Mar 23, 2010  •  In Christianity, Personal

Should Christians Support the Health Care Reform Bill? (And a Question for My International Readers)

A Christian website I visit frequently recently opened a debate about the newly-signed health care reform bill.

I will not get into the specifics here, but one recurrent theme caught my eye: the number of Christians who are vehemently opposed to the bill on the basis that they will need to contribute more in taxes to support those who cannot afford quality health care on their own.

I was horrified.

Whatever happened to sacrificing for the needy? Selflessness? Love? Aren’t those some of the greatest expressions of Christianity?

Jesus tells us in the Bible that the greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And the second? “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

And while I do not know all the specifics of the bill (nor am I a biblical scholar), my understanding is that there isn’t anything glaringly un-Christian about it, especially in regards to those two commandments.

On a more personal note, I think that the bill definitely has its faults, but it is a step in the right direction. And while I am not a great fan of socialism, I believe that government intervention is necessary in certain parts of our lives, because all human beings deserve — or at least deserve the chance at — a decent life. The status quo isn’t worth protecting if it only benefits the most wealthy and powerful members of a group.

* * *

One of the many cases that are brought forth by opposers of the bill cites other countries as examples. They say that citizens of countries with universal health care must pay more in taxes (my household pays 35% — do you pay more?). They state that the doctors and the quality of health care in these countries are sub-par to that of the United States, that the wait for necessary procedures and tests is disturbingly long.

Now, I’m not too sure about other countries, but I do know that S. Korea has universal health care and my relatives who live there were appalled when I informed them how much we pay in taxes, or how much we pay for insurance.

In addition, health care in Korea is so much more accessible and cheaper than that of the U.S. that my parents — who are U.S. citizens and have health insurance — choose to have procedures done while visiting Korea because the costs are less than what they would pay in the U.S. with insurance.

So I’ve decided to pose a question to all my international readers: what do you think about the health care in your country? Do you agree with the above statements?

23 Responses to “Should Christians Support the Health Care Reform Bill? (And a Question for My International Readers)”

  1. grace:

    I am a Canadian and feel quite satisfied with our system. I enjoy the peace of mind knowing that I don’t have to pay if i get sick and that I can go to the doctors anytime I do not feel well. While, we do have have longer wait times and in emergencies, things can take a long time, it’s worth it knowing that I won’t be spending the rest of my life paying off a debt related to my health

  2. T:

    You should watch this- http://video.pbs.org/video/1050712790

    it goes through healthcare in 5 countries, England, Japan, Taiwan, Germany and Switzerland

    and how they afford it-
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sickaroundtheworld/countries/

    they range from spending 6.3 to 11% of GDP in healthcare…we spend 16% i believe

  3. I think that I had a very similar reaction when I came to the same conclusion that you did. I just felt kind of perplexed about it. I don’t assume to know everything about it and I’m sure that its going to take a lot of tweaking to get it right. Just for the record I’m not an international reader, just a regular old American reader that is glad someone else thought the same thing that I did.

  4. Lindsey:

    This is a really interesting post. Right now I have great insurance because my husband is in the military. I hope, for my own family’s sake, that nothing changes about our insurance. I understand that some Christians oppose the bill because they fear that if their employer’s insurance covers abortions, they will be forced to pay into a system that supports something they morally oppose.

    As for other countries’ health care systems: I lived in Seoul for a year. The week after I arrived I had a medical emergency. At the time, my employer’s insurance hadn’t yet kicked in. I probably paid about $500 out of pocket for tests and a couple of visits. After my insurance took effect, I was SO impressed. Unfortunately I had the occasion to visit the doctor on more than a handful of occasions, and each time I was amazed by the quality of care and and how little I paid out of pocket (sometimes as little as $3). I don’t know how the South Korean government manages it, but I think the US should take a cue from them. That is a kind of socialized medicine that I would absolutely support.

  5. Laura:

    I am an Australian who is currently living in Canada.

    I think I’ve read that people are concerned about waiting times for surgery. However, it’s been my experience that services are allocated on need. For instance, my father had to wait to have hid varicose veins removed. He was uncomfortable, but it was not at a point where his quality of life was greatly diminished.

    Conversely, when my mother was in a serious car accident, she was airlifted to the nearest hospital where the doctors did everything they could (country hospital) and then sent her to a major hospital in the metropolitan area. As soon as she arrived, she received surgery and was placed in the high needs unit. She was assisted by a social worker and an occupational therapist. She spent a month in hospital and received ongoing physiotherapy for a number of months afterwards.

  6. I’m in Canada and I know we’re practically dirty socialists, but I am happy with our system. I have had to be in the hospital a number of times (stabbed arm, shredded knee, severed finger) and I have always been very happy with the care and aftercare I received. Once in a blue moon, you have to wait for a specialist or something, but as someone else said above, these things are judged on the level of emergency. I know a friend of my dad’s was diagnosed with cancer last year and when he needed to see certain doctors, he was bumped to the front of the line, no questions asked. Also, a good friend of mine whose father had cancer was able to work out a very nice home care situation for him in his final days. It was a horrible situation for sure, but I don’t even want to think about what that would have cost them if they had had to pay for it. Stress on top of stress? No thank you!
    I think it’s great that we don’t have to think about our health from a financial standpoint and we can go to see a doctor whenever we need. Because we don’t have to pay, it makes it easier to stay on top of health care issues, and if something dire is to happen, we won’t find ourselves trying to recover from it with a mountain of debt.
    I am sure it seems scary to some Americans right now, but you guys were the only industrialized country left without universal health care. It might not solve all your problems, but trust me when I say, it’s a good thing you have it.

  7. I’m also Canadian and satisfied with my health care system. As other posters have mentioned, the wait times for non-critical things are perhaps longer than in the US, but at least you know you don’t have to pay a small fortune just for an appointment. Or decided between which finger gets reattached because of what you can afford (Sicko, anyone?)

    Something else I’d like to point out is that if you require a special surgery, or the wait times are too long for a special procedure, the healthcare system "sucks it up" and will actually send you to the US for treatment at no cost! My mom needed surgery and for a time the waiting list was too long (or something, I can’t really remember) and they told her that they may send her to NY state for the procedure. All her travel costs, etc. would be covered since she had to go much further than a Canadian hospital.

    I think the most important thing for me is that I know I can always see a doctor or go to a clinic, have a procedure or tests run without worrying about how I am going to afford all of that.

    Because I can see a doctor when I need to, I feel that I am less of a burden on the system because I am catching things early, rather than later when more care would be required. I’m saving people money! (Of course not everyone is like me).

    I’m happy to see the US taking some steps in the right direction. I don’t have to worry so much about my American half of the family!

  8. Jan:

    In India it is a mix of both. We have government hospitals that are nearly free (depends on your economic status) and private hospitals that aren’t free. But even the private hospitals are not so expensive that it will break the bank. For example my mother had an open heart surgery with 10 days of hospital stay for just $6000 in one of the best private hospitals.

  9. I am german and I am happy with our system. I cannot understand how a developed country cannot have health insurance, as I think it does pay off in the end. We have health insurance, accident insurance (for the commute to and from work) and long term insurance (if you are not being able to work in your job any more due to an illness or an accident). Of course you can have additional insurances on top of that, depending on your needs and wishes (special treatments, extra coverage etc).

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  11. JulieBelle:

    Well said! I am also a Christian, and am STUNNED by the lack of support for the health care bill from Christians. I understand the objections to covering abortion, but as far as paying more taxes to cover the health care costs of the poor, I can not comprehend why a Christian would oppose that.

    Not only was Jesus big on giving money to the poor, he had a pretty blase attitude about paying taxes, too. ("Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s." Mark 12:17). I thought this was a pretty insightful take on it: http://www.theologyforwomen.org/2010/03/political-angst.html

  12. Kira:

    My dad hates the new health care bill. His arguement: "I worked hard to learn English, I worked hard to go to college, I was old and am getting older, I have five kids to care for, why should I help those lazy people? If I came at my age from Africa and became rich, why should I help lazy white Americans?"

    I think it was valid until the end. :\

  13. "Whatever happened to sacrificing for the needy? Selflessness? Love? Aren’t those some of the greatest expressions of Christianity?
    "I do agree – opposing the bill does seem somewhat unchristian to me.

    That aside, I live in New Zealand. I’m happy with what I’ve experienced of the healthcare system. I had free medical care through uni (although the waiting list was usually a couple of days…I think if it was urgent they TRIED to accommodate you).

    Now I’ve registered with another doctor, and will be charged $15 per appointment. Not sure what the waiting time will be yet.

    The one time T went to the emergency room, it was free.

    We’ve never had serious health issues and I don’t have experience with hospitals and specialists, but I certainly believe everyone is entitled to healthcare.

  14. Being a Canadian, I am satisfied with our level of health care. My sister cut here forehead open when she was little, and needed stitches. We just went to the emergency room. There was another time when a friend was involved in a car accident, and they got taken care of right away.

    I believe that healthcare should not be a commodity. We are talking about people’s lives here, not a brand name of jeans.

  15. more understanding:

    I am a Christian and in support of health care reform. I know it is a Huge issue and very complicated. I think it will take a long time to iron out a plan that works well, but I am glad it is being addressed. I am an American, but have several international friends from countries that have socialized medicine. I have heard almost no complaints from them regarding their coverage, and they are thankful that they do not have to worry about a medical problem taking there livelihood due to cost. I have been surprised at the number of comments I have read about "not wanting to pay money to help others who are not helping themselves". This surprises me for two reasons: one b/c it is quite non biblical. After all wasn’t that what Jesus did for us. And doesn’t He call us to love others the same way. Secondly, I think it is a gross misunderstanding of much of the uninsured population in our country. I work as a health care provider at a nonprofit clinic for the working uninsured. All of the patients we see are working, but have no insurance. Many of them are working 2 jobs to try and make ends meet and pay all there bills. Many of them are very sick and cannot afford health insurance premiums because they work lower paying jobs. This is not b/c they are lazy, but may never have had the opportunity to go to school or have been taking care of other family members or are single parents or any number of other reasons. I could never imagine having walked in their shoes for a moment, as I am from a middle / upper class family. Unfortunately, the current reform will miss some of these people b/c they cannot afford the premiums they will need to pay to get the new insurance. Hopefully, we will continue to problem solve as a nation, and Christians will be on the forefront of coming up with creative, self-sacrificial ways to help those in need.
    Most of those people who do not work at all already have some form of government assistance ie medicaid…this is a whole other social issue that needs to be addressed…another time.

  16. LNRB:

    Here Here! I think that this speaks to 2 major issues: 1. that the people allow their social politlcs and the politics politics get too intertwined. Reliastically this has nothign to do with Jesus or anyone else. But for so long the conservative Americans have interjected Jesus into, um, everything, and now they have to backpeddle and say things that are completely unChristian. It’s mind bending to me. It should be to them too. It’s a great opporutnity to allow people to just feel things becuase they FEEL them, not becuase the think Jesus wants them to think it. 2. Americans have become so greedy and self absorbed that it makes me ill. Which is convenient, because now I have health insurance.

    Sorry — that was a little snarky, but I competely agree with you, abhor this uncessary debate and wish everyone would just be nicer to one another.

    {and I love your blog..K done.}

  17. tyelperion:

    I live in England and I’d just add my voice in agreement with those from Canada, Germany, India, Australia and New Zealand above, as well as your relatives from South Korea. I lived in the US for four years and was horrified to see how much I had to pay for health care – even with fully comprehensive health insurance I was paying enormous amounds in premiums or every month, I had to pay enormous co-pays and then my premiums went UP after I got sick because apparently once I’d had one ovarian cyst I was likely to have more trouble conceiving and with pregnancy in the future – hence more of a risk for them, hence they charged me more. I was horrified and came back to England.

    Our health system is a "single payer" system – we pay taxes (but no higher than yours at 35%, in fact I think we pay a bit less) and then everything is free at the point of care, no copays etc. The one thing you do pay cash for is prescriptions, which are limited to £7 per prescription no matter what you’re getting so the costs are spread out over everyone in the country. Apparently prescriptions used to be free for everyone but they found people were getting pills and then not bothering to take them or throwing them away, so a small charge apparently increased the efficiency by making people value the prescriptions a bit more. Elderly people, students and the poor don’t even have to pay the £7. The quality of the healthcare I’ve had here is as good if not better than in the US, and as the other commenters have said, waiting lists for surgery are prioritized on urgency, not whether or not your insurer will pay for the procedure or whether you can afford it out of pocket. It’s great because it’s an egalitarian system that gives you the same level of care whether you’re rich or poor.

    I don’t think this new healthcare bill in the US gives you a single payer system though, unfortunately, but it’s definitely a big step in the right direction for you guys.

  18. I, too, am Canadian, and am horrified by all of the drama going on in the US. Our taxes are lower, and I’ve never had to pay for procedures and tests – despite having a ton of medical issues throughout my life. Even my fertility testing was free – and IVF, if I had needed it in the end, would cost around 2 grand – compared to 38 thousand that my friend had to pay in the states PER CYCLE. It’s ridiculous. I can’t help but think that a lot of the "Christians" and others who are objecting so strongly to Health Care, are actually objecting to the whole "everyone is equal and should be treated as such." NO ONE has the right to judge who should receive care in their time of need. There are so many individual circumstances, it’s impossible to create a fair system that says, "you deserve health care, you don’t." It blows my mind that the US is still so backward! Like you, too, poor thing, I remember you talking about your insurance woes and how much it cost after you lost your first baby. That’s B-S. How can a country run like that??

  19. Shelly:

    I posted a similar rant on my facebook.. stating very similar feelings as you.

    I am disappointed with the health care plan that got passed. It isn’t going to save our country. I really believe we should follow other countries and have a single-payer health care reform. Not a bill that forces everyone to get insurance. They even took the public option out.

    But at last… a least people are starting to realized their is something wrong with our healthcare.

    I think the problem is the "right wing"/"left wing" loyalty. The issue is really a rich vs poor problem and the middle class needs to stop believing what the rich CEO are telling them about health care.

    I think its funny that so many Christians are against it. I can’t remember a time when I went to church and we weren’t praying for someone that was having medical issues and couldn’t afford it. When will people realized its not just paying for the "lazy people", but paying for our brothers,sisters,friends,coworkers and yes.. strangers who need love and care as well.

    I am reminded of this quote from the bible

    "Command those who are rich in this present world not be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." 1 Timothy 6:17-19

  20. you cant be serious:

    Christians are not opposed to helping others, they are however opposed to a national health care bill that provides for the poor and results as a burden to the average american. Our health care has worked for our system if you have a problem go live some where else.

  21. Geek in Heels:

    @you cant be serious — And what exactly is wrong with providing for the poor? I would gladly pay more taxes if that meant more people in need were to be helped.

    "Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?" Isaiah 10:1-3

    "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" 1 John 3:17

    "And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." Isaiah 58:10

    "…’The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.’" Luke 3:11

  22. I completely agree with the last poster on the quotes of the Bible. I will take their word and if there be any doubt look at the Bible for yourselves to search out the real meaning not the subjective meaning of the Bible. I’ve noticed that people love labeling easy answers to complicated problems like governess and religion and how they diverge at times in your minds/hearts from one another. It’s tough answering such questions but reach your heart out to those in need instead of neglecting them on the street. Let’s look at wht has happened and what is occuring now. We currently have Medicaid/Medicare and the Medicare recipents are people who have paid in taxes right? Well, after a few years on that and a few years on social security their tax money is all gone despite what they might say in the contrary on the most part. They are considered a debt to our economy so by that logic they should be working till they die right? We eventually have to pay higher taxes anyways for a myriad of reasons like climate change, social security for the Baby Boomers, health care, infrastructure improvements, research into inventions and sustainability and things of this sort. Can’t we understand that the american dream isn’t what we thought it was about? It’s about religious freedom where you see christians aiding one another not dividing one another over things like:
    I Phone or medical care for a elderly person down the street? Come on wake up people! It’s about not money but care and the true tennants of christianity!

  23. Nathan:

    I live in New Zealand. We have public health-care. I seem to be paying less in tax than you Jenny. I have a disease (Chron’s disease) which has no cure. When being diagnosed, all the cameras-looking-around-inside-me procedures were free. I don’t know if the medication is expensive because I only pay $5.00 when I pick up each lot — which is nice, because I’ll be taking it for the rest of my life. If I eventually have to have surgery to remove part of my intestine, that will be taken care of. ..and when flu season comes around I get a free flu-shot because I have a Chronic disease that requires me to take drugs that lower my immune system.

    I have health-insurance, so I would be taken care of anyway. But I’d hate to think that any fellow New Zealanders would have to suffer through this if they couldn’t afford it. ..I think you’re right: Obamacare may not be the perfect solution, but it’s much better than the way it was before.

    I’ve seen what it can be like in parts of Asia, where some governments don’t take care of their people in the same way. Someone can be hit hard with a health problem, and if they don’t have family support they’re screwed, or their finances are obliterated. I don’t think man should abandon their fellow man like that. In most places we can afford to look after everyone in our society. We should. We just should.

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