Interview: Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. on Health Care Reform

Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr., senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in the Washington, D.C. area and founder of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, spoke to The Christian Post last week about the current health care reform bills and what changes he would like to see in America's health care system.

The following are excerpts from the interview.

CP: Is there anything that President Obama could say today (Sept. 9) in his health care address that would make you switch to supporting the reform bill before Congress?

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Jackson: I think there are many things he could say. My concern is that he might not say them. The things he could say is he will not support abortion in demand as part of the bill. And he could say he is going to let go of or stop pushing for the government option as they call it. Those are my two major concerns.

CP: Many conservatives are opposed to the public option. Could you accept the public option if certain details were changed? If so, what are they?

Jackson: At this point I could not because it is still undefined and I don't really trust it won't go down the slippery slope of socialism. I prefer free market solution where there is open competition. The administration says it wants to lower prices and the idea of competition would give that lower price. But I don't see how the government's involvement is going to do that.

So at this point, no, I am really not open at all to a government option.

CP: Supporters of the health care bill have said critics just know how to point out problems but they haven't proposed any solution to the broken health care system. If this bill fails, do conservatives plan to advocate for another health care plan? 

Jackson: Yes, I have heard some ideas. They plan to advocate for more piece-meal reform not in chunks. For example, the consolidation of electronic bills and how information is stored and retrieved could be passed that could result in huge savings. I heard people talk about tort reform. Many doctors who are making decent money feel like they can't practice because they can't afford insurance.

Let me give you an example, a member of my congregation is an emergency room doctor. His personal insurance fee was so high that it was impossible for him to keep up his insurance. After he got sued several times, he was very upset. He left the country and returned to the country he was born in and opened his own clinic.

Second person I know is an orthopedic surgeon. He recently got sued and it put a major mark on his insurance policy and his medical license. He lost in the court of law in an unfair case where people were saying he should have known this and known that.

So tort reform, it's not that they don't have a better idea, it is something very important if you ask me.

CP: I know you've talked about the church historically being the founder of the modern concept of hospitals. Do you think churches today can again play a major role in health care? How?

Jackson: Yes, certainly. Many of the hospitals that carry the name Ignatius or Holy Cross all signal they originally started off Christian. We could begin smaller care, emergency care hospitals, but more than likely though we could do what I call critical care infirmaries.

The first infirmaries in the United States were religiously based infirmaries that were manned by nurses and people with medical training.

We do this thing in South Africa, where one of our ministries has an 18-wheeler that is used as a mobile clinic. What they do is they man that with volunteer nurses and doctors and a lot of church volunteers. What they do essentially is go out to the communities and do some initial screening and test and bring basic emergency health care to people and are able to at that point to refer people to further medical treatments as needed.

So I think what we are dealing with in this society is that we need a net of care for people without insurance. So imagine a system, in the Washington, D.C.-area for example, that had 20 infirmaries in each corner of the city – 80 infirmaries in all. And they cater to anyone from the homeless to the impoverished.

I think it could be very good in terms of people who feel they need to circumvent normal procedure and wouldn't have to go through the expense of huge emergency room bills.

That is a concept. I think that is how it could look like for me. The faith-based outreaches could work very very well in these areas. That's the big idea behind my thought.

CP: Do you have an idea how these church-run health projects could be paid for?   

Jackson: I think they could be paid for by the accommodation of government and private funds. Again thinking of the idea of volunteers coming in just as they would come in at foreign mission fields to serve. I think if you look in that direction the cost of staffing and office operation would be less. There would be limited care and limited treatment and there would be a "menu" of things they do.

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