A conservative pro-family leader stepped into the ring with liberal radio show host Ed Schultz this week to explain why many religious leaders and lay are against the federal government’s hotly debated plan for health care reform despite the obligation they have to help those in need.
“I do believe that we have some problems in our health care system in America today. And I would agree with you that we have a moral obligation to care for our neighbors,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins told Schultz Wednesday during his short five-and-a-half minute appearance on MSNBC’s The Ed Show.
However, the Catholic faithful added, conservative leaders “don’t believe that a government takeover of the health care system is the solution.”
“Trying to give it off to the government is an abdication of personal responsibility,” Perkins explained, noting it was the churches and religious leaders, not the government, who established the first hospitals in America. “We have a personal responsibility and the Church has a responsibility in this. I’m glad that they’ve lived up to this in the past and they need to live up to it today.”
According to estimates, there are nearly 47 million Americans today who are uninsured – though, as Perkins claimed, only around 12 million actually cannot afford insurance. Those who support a greater government role in the health care system say health care overhaul is urgent given the many problems of the existing health care system, including outrageous costs – half of U.S. bankruptcies are caused by medical expenses.
In their effort to fix the system, President Obama and many Democratic leaders have pushed for a public option where Americans can purchase their health insurance through the government. Critics, however, argue that it would be unfair for the government to compete with private insurance companies because one of the competitors is also the rule maker.
In response to the strong opposition to the current White House-backed health care legislation, President Obama plans to give a major national address next Wednesday on his proposals. He is expected to be more specific about his plans and give more detail on arguments for an overhaul.
While Perkins did not discuss Wednesday what health care reform he would like to see, he did point to the book that he co-authored with Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr., which contains a part on health care reform.
In that section of Personal Faith Public Policy, the two conservative leaders say they would like a private-public partnership where the government would help improve health care coverage by giving tax credits and making it more portable.
For low-income Americans, they say a health-care tax rebate program could be developed that would adjust withholdings for health-care expenses. The emphasis in their health care reform proposals is personal responsibility, but they also said that everyone should have health care, even if people could not afford to pay for it.
Perkins and Jackson wrote that they believe the church and government, conservatives and liberals can somehow work together to “produce the best health-care system in the world.” However these days the health care debate has been more about arguing and less about negotiating.
In his comments Wednesday, Perkins also said he took issue with “the selective lifting of Scripture, of the teachings of Jesus” by some government officials, including President Obama, to back the contested health care plan.
“[U]sing Scripture like silly putty to wrap around radical ideas is not going to be sold to the Christian community,” he insisted.
Last month, during a teleconference with around 140,000 members from Amercia’s religious communities, Obama said the United States was “neglecting” to live up to the “call” to be its brother's keeper.
The president also accused “some folks out there” of “bearing false witness” to discourage people from meeting what he considers to be a core ethical and moral obligation.
Notably, however, Factcheck.org director Brooks Jackson concluded that the president went too far when he called the statements that government would be funding abortions 'fabrications.'"
In a recent issue of Time, the magazine's White House correspondent, Michael Scherer, similarly stated that Obama is “technically correct” when he says that it is “not true” that government will fund abortion – one of the most contentious issues related to the bill.
But the statement “does not tell the whole story,” Sherer insisted.
Factcheck.org’s Jackson also acknowledged that President Obama’s “not true” statement is partly correct because Congress did not “require” federal money to be used to support abortion coverage.
Furthermore, Jackson added, “it’s a matter of fact that it (the House bill as it stands now) would allow both a 'public plan' and newly subsidized private plans to cover all abortions.”
Critics say the proposed House health care reform bill would cause marked change in the federal government’s role in financing of abortions.
Christian Post reporter Eric Young in San Francisco contributed to this article.