The prospect of government-funded universal health care is another example of America's departure from its strong Judeo-Christian roots and its love affair with socialism. Economic systems that perpetuate or construct dependence or reward sloth strike at the very heart of what it means to be human.
Universal health care, or government-funded health insurance, is a major issue early on in the presidential campaign. North Carolina's former senator, John Edwards, has been stumping for it in his platform for president. Hillary Rodham Clinton, also a candidate for the presidency, has been pushing for it as far back as when her husband, Bill Clinton, first became president. It's also been a burning issue for state governments such as California and Massachusetts. Even a House Select Committee, in a state as conservative as North Carolina, has been studying the California and Massachusetts models of legislation with the prospect of making an attempt at providing universal health care for the Tar Heel State.
The prospect of government-funded universal health care, however, is another example of America's departure from its strong Judeo-Christian roots and its love affair with socialism. Most Americans are completely unfamiliar with what the Bible teaches about economics. And progressive churches have, unfortunately, dominated the scene by espousing a form of economics that is essentially socialistic principles with a religious veneer. One might even argue the church's loss of influence today is due in part to its support and advancement of the welfare state, which by government pre-emption has siphoned away the church's energy and resources for charitable purposes.
While a recent New York Times/CBS News Poll finds a majority of Americans now say the federal government should provide health insurance to every American, there are strong indications that many who declare their support for government-funded universal heath care fail to understand what it would entail. The poll found "[s]ixty percent, including 62 percent of independents and 46 percent of Republicans, said they would be willing to pay more in taxes .... Half said they would be willing to pay as much as $500 a year more." But even if every person currently paying taxes were willing to pay an extra $500 a year, that wouldn't begin to cover the great costs involved in such a program.
The Bible teaches God is a creative and productive being and man, who is made in His image, was created for the same. Economic systems that perpetuate or construct dependence or reward sloth strike at the very heart of what it means to be human. Thus, the apostle Paul admonished the Thessalonians: "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat." (II Thessalonians 3:10) Certainly, those who cannot provide for themselves, despite every effort they can summon, should be helped in the form of charity. Nevertheless, the Scriptures teach that ingenuity and industry are what should be rewarded, while laziness or failure to provide a service the public needs should go unrewarded.
What is inherently immoral about socialistic endeavors is the effort to equalize economic conditions by forcibly redistributing wealth. To get this done, the right to private property, which God gives in the eighth commandment of the Decalogue, is violated. And charity, which according to the Scriptures is supposed to spring willingly from the heart, is instead coerced. Therefore, the image of God in man – his creativity and productivity – is suppressed, while those who are indolent prosper.
What is more, socialistic principles fail to take into account man's depravity – his fall away from God and into sin. The socialist contends if man's environment is changed, he will change. He'll be better to his neighbor. It discounts man's need for redemption in Christ and contends that if all have an equal share, then there is less reason to war and steal, etc. But the fact is socialistic principles change nothing about human nature and only concentrates economic power in the hands of a few sinful individuals who are more able to exploit the public.
Sven Larson, a policy analyst for the John William Pope Civitas Institute, notes all the ways these negatives would play out in a government-funded universal health care system, which is simply a form of socialized medicine.
• It would outlaw private health insurance and give government bureaucrats the exclusive right to set reimbursement rates for physicians, clinics and hospitals. This would not only create supply shortages, but would also likely produce a black market health-care system.
• It would transform the state into the sole purchaser of medical drugs and equipment, hampering cost containment and inviting corruption.
• It would destroy professional freedom for medical professionals. The government would be the sole determiner of the number of medical professionals that could work.
• It would of necessity cap health spending. According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, American health providers increase medical technology by 7 percent per year. Such increases are necessary if new technology is to make its way into hospitals and clinics. If the cap for a government-funded universal health-care system like the one proposed in California had been enacted nationwide in 1960, the cumulative effect would have been to lower current technological standards in hospitals to 1982 levels.
One can already see how liberty and justice, which are unalienable rights – God-given rights – are significantly diminished by such a proposal.
Most importantly, since a government-funded universal health-care system would come at a heavy financial burden to the state, one could only imagine how, over time, it would affect right-to-life issues. It most certainly would make abortion and euthanasia readily available. Children with gestational issues of retardation, spina bifida, etc. would likely require abortion. Vulnerable patients such as the chronically ill, disabled or elderly would be allowed to die as in the Terri Schiavo case, or possibly even terminated.
A government-funded universal health-care system will never provide what its champions promise. Why? Because socialism never provides what it promises and neither can socialized medicine. Instead of providing good health coverage for all, it will ultimately lessen the quality of care for all. As Ludwig Von Mises wrote in Liberalism, "There is simply no other choice than this: either abstain from interference in the free play of the market, or to delegate the entire management of production and distribution to the government." Is the incompetence of the government in responding to the needs of Hurricane Katrina victims so soon removed from America's memory that it's now willing to place its most personal issues – health-care issues regarding quality of life, life and death – into the hands of a federal bureaucracy that would be approximately three times the size of the Pentagon?
Larson rightly argues, "America has the largest private health insurance market in the world. If allowed, this market could provide universal health care for everyone by meeting every need and every budget." He rightly suggests that one key improvement would be to remove the coverage mandates that states impose on private insurance plans. According to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, there are 1,843 coverage mandates in the U.S. "Coverage mandates are sometimes called 'consumer protection,'" says Larson. "But because coverage mandates increase the cost of insurance they actually force many families to go unprotected by shutting them out from affordable health insurance plans." The answer lies in reducing the cost and stimulating competition between the insurance companies, he says.
Whatever the solution, any plan fostering more dependence on the government is not only extremely dangerous, but immoral. Perhaps the country would do well to consider the warning of John Cotton, a founding father of the Massachusetts Bay Colony: "Let all the world learn to give mortal men no greater power than they are content that they shall use, for use it they will."
Rev. Mark H. Creech (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.