If Jesus were living in Atlanta, Georgia would he support the single-payer health-care model now being proposed? Wouldn’t Jesus be the first to stand up and applaud the notion of health care for everyone? After all, there is no one who is a bigger defender of the sick and needy than Jesus. Can you even begin to picture Jesus standing in favor of the big insurance and pharmaceutical companies?
Let’s start with considering the popular argument against our present health care system: it costs too much! Anderson Cooper pounded on this drum (along with many other statistics) in his September 2nd blog:
When you look at our spending on a national basis, the numbers are astonishing. According to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the U.S. spends 16.6 percent of its GDP on healthcare. But Canada (remember, they live three years longer than we do) and England (they live two years longer) both spend only about 10 percent of their GDP on healthcare.
I assume statistics like these are intended to buckle the knees of those who seek to stand up for a robust free-market based health care system. But, is the statistic to be trusted at face-value or is there more at play than simply a return-on-investment?
In a recent article called The Pharmaceutical Umbrella, Benjamin A. Plotinsky points out the relationship between how our extra expense actually decreases the expense of other countries. Mr. Plotinsky makes the striking point that socialized medicine regulates the price of prescription drugs and thereby reduces the potential research that would serve as the basis for finding cures for diseases that kill millions of people annually. In other words, when you take away the free-market incentive (profit) of finding the cure for a disease (lets say cancer for example) you remove the impetus for such a discovery. The free-market system keeps the incentives for cures in place and thereby provides more potential for medical breakthroughs for the entire world. I don’t think Jesus would support a system that stifles medical cures, do you?
Also, socialist Europe, by using American drugs, is actually profiting from our free-market system and driving our “per person” costs up since we do the research and development and then they regulate the cost. Europe essentially plays hardball with American drug companies to “accept bargain-basement prices for their wares.” The companies then make up for the loss by charging Americans more. Essentially, we are supporting socialistic Europe now and it is driving our expense up. So when you hear someone say we have the most expensive health care system in the world you now have a better picture as to why this is. In theory, if the free-market system was in play around the world we would have better health care and better medicine at cheaper rates. Conversely, if we move to a socialist model it will degrade health care quality and increase costs worldwide. Do you think this is something Jesus would want? An increase in potential for more poverty and a decrease in more effective medical treatment?
Mr. Plotinsky goes on to say that,
“…the lesson here isn’t that America should be stingy about subsidizing French health care. If American consumers and drug companies play a disproportionate role in protecting the world from dangerous microbes—just as America did in protecting it from Soviet missiles—we should be proud. (It would be too much to hope that this good deed will go unpunished among European elites.) No, the lesson is to be skeptical of reports speaking glowingly of socialized health-care systems, because those systems wouldn’t work nearly as well as they do without unsocialized American medicine.”
Where does that leave us as followers of Jesus Christ? It would seem that a strong argument could be made that if we move to a model that relies on socialized principles that we will actually hurt more people (worldwide) than help people in America. Given this reality, what do you think Jesus would do?
[Disclaimer: I fully realize that these issue would not be central to the mission of Jesus. However, as followers of Jesus we need to consider political issues like this due to the fact that we are called to be responsible citizens of the United States].