Obamacare Threatens Charitable Hospitals

It's a good thing our current administration wasn't around in the 4th century when St. Basil of Caesarea invented what writer George Grant calls "the first non-ambulatory hospital" in history, i.e., a medical facility with beds.

Pouring forth the love of Jesus Christ, the good saint who lived in the Mediterranean port city northwest of Jerusalem is credited with this humanitarian development of the institution of the hospital. Roberto Margotta, author of "The Story of Medicine," says of Basil's hospital, that the "rule of love" prevailed, with the "care and comfort of the sick."

The longest lasting hospital that still operates (no pun intended) is Hotel Dieu (i.e., God Hospital) in Paris founded in the year of our Lord 600. It borders Notre Dame Cathedral.

In the New World, the oldest, still-operating medical facility is Jesus of Nazareth Hospital in Mexico City, founded in 1524.

In many other places and times, Christians of various stripes started all sorts of hospitals and health clinics. That's true across the globe. Even to this day, many hospitals show their Christian origin in their very name. Good Samaritan. Holy Cross. Christ. Baptist. Bethesda. St. Mary's.

Some hospitals are named after St. Luke (e.g., St. Luke Presbyterian, Rush St. Luke) because the author of the third Gospel and Acts was a doctor. He was even Paul's doctor.

Many people of good will, regardless of their religious convictions (or the lack thereof), are involved in the healing of the sick. Christian charity (that is, voluntary love for the Lord and for others) was what historically motivated so many of the great developments in organized health care in the first place, and that remains true to some degree today.

It's disturbing, then, to learn that the government's takeover of the health care system will likely punish charity hospitals in the future. In short, Obamacare could be bad for our health.

A headline in "The Daily Caller" notes, "Obamacare installs new scrutiny, fines for charitable hospitals that treat uninsured people" (8/8/13). Patrick Hawley reports: "Charitable hospitals that treat uninsured Americans will be subjected to new levels of scrutiny of their nonprofit status and could face sizable new fines under Obamacare."

The fines could be as stiff as $50,000 "if they fail to meet bureaucrats' standards," he writes.

Hawley adds, "A new provision in Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code, which takes effect under Obamacare, sets new standards of review and installs new financial penalties for tax-exempt charitable hospitals, which devote a minimum amount of their expenses to treat uninsured poor people. Approximately 60 percent of American hospitals are currently nonprofit."

I thought Obamacare was supposedly about providing health care for the poor and uninsured. It seems to me this is more about government control than it is about helping people.

Dr. David Stevens is the president of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, located in Bristol, Tennessee. They represent about 16,500 members and are in contact regularly with over 30,000 physicians and dentists. I've interviewed him a few times for radio and TV.

He once told me, "All three of my children work with a health care ministry in inner-city Memphis. They're motivated by their faith, and they sacrifice every day, not only at their work place; but they live [there], right with the people that they serve because of their faith."

But enter Obamacare with its stifling regulations in the health care field, and such good works could be ultimately discouraged to satisfy the bureaucracy.

Dr. Stevens observes: "...if ever we needed Christians in health care, it's now; but unfortunately, we're putting a system into place that ultimately could drive them out of health care." For example, if laws forced them to violate their conscience.

He laments, "That's scary, especially as we look at the bioethical issues we're facing on physician-assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, abortion, and the list just goes on and on---where having a doctor that shares your Christian worldview is going to become more and more important in beginning-of-life care and in end-of-life care."

Stevens adds, "We need health care reform, but we need to attack the real problem---out-of- control costs---not open the doors for millions and millions of more people at this point to enter the system and increase costs even more. We need to deal with access, but if we can get costs under control, it's going to be cheaper for everyone, the insured now and those that can be insured when the cost is lower."

Driving conscientious Christians out of health care is the worst thing that could happen to that field, yet it seems that Obamacare regulations could end up doing just that. Ironically, at the same time many are losing their jobs because of Obamacare and may need charitable health care.

I remember in the comedy record, "The First Family" in the early 1960s, where comedian Vaughn Meader did a masterful job imitating JFK. At a mock press conference, a reporter asks "JFK" what his solution would be to the coming social security crisis. Meader's reply as JFK was, "Try to stay young." Applying the same humorous logic to today: What's the solution to health care crisis, should Obamacare go fully into effect? "Don't get sick."

Sadly, more government bureaucracy in the health care field may ultimately drive out that spirit which gave birth to much of it in the first place.

Dr. Jerry Newcombe is a key archivist of the D. James Kennedy Legacy Library and a Christian TV producer. He has also written or co-written 23 books, including The Book That Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation and (with D. James Kennedy), What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? His views are his own.

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