Why we Need Government to Manage Health Care in the US

It’s not unconstitutional for the government to develop and administer a system of providing, and financing, health care in the United States.  I see that argument, but it is based on the false philosophical and political perspective that health care is an “industry” based in a free market economy, and must be completely free of any kind of regulation.  Government’s role is the protection of its citizens, from foreign threats, and internal threats, and from the greed and exploitation of those who are more than willing to take advantage of people because they have the means to do so.

The previous article I wrote here establishes health care as a basic human right, rooted in the principle of the sanctity of human life.  I see no credible argument against that position, and since many of my readers claim to be followers of the Christian faith, there is no argument in that domain against this position.  Human pain and suffering should never be used for profit, period.

It is the government’s role, constitutionally, to protect its citizens from being exploited.  People will pay whatever it takes, down to their last dime, to relieve their own pain and suffering, or that of someone they love.  Survival instincts and the sanctity of life are strong forces that drive human behavior.  And we have as many examples as we need of seeing the cost of services driven well beyond the resources necessary to deliver them and include a reasonable, fair profit for providing them.  In the United States today, half of every dollar you pay for medical care goes to paying all of the people involved in delivering the care, including the doctors, nurses, employees of the medical offices and hospitals, and all of the direct and indirect costs associated with those services.  So where does the other half go?  That’s the profit margin.  Half of what you pay doesn’t do anything to provide care, it simply gets transferred from your bank account to the individuals who earn  dividends for owning the means of care, or of owning the insurance company.  Half.  Yes, that’s exploitation, caused by greed.

There’s even a question about the costs involved in the half that you pay which does cover your medical care costs.  The cost of supplies, equipment, and medications purchased for health care purposes are much higher than the same goods get when used for other purposes.  If you want to get involved in a good discussion of something that pulls in an inordinate amount of money for what it actually delivers, look at the prescription drug business in this country.  Even health care professionals are victimized by the business tactics and profiteering that goes on in that business.

Part of the current problem with the American health care “system,” is that it is really multiple systems, some competing with each other, some monopolizing the provision of health care in a particular area.  Three of the major hospitals in one particular metro area, which account for about half the patient population, are owned by the same corporation.  Two of them still go by the names under which they operated when they were owned by church groups, when they were not-for-profit, though that is no longer the case, and that’s another issue.  Rates are all over the place, and it is virtually impossible to shop and compare.  The more desperate the situation, the higher the rates you pay.

Getting this under control may be quite a problem.  The profit margins in both health care provision and insurance are staggering, higher than in any other business except energy, and the profiteers are well protected by friends in the government.  The removal of the few government protections that exist as a result of the ACA drew a massive amount of protest and response, and so there’s a glimmer of hope in that many legislators who seemed bent on continuing to help the profiteers backed away when it seemed that their constituents might support an opponent who held a different perspective.  It took seven years for people to catch on to how the ACA might benefit them, but it has gone from support by 46% of the electorate to 58% now supporting it.  Those are numbers that few politicians want to oppose.  So there is some hope.

It is not necessary to re-invent the wheel.  A single-payer, government operated system, with private health care providers regulated through control of how they receive compensation for their services, would provide this country with exactly what it needs, and would, as it has in virtually every other country where its been done, maintain health care quality at a high level.  With accessibility and research and development in countries with “socialized medicine” exceeding that of the US, most of the bugaboos that get raised are proven false.

This shouldn’t be a “partisan” issue.  Do what’s best for the people you serve, not the profiteers who want to take advantage of their pain and suffering.  Health care and health insurance are not part of the free market, at least, they shouldn’t be as long as human nature still bends to greed.


Health Care is a Sanctity of Human Life Issue

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Psalm 139:13-14

This is the most commonly cited verse in the Bible in reference to the sanctity of human life.  For Christians who believe that life begins at conception, this statement is both authoritative, and comprehensive.  It’s not a stand-alone proof-text either.  Jeremiah 1:5 carries the same implication, based on God’s omnicience with regard to his creation.   In that reference, God calls Jeremiah as a prophet, and says to him, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”  Mary’s cousin Elizabeth told her, “When the sound of your greeting came to my ear, the baby in my womb leapt for joy.” 

Those are not necessarily intentionally connected passages, but they all support the basic, foundational principle that human life fully exists before birth.  There is identity and purpose in human existence which is part of a divine plan emanating from the energy of divine creation itself, which we commonly refer to as the “will of God.”

There are differences of opinion about who has ultimate control over life before it is born, but for the most part, it would be difficult to believe in a beginning point other than conception if you accept the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing God, and if you believe his will included sacrificing his own son to conquer sin and reconcile his creation to himself.  Once a person comes into existence at conception, the sanctity of that life is equal to that of the mother, in spite of the physical control she may have over the situation.  As a Christian, I believe that’s a basic and foundational belief that goes to the heart of the faith itself.

When does that status, which we refer to as the “sanctity of human life,” end?  Does something change at birth which causes a life to require less care, and less protection of its sanctity?  Of course not.  Once conceived, a person has a divine purpose that extends throughout their entire life on earth.  There’s no difference in the sanctity of life before or after birth.

Many Christians have become intimately involved in politics in order to advocate for government legislation to protect human lives still in the uterus.  That advocacy includes making the artificial termination of a pregnancy illegal, and extending constitutional rights to any person, from the moment of their conception.  There are those who question whether or not this is a decision for the government to make, but if you believe that the life of a conceived child is equal to that of its mother, then government protection is not only warranted, it is required.

So why is it that so many Christians who believe this are willing to accept a political philosophy that devalues the sanctity of life after birth by relegating health care to nothing more than an economic commodity in which the life protecting, and life enhancing services of medical practice are relegated to the status of nothing more than an economic commodity competing in the “free market.”  Massive amounts of money and effort go into lobbying efforts to elect politicians who claim to share this foundational Christian belief in the sanctity of life, to the point of promising to actually do something to restrict or end access to abortion.  But many of the same politicians that they support with the expectation of protecting the sanctity of human life before birth support a position on health care that skews the value of life based solely on the monetary value of the care required to maintain it, and which often takes advantage of pain and suffering, or fear of death, to raise the price beyond its real value.

If you believe in the sanctity of human life, and you believe the government should protect that life from conception, then you must also believe that the government should protect life from economic exploitation.  Americans pay twice as much for health care as any other citizens in the industrialized world.  Half of that money doesn’t go toward supplying a single resource related directly to their health care, it pays dividends to the corporate interests that own both the means of providing health care, and the means of financing it.  A common expression, profit from pain, is an apt description of how this system works.  The more desperate the situation of the people seeking care becomes, the higher the price goes for the care that they are seeking.  That’s what the free market does when health care is nothing more than an economic commodity, and not a basic human right connected to the sanctity of human life.

If health care became a completely free-market enterprise, then it would be something from which most people would need to be protected.  Price of services would be governed by how desperate someone was to get care.  Many people would not be able to access medical care because the cost would be prohibitive.  Even with the ACA, that’s still the way it is for many people.  Are their lives sacred?  Do Christians care enough about others to put the same kind of effort into advocacy for the sanctity of human life that they do into figthting abortion?

They should.