U.S. President, Barak Obama, has been pushing for health care reform. America’s health care system has a number of problems. First, American’s spend approximately twice as much as on health care costs than other Western countries. In fact, a leading cause of bankruptcy in America is debt caused by a catastrophic health incident. Second, some reports contend that over 40 million residents lack health insurance and the number who are “under-insured” grows the number even more.
Add in the fear that haunts people regarding their health-care security, and the President’s wish to reform the health care system seems a worthy goal.
The question is, “How should health-care be reformed?” I don’t have any magic solution. In fact, I don’t think there are any “easy solutions” as there is no way to make health-care affordable and universal for all without serious economic and social pain. In light of the public rush toward adopting a European style health-care system, I just want to point out some key issues that regularly get ignored.
1. European countries have stricter immigration laws. In the U.S., a significant number of non-insured individuals are actually in the U.S. illegally. It is true that anyone, regardless of legal status, in need of treatment is given health services whether they can pay or not. In light of the fact that when people think that treatment is “free”, their utilization of health-care will increase, how will the U.S. deal with the costs incurred by illegal residents also using the system?
2. The top causes of death in the U.S. are caused by personal choices. American’s love foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt. We hate vegetables and exercise and our waistlines show it. Should responsible Americans be forced to underwrite the consequences of those who make poor choices? What about the health effects of sexual choices? Monogamy does reduce health-care costs.
3. The decline in the cohesion of families is the ultimate reason behind the health-care crisis. In previous generations, families would pool monies to care for sick members. Today with divorce and other living arrangements, the family safety net has been dismantled. Thus people have turned to the Government (as the Church as a vehicle for social security had become irrelevant years earlier).
These questions have not been adequately addressed in the contemporary discussion. Nor do I think they will be as they expose the moral worldview of the contestants, something that they don’t want to do in a secularized society. Obama says that the health-care issue is a moral one. I couldn’t agree more. But is it moral for the government to force people to spend money to pay for health-care for people who refuse to be responsible just in the name of compassion. Couldn’t it be argued that what Obama wants is nothing more than punishing people who made proper choices by forcing them to pay for the costs of choices by those who made poor ones. Is this simplistic? Yes, it is. But I am talking about the majority of issues, not the minority. I am just asking readers to consider the larger issues at stake regarding taxes, government power, morality, and personal responsibility.
Next week, I will discuss the so called “Death Panels.”
Dr. Stephen M. Vantassel is tutor at King’s Evangelical Divinity School