An advantage of having a blog that is is somewhat widely read is that I get letters and emails from people all over the world who have various opinions on a variety of issues. The following letter came to my email from a Christian man named "Chuck Brown." Chuck is greatly concerned about our health care system in the United States and he wrote a letter articulating how he felt Christians should view the health care debate. I do not necessarily agree, nor disagree, with Chuck's letter. I'm still processing much of what he writes. However, with his permission, I am posting the letter below and asking you, my Christian brothers and sisters in Christ, to respond to his arguments for government health care. The only rule of thumb for the comment stream is that I ask you respond with your viewpoint in a kind, gracious and civil spirit.
"I have really good private health insurance through my employer. I pay a small fortune for it every month, and my employer pays them a much bigger fortune just for me and my family. My needs are being met right now, but I do not trust the private health insurance interests because, as 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “...the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
The private health insurance interests do not love you and me. They do not love the sick. They love only what is in someone’s pockets — yours and mine. I am personally convinced that they would gladly let a sick child die to save a dollar. This is why I am in favor of the health care reform plan taking shape in the U.S. Congress right now, including a government-run health insurance option to work in competition with private health care insurance. If you please, I would like to make the following four major points:
1) I would like to see the uninsured become insured. As a Christian, I would have to do that even if it was not what I wanted to do, but I want to do this. I make under $250,000 per year. Nonetheless, if it were to come down to it, I would be personally glad to pay more taxes to help these uninsured people. It is just plain the right thing to do.
2) The private health insurance interests are not in business to provide health care. They are in business for the same reason most other businesses are — to make money and as much of it as possible for their stockholders — and I am probably one of those stockholders. Back in the late 1980s, the private health insurance interests duped American businesses into thinking that they could control skyrocketing health care costs by taking over virtually the whole system. No doubt some cost savings were achieved for a while early in the game. Nonetheless, the overall costs of private health care kept rising at a tremendous annual rate over time, and it is still rising fast. One of the reasons was private health insurance profits.
I recently read an article that highlighted the story of a man who was a manager in a private health insurance company for 3 years. Most companies and small businesses feel fortunate to take home a 5 percent or 10 percent annual profit. The insurance manager said the annual profit for his company, over those 3 years, were 29 percent, 37 percent, and 49 percent. Where does that come from — your pocket and mine — while the cost of health insurance continues to skyrocket. Private health insurance is expensive because it is the only game in town. When you are the only game in town, you can jack prices into the stratosphere. The government-run option in the health care reform plan would create the competition and price control pressure necessary to put an end to this. If you dislike the multi-million dollar executive bonuses at failed Wall Street investment banks, the private health insurance rip-off should have your soul literally on fire. If it does not, you need to pinch yourself to see if you are still alive.
3) How soon we all forget. Many of us have selective amnesia, but I do not. I actually remember the time about 10 years ago when the private health insurance interests were denying treatments and drugs to patients right and left so they could line their pockets with the proceeds from human misery. That all changed rather suddenly when the federal politicians started getting seriously interested in something called “health care reform.” The naughty boys among the private health insurance interests saw dad reaching for his belt, coat, and the pathway to the woodshed. Collectively, these interests decided they had better “cool it” and get really reasonable with their patients --- that is until the storm blows over. They did get more reasonable. However, you folks out there have to understand that they did this only because of their fear of the looming fight ahead — the one we are in right now for real health care reform.
If the private health insurance interests win this health care reform fight we are in now, they will be King of the Hill – alone on top — no challengers — all enemies vanquished — in total control — answerable to no one — with absolute power over your health care. As the old saying goes, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If they win this time, the cancer treatment that is merely questioned today could be denied next year. The expensive drug your son desperately needs to stay alive this year could be denied next year. There will be, quite literally, no one to stop the private health insurance interests, and they will do what they have always done — take maximum financial advantage of their wonderful new situation while your loved one sinks deeper into illness.
4) Be on the lookout for lies. The private health insurance interests and their cronies are in the BIG LIE business right now. One of their biggest lies is that government health plans do not work. That is not true. There are some problems in Canada and Great Britain, but even those are being addressed. They made some bad planning decisions. You will hear a lot about how Canada and Great Britain failed, so that must mean we will fail too. What they do not tell you is that Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and Switzerland have universal government health insurance that works very efficiently and is a lot less expensive per person than our current private health insurance system. Taiwan actually studied what Canada and Great Britain did wrong, so they could identify their specific mistakes and avoid them — which they did. It has been a tremendous success. If we Americans can put a man on the moon, we can do even better than Taiwan did with health care.
An associate of one of my close friends had a teenage son who was recently on travel in Great Britain. Somewhere in London, he had the great misfortune of getting his arm broken. Naturally, they rushed him to the hospital. He had good American health insurance. Was he denied help because he was a foreigner? No. Did he have to wait for hours in a long line for care? No. They treated him right away. He flashed his American health insurance card at them, and they laughed at him. “You don’t need that here,” they said. They fixed him right up and had him on his way to a full recovery in no time. What were the hospital and doctor charges? It is my understanding that they were ZERO.
Therefore, as a fellow Christian, I urge you to be watchful on this issue in both directions. If you are skeptical of the current health care reform program that is taking shape in the U.S. Congress, I would urge you to be equally skeptical of the private health insurance side. Some of the national news outlets like CNN (particularly Anderson Cooper Live 360º (at 10:00 p.m. EDT and 9:00 p.m. CDT) have spots each night where they examine the claims on both sides to see who is actually telling the truth. It is crystal clear to me that the great weight of flat-out LIES is being told by those who are opposed to health care reform. Jesus would not have us take sides with a position that is caught nightly in a perpetual state of lying to the American people.
A great many of the millions of uninsured citizens in our country are what the King James Bible refers to as “...the least of these...” I am talking about the poor, the working poor, the mentally ill, the handicapped, sick people who are labeled as “too risky to cover,” those whose health insurance has been terminated, and many others. In light of that, I wonder when we, as Christians (as well as our pastors), are going to take seriously the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40, as follows:
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord,when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Ultimately, health care reform is not about whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Constitutionalist, or whatever else. It is not about whether you are conservative, liberal, independent, or apolitical. It is not about whether you despise Barack Obama or like Barack Obama. Health care reform is about “…the least of these...” among us and our ability to make some changes that will help them.
Therefore, I would urge you to please support the health care reform bill that is taking shape in the U.S. Congress right now. Write to you elected representatives and ask them to support health care reform, including the government-run health care option to serve as “checks and balances” on private health insurance costs and excesses. As you consider this, please remember that security in this world is promised to no man, woman, or child. Life may look good for you right now, but tomorrow you and your children could quickly find yourselves counted among “...the least of these...” All it takes is a lost job, a mortgage foreclosure, a business deal gone bad, a serious car accident, a major illness, and many other unforeseen things. Too many of our neighbors all over this great country of ours have found this out the hard way just over the past 9 months. God bless you and thank you for giving consideration to this important issue."