Who Would Jesus Insure?


You can buy this wristband from www.whowouldjesusinsure.org.

You can buy this wristband from http://www.whowouldjesusinsure.org.

My Congressman, Jim Moran, recently held a town hall to answer the questions my neighbors and I have about health insurance reform. Like so many other town halls during this Congressional recess, it was was packed with people on all sides of the issue. My favorite blog, Wonkette, had the best coverage of the event.

As I watched the event on C-Span, I was struck by one sign captured by the television cameras. It asked a simple question: “Who Would Jesus Insure?”

When I pose this question to my friends on the far right wing of the Republican Party, they get very uncomfortable, particular those who are Christian Evangelicals. (Let me clear, they aren’t squirming over the fact that the question fails to use the pronoun “whom” which would make it grammatically correct.)

No, their discomfort is over something much more significant.

From their political point of view, they believe that government screws up everything it touches and it shouldn’t get into the business of regulating health insurance. (I don’t think that makes any sense, nor do I believe there is much evidence to back up this point of view, but that’s pretty much what my right wing friends think.)

That’s not to say these folks are opposed to universal coverage — they aren’t. They just think the private sector, particularly the religious faith community should step up to the plate and take care of those who are unable to take care of themselves.

I call this casserole dish health care. It’s a bit naive and rather 19th century in its thinking.

I think about a young man from my church. He was diagnosed with lymphoma as a high school student and underwent several months of cancer treatment at a local pediatric hospital. Later, as a college student, he was diagnosed with cancer in his pituitary gland — the doctors believe this second round of cancer came about because of the radiation he underwent during his lymphoma treatment.

Fortunately, his parents have excellent health insurance and he is doing well. (Both cancers are in full remission.) The family still faced tens of thousands of dollars in co-pays, but it was manageable given the family’s income. If the young man’s father had lost his job though, the family would most like be deemed “uninsurable”.

For the sake of argument, though, let’s say that the family had no health insurance. What kind of care would that young man have been given?

Throughout his two bouts with cancer, our congregation brought meals to the family — lots of casserole dishes — as a sign of our support. They appreciated it a lot and it continued for months on end.

But we didn’t pay this family’s co-payments. And had this family not had health insurance I don’t know what they would have done.  As a congregation, we wouldn’t have been able to raise the funds to pay for his entire treatment — the bills approached a million dollars.

What I don’t understand is why my fellow believers — those on the religious right — are so violently opposed to using the government to reform our health insurance system so we can give everyone the kind of health care treatment this young man got.

They know that the Jesus whom they worship just like me would want everyone to have equal access to care. If that sign, ” Who Would Jesus Insure?” had an answer, it would have read, “All of Us!”

But instead, the self-styled “Pro-Family” groups from the religious right are actually defending the insurance companies rather than standing with families. They also are lying when they claim that the government would get into the business of paying for abortions of imposing “death panels”.

Is that what Jesus would do?

I don’t think so.

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9 Comments

Filed under faith, health care

9 responses to “Who Would Jesus Insure?

  1. It is unfortunate that you think your fellow believers are liars and naive. You might do better to more examine their concerns.

    Whenever we make a law that increases the power of government, we should have several concerns.

    1. Would this increased power be constitutional?

    Look at the 10th Amendment and try to understand why it is there. The Constitution exists to protect us from unscrupulous, power-hungry people. Since there is nothing in the Constitution that allows the Federal Government to provide health care services, we already have unconstitutional activity in Medicare and Medicaid. Why make the situation worse? Why encourage our elected representatives to violate their oath of office?

    2. Can the private market do it?

    Every time you exercise a choice in your daily life, you vote. You buy food? Then you are letting farmers know what they should grow. You buy a car? That lets the auto companies know what to build. You buy clothes? That is how fashions are set.

    On the other hand, if government provides a service, you don’t get a choice. Government is a monopoly, and it takes your money BEFORE you even get served.

    Consider our roads, for example. Instead of the user demand deciding where new roads should go or which old roads should be expanded, politicians respond to political influence. That is why our traffic jams have gotten so bad.

    Anyway, if you want government to provide your health care, which is where HB 3200 was headed, it is because you have not thought enough about it. Yes, it is nice of you to be concerned about the poor people who need health care, but there are very few such people, and we do not need to “fix” a system that is working just to help a fix people.

    Instead, if you want to help someone who is poor — if you really want to be nice — reach into your own pocket and donate your own money to a charity you have chosen.

    • I love your sincerity, I just think you’re wrong. But I chose to post your comment, because I think you wrote it in a respectful manner.

      Thank you.

      Here’s why I think you’re wrong.

      1) The courts will decide what’s constitutional and what’s not. (They do that daily.) And despite your view of the law, the courts — filled now largely with right wing judges appointed by Reagan and the Bush family — have come to completely different conclusions about the current government run health care systems of Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, the VA and DOD.

      2) The free markets can and do fail. Especially when market power is concentrated in the hands of a few providers. When private insurance companies — not our doctors — are running healthcare in this country, something’s wrong. In the case of the U.S. we spend more on health care on a per capita basis than any one else, yet our system is ranked 37th in the world. There are over 40 million of your neighbors uninsured. The free market has failed them. Government routinely regulates markets. In fact, one could argue that the big reason we are in such a huge economic mess is that the administrations of the last several presidents have failed to closely regulate financial markets.

      And finally, I do want to help the poor. Not just because my faith calls me to do so, but because it’s also the right thing to do.

      Setting that aside, it’s also economically efficient for us to do so.

      But I come back to my original thesis: I believe we have a moral imperative as a country to solve this public policy problem. Casserole health care isn’t going to do it.

  2. Read the Constitution yourself. We decide what the Constitution means, not judges. If the People cannot find health care in the Constitution, and judges do, there is a disconnect. Either the judges or the People do not care read the document. Such a disconnect means there is a problem, a big problem. It could mean we have the wrong people picking the judges.

    Similarly, we each have the right to decide how we use our own money. The fact we spend so much on health care is our choice, and most people (over 80 percent) are happy with their health care. Don’t people have the right to spend their money as they wish? When we want the best, we have to pay more.

    How effectively we are spending our money is debatable. And the statistics we use are not necessarily helpful. The >40 million people uninsured is one such example. The number includes people who can afford health care insurance (but don’t buy it), illegal immigrants, people between jobs, and people who are eligible for existing government programs (but have not signed up). If you really want to find out how many people are truly uninsured, may I kindly suggest a little more research.

    Further, I suggest some careful thought about the difference between government regulation and government ownership and operation (Note that with sufficiently intense regulation, government has effective ownership.).

    With the growth of government power, we are drifting towards socialism. As I suggested in my first comment, that has direct implications for liberty. When government controls your choices, you have no liberty.

    The financial markets are another subject, and changing the subject midstream is disruptive to logic. However, regulation of the financial markets and regulation of health care are in one sense related. Both involve the unconstitutional seizure of government powers.

    If you do a little more research into the financial markets, what you find is that at the time of the collapse, our government was heavily involved in the financial markets. Fannie Mae and Freddie MAC are government creations. Congressional mandates engineered the sub-prime market.

    Put yourself in the shoes of a banker. If you loan somebody money and that person cannot pay back the loan, where is the profit? Loaning money to someone with bad credit only make sense when somebody like Uncle is willing to guarantee the loan.

    Anyway, I suggest you contemplate the following concept, the division of labor. Whatever enterprise the government takes upon itself puts you and me on the Board of Directors. That is, the bigger our government gets, the more you and I have to know to vote wisely. The bigger the government gets, the more our government interferes in the lives of our fellow citizens.

    At some point, logic dictates, big government will create more problems for everyone than it can ever hope to solve. That is, we voters (on the Board of Directors) won’t know enough to run each other’s lives.

    The reason the United States is wealthy and prosperous is that for the most part we each run our own lives. Look at the things that give you the most headaches, the things you cannot do anything about because you have no choice. Do they usually result from government or private industry?

    • I’m so baffled by your point of view I don’t where to begin. But I’ll start with commending your mostly respectful tone. (Suggesting that anyone who disagrees with you is ignorant of the Constitution and hasn’t read research is patronizing, but perhaps that’s not your intention.)

      I do have a few questions for you though. Do you really believe because the Constitution doesn’t explicitly mention health care, it’s unconstitutional for the government to regulate insurance companies? Using that logic, the Constitution doesn’t mention fire protection, municipal water systems, interstate highways, dams, national parks, food and drug regulation, social security, medicare, veterans health care, public education… the list goes on.

      Do you know anyone who’s unable to obtain health insurance? Have you ever met anyone with a preexisting condition or someone who’s reached their lifetime limit for coverage? Do you know anyone who’s living below the Federal poverty line? Meeting someone in that situation might change your mind here, but maybe not. How many people do you believe are uninsured if not 40 million?

      Your approach to health care seems to be that as long as you have coverage for yourself and your family, screw everybody else. Surely that’s not the case. Surely you are a more charitable person than that. I believe that Gandhi, Churchill and Truman were right when they said, in one form or another, “you can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable members”.

      I’m not sure why you object to discuss finances, because that’s really at the heart of why our healthcare system is broken. Even the GOP elected officials I can’t stand accept that. A tenet of conservative economics is that the only time a market should be regulated is when it has failed. If you don’t accept that this market has failed, I’m afraid you’re going to be extremely frustrated with any change at all — even the Republicans in Congress believe that.

  3. Consider the context. When I said read the Constitution, what I asked you to do is point out where in the Constitution the Federal Government is empowered to run or provide health care services. All the commerce clause does is provide Congress the power regulate interstate commerce. Unfortunately, the people we have put in charge want to do quite a bit more than that.

    You listed a bunch of programs. Some are managed by state governments and not relevant. Why it supposedly takes the Federal Government to build a dam I don’t know, but there is nothing in the Constitution about it. The justification for building Interstate highways came the need to provide for the national defense and the power to build postal roads. When prefaced by the term “veteran,” doesn’t the authorization for veteran’s health care explain itself? Two big ticket items, Social security and medicare, definitely are not in the Constitution. Public education is at best a state and local problem.

    Because we do not restricted our elected officials to their assigned duties, our nation is going bankrupt. By pitting us against each other, our politician use our own money to buy our votes.

    How? Programs like Social Security and Medicare pit the old against the young. Have you noticed that anyone old enough to have retired will most likely vote? Our politicians have, that observation provided the genesis for the Social Security scam.

    Unfortunately, age does not necessarily bring wisdom. If the managers of any private company did what the Federal Government does with the Social Security program, they would go directly to jail. The Federal Government takes (not much choice there) from us more money than it will ever give back. The billions the government collected (and still collects) in excess never went (and still does not) go into some lock box. Instead, Congress spends it to make special interests happy.

    The attack on my supposed lack of charity does not really merit an answer. However, I suppose I ought to point out the two false assumptions that serves as its basis.
    1. Just because the Federal Government does not provide health does not mean the poor will not get health care.
    2. Just because you want a new government welfare program does not make you charitable. Charity comes from personal giving, not paying taxes.

    Government welfare programs empower government, but they do not necessarily solve problems. What is guaranteed? When we give over problems such as welfare to government, we give ourselves an excuse to ignore the problem.

    Does every problem have to be solved by the elected officials in Washington? Has it occurred to you that when government starts taking half of our incomes, that creates poverty.

    Every problem does not have to be solved by government. Society is not constituted by government. In a healthy society, government is merely a useful tool, one used to maintain order.

    In America, we currently a free People with a government. Where we are headed is to a reversal. We will soon have a Government with an enslaved People.

    • I’m not sure where to begin. But I will say if your view is what is now considered to be the heart of the Republican Party, the GOP is destined to be a permanent minority party.

      I’d also suggest that the Democrats in Congress pass a health insurance reform bill without a GOP vote. There’s no possibility for any meaningful compromise with someone with your extreme views. None.

      But the great thing about hearing from somone like you is it motivates people like me to work harder to get Democrats who share my views elected. It also motivates me to makes sure the Republicans who represent me aren’t ones who endorse your views.

      What’s great about web conversations like the one we’ve had is that the elected officials who represent us, can’t hide from either of us — at least not as easily. (Perhaps that’s something you’d agree with me on.) 😉

    • Health insurance is interstate commerce. As an attorney, I really don’t see an issue here as to whether it can be regulated by the government under the Constitution.

      One of the reasons for government participation is to break up virtual or actual monopolies in a large number of health care markets, especially rural ones. Yet another aspect which invokes the commerce clause.

      Whether the government “should” provide a public option is a political question, which is asked and answered at the polls at least every two years. The voters have spoken, unfortunately for you, in a manner which is contrary to your position.

      • Nobody suggested the Federal Government cannot regulate the interstate commerce aspect of health care. Since insurance can cross state borders, it make sense for the Federal Government to facilitate competition.

        Whether the government should provide health is also a constitutional question. That has to do with the difference between a constitutional republic and a representative democracy ruled by a simple majority. If you are an attorney, you should know that.

        If you are an attorney, why didn’t you cite where in the Constitution Congress is given the authority to provide for our health care? If there is no such authority, and we have chosen honorable leaders to lead us, then why don’t they cite this authority?

        What is unfortunate is that we have chosen dishonorable leaders. If the voters want to decide whether we will have socialized health care, then they must either amend the Constitution choose to ignore it. With leaders willing to break their oath of office, it seem we have chosen the latter.

  4. Tom,

    I definitely see your point. The problem is that the Court has already broadly interpreted the commerce clause, in combination with Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution to permit such plans. Article I, Section 8 reads:

    “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States”

    Medicare was justified in part with the “provide..for the general welfare” clause. I do not see a difference between Medicare and any other efforts by the Government to ensure healthcare, such as a government insurance option to compete with private insurance companies — which of course, what Medicare is.

    My parents are coming from Ohio to the 09.12.09 March on Washington. In their own self interest, I don’t think that they are going to be railing against the unconstitutionality of Medicare.

    In the law, the issue of whether the Government can provide healthcare or healthcare insurance is either settled, or the implications of a challenge to Medicare and other public insurance programs medicine are so troubling, that it is probably not productive to attack this angle. The best route, as you imply, is to select honorable leaders that will follow the Constitution and laws in the best interests of the people.

    We definitely need a change in the representation in our district, VA-08, as Congressman James Moran has clearly demonstrated that he does not consistently act in the best interests of the people…well, at least in the interests of the people which do not provide him with significant campaign donations, sweetheart loan deals, etc.

    One thing you could do is reach out to other more controversial districts, and try to make a political difference there. Remember, accountability comes every two years. Just a thought.

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