserts that the government cannot force Christians to violate their conscience. Why only Christians? Why are Christians so special? If some Christians happen to feel so strongly about not allowing the insurance they provide to cover things like birth control then they are free to no longer work in management positions at secular companies.

Fifth point:

  • The ACA is theft.

Taking money to give to another is stealing – even if it is for a good cause.

Ahh, this idea. He doesn’t explicitly say so, but he is following the typical anarcho-capitalist idea that all taxes are theft. The fact is that this simply isn’t true. For one thing it is a huge oversimplification to say that the government takes money from the rich and gives it to the poor. The government takes in taxes which it then uses to provide services. Some of those services like roads are are accessible to everyone equally. In fact, it is arguable that rich people get more benefit from roads than anyone since it enables them to cheaply move their products from one place to another.

Of course it is true that some things, like Medicare, benefit the poor more than the rich, and it’s also true that the poor pay less taxes. (Some will argue that pay none but this is inaccurate, they often pay no income taxes but they still pay many other taxes including sales taxes) However, I still don’t’ think this qualifies as theft. Anyone remember the American revolution? It didn’t start because of taxes, it started because people were being taxed by England but had no representation in the parliament that levied those taxes. Does “No taxation without representation” sound familiar? We have representation though, and we used our election system to legally elect the people who promised health care reform, and then they did what they promised by passing the ACA.

I understand that they didn’t vote for them and they don’t agree with them, but they got their vote same as everyone. That’s how the system works, and it isn’t theft because this is how everyone generally agrees things should work. I wasn’t a fan of the Iraq war under Bush, and I’m also not a fan of many of the military engagements under Obama, yet those things cost money and inevitably some of my taxes went to pay for it. That annoys me, but I don’t claim the government stole my money because taxes aren’t theft, they are an entrance fee to live in a civilized society.

Sixth point:

  • No government program, including the ACA, can reduce the cost of medical care.

What your lawmakers should know: The only way cost reduction can be accomplished is by healthy, economical competitionThe goal is to get to a point to where you shop for the best medical care like you shop for a mechanic.  You make a few calls to get some prices, and then make a decision about who will best satisfy your needs.

I’ll preface this by reminding you I’m not an economist, but then neither is this guy. This is simply wrong as far as I can tell. There are plenty of countries with government run healthcare where things are much cheaper than here.

Because I’m no expert here I’ll let someone who actually knows what they are talking about here fill you in:

So the article makes some really noticeable errors in judgment about how healthcare works, and economics in general. For those who don’t watch the video, one of the major problems is that one can only negotiate for a better price when they have a strong position. As John points out in the video, health care is not something that individuals can negotiate efficiently on because they are in a very weak position. (I.E. I need those pills or I will die)  This is why it is possible for the government, or insurance companies for that matter, to get a better price for services than an individual who needs medical treatment. The authors attempt to blame high medical costs in the U.S. on government involvement is a huge oversimplification if not just outright wrong. As John points out government involvement in this area can actually improve competition not stifle it as is suggested.

Point Seven:

  • The ACA creates more debt.

This is not actually certain, some economists think that it might, but there are also economists who predict that in the long run it will actually save money. It is difficult to say for sure because economies are a complex thing and they don’t always behave as expected. The author wants to take a rather simplistic approach by saying this will cost more money therefor increase debt. However, there are a number of ways the bill could work to lower medical costs and improve the overall economic efficiency of the U.S. Again, I suggest reading an article by someone who knows more than me.

The Economics of the Affordable Care Act

He ends this section with this:

What your lawmakers should know:  We should not increase our national debt, even if it is for a “good” thing, unless it’s necessary for national survival and for a biblical purpose (i.e. war costs).

It is a very odd logic that leads a person to conclude that is totally moral for our country to go into debt to kill people, but not to save them. I find it odd that people who want us to balance our national debt never suggest cutting military spending, even though it is the third largest expenditure by our country, coming in at 716 billion dollars last year. This kind of thinking is exactly why I find the “moral” teachings of so many Christians completely immoral.

The author seems does not really seem to understand the complex economic issues surrounding healthcare and tries to offer overly simplistic answers to these problems based upon his personal interpretation of the bible.

His call that Christians should care for the poor seems laudable, and in a sense it probably is. However, the long term effect of such a policy would be to give the Christian church a massive level of political and social power within this country. Given this fact, I wonder if perhaps they understand things a lot better than they are letting on. Perhaps some, if not many, are just using small government talking points as a guise that will allow them to use health care as a wedge issue to move the country towards Christian theonomy. Of course I can’t look inside their minds so I can’t know for sure, but I certainly wonder. Even if it isn’t their goal I’m sure they wouldn’t have much of a problem with it.

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