A CHRISTIAN GUIDE TO OBAMACARE
BY DR. BERNARD JAMES MAUSER, Ph.D.
Mark Twain once wrote, “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of Obamacare, “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.” We are quickly seeing the truths in both of these statements. Many have realized the legislation called the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) is a misnomer as it is not affordable or caring. It is clearly a Leviathan we all face today that has captured America. Thomas Hobbes wrote Leviathan as a way of describing the inescapable and destructive beast of government- an apt analogy of what has become Obamacare. If we properly judge the inadequacies of those in charge of healthcare- and have paid any attention at all to what is in the plan they had to pass before reading- we’d have reason to be very afraid. Yet there are a few on the fringe that call for Christians to lay down their arms (both literally and figuratively) and submit to this new law of the land. Why?
In Romans 13, Paul admonishes believers to submit to the ruling authorities. People are to recognize that these are established by God. This is generally taken to be an extension of Jesus’s admonition to “Render to Ceasar that which is Ceasar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matt. 22:21) As Obamacare is the law of the land, it seems to imply Christians are obligated to support it.
The argument from compassion is also a popular argument (I mean after all- isn’t the plan itself compassionate because it has Care in its name?). This argument says that Government-provided healthcare is the most compassionate way to ensure that every person that needs it can get treatment (apparently they were unaware of the already existing laws providing this very thing before Obamacare- but I digress). As the Christian strives to follow Jesus’s command to clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, and help the sick- those promoting Obamacare argue Christians should be among the first providing support.
Each of these arguments, though popular, has serious flaws.
For the first argument, it is true that the authorities are established by God. But it is not so simple to say that every law a government makes is ‘Divinely ordained.’ First of all, some laws may be immoral. Suppose, for example, that there was a law that said that foundational human rights (like life or liberty) did not exist inherently because of a person being human, but were rights that existed because they are conferred on persons by the state. In other words, suppose the state claimed that it is the source of rights- as opposed to rights existing by virtue of someone’s humanity. If a state makes this claim, and then proceeded to strip an individual’s right to life and liberty from them, this would be grounds for declaring that law to be immoral. We can see historical examples of immoral laws like this in the Scott v. Sanford (1856) and Roe v. Wade (1973). In both Supreme Court decisions human rights were trampled. Dred Scott was denied the liberty to live as free from his master; the unborn was also denied the liberty to live as free from her mother.
Consider the background of how one may judge laws to be good or bad. In classical political philosophy, a good law is such if it is in accord with human nature (i.e., reason). In other words, a law is not good if it violates a human’s nature (i.e., the natural law) - allowing for defense of the body, education of offspring, and to love God and others. Laws created by the government are civil laws. Civil laws are not binding if against the foundational natural law. The natural law (also mentioned in Romans 2) is a moral law that tells how humans OUGHT to act.
As a moral law, this natural law is binding and none are permitted to violate it- including the government. Thus, if there is a conflict between the civil law of Romans 13 and the natural law of Romans 2 (which only happens when the government makes immoral laws), then natural law trumps civil law. Everyone recognizes the legitimacy of this. For example, the Nazis charged with murder in the Nuremberg Trials after WWII showed us that the world-at-large recognized that natural law is superior to civil law. Those participating in these atrocities were found guilty of violating the natural law- regardless of the defense of ‘just following the orders of the civil law.’ This idea of following orders is simply an appeal to following the immoral commands of the governing authority.
Much of the dispute from the religious community recognizes that Obamacare is immoral on at least one level. By forcing everyone (including Christians) to pay for abortions, the government has in essence violated Romans 2. Because of this very issue, employers have dropped health care benefits across the board. Some of this has to do with the extreme cost, but another aspect has to do with a crisis of conscience. Organizations that Christians own feel a dilemma as to whether they should follow God or men. The reason is these believers face abortion-related mandates in the new federal plan. This is the cause of numerous lawsuits against the federal government, and contributes to more people losing their healthcare than would have without Obamacare.[i]
At another level the burdensome taxes violate the natural law insofar as these taxes steal wealth from those that have earned it. As natural law forbids stealing, and the taxes mandated in Obamacare steal from those that have not consented, one may appeal to the natural law to oppose Obamacare. At least some in the history of America have thought taxation without consent was sufficient to justify resistance of the government (do they still teach the reason for the American Revolution in state schools?).
What of the argument from compassion? This is merely the logical fallacy called a red herring. Those on both sides of the debate can be heartless and both sides can show compassion. The Christian is not allowed to rest on the non-compassionate side.
The main problem with the argument is the assumption that Obamacare is compassionate. On the contrary, the very structures that caused the health care crisis in the first place are not only fortified with Obamacare- they are enhanced. What caused the current ‘crisis’ in our state? The most significant ones are those that separate the individuals who pay and those who use the services. As Rev. Robert Sirico points out, “If these two were the same person … there would be powerful incentives to lower prices and improve services.”[ii] Yet in state-sponsored healthcare (i.e., Obamacare), there is an entire army of people between the person paying and using the service. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the more people involved in a process the more expensive it becomes. Competition improves care and prices. Obamacare eliminates competition and exacerbates the problem it is allegedly trying to solve. That is why costs for different healthcare plans are rising in 45 of the 50 states of the union.[iii] In 11 states it will be up over 100% of the previous year’s insurance plans. It is clear that this new law is economically burdensome to many (many of us are already feeling the effects of the poor economic choices of those in positions of authority have made), and will lead to a reduction in services accessible across the board (this will happen in various ways also with less goods and services ultimately available as a result).
A second problem with saying Obamacare has the edge in compassion is that a bureaucracy is inherently and necessarily more detached from patient’s care than when only a few individuals are involved. In a free-market where only a patient and doctor are involved there is significantly greater opportunity for compassion, mercy, and grace. This is not an abstract and unsubstantiated claim. Right now there are news stories describing the destructive and uncompassionate consequences of Obamacare. These include headlines of the millions that are losing their healthcare across the country (more are losing the old plans than are signing up for the new healthcare) and non-profit hospitals that offered free care to the poor being fined as a result of the new regulations. Does this sound compassionate to you?
The critic may wonder what I would put in place of Obamacare to solve the problem. One assumption with this challenge is that those critical of the plan must replace one bad governmental policy with another. What does a doctor replace cancer with when he removes it from someone’s body? Of course it doesn’t mean that those in opposition have no plans better than the government’s. However, the best ways to reform healthcare removes the coercive and prohibitive governmental solutions which act as barriers to better healthcare. We should just not assume that government intervention is benevolent like many of those proposing these arguments, and should consider a free-market solution to improving the health care crisis.
We should also be aware that the entire foundation driving Obamacare- namely, that the federal government knows how to manage your healthcare and its costs better than the free market does- is entirely unsubstantiated. There have been numerous plans set forth that recommend ways to improve the healthcare system for everyone, and these do this without calling for unprecedented tax hikes for all Americans (the tax increases will cost Americans well over 500 billion dollars with the passage of Obamacare).[iv]
One of the foundational principles of economics is that costs reflect prices created by the voluntary exchange between buyers and sellers. Costs are out of control when there is no longer voluntary exchange and people are between buyers and sellers (in other words, when there is government intervention). For example, in an area that is most like the free-market in healthcare- plastic surgery- which is not covered by insurance and people must pay out-of-pocket, the cost increased 22% between 1992 and 2005. Contrast this with general healthcare costs over the same period of time that increased over 77%![v]
Opposing Obamacare it is entirely reasonable. This new ‘law’ passed by the government is economically destructive, Biblically repugnant, and morally evil as it violates foundational principles of natural law and opposes what is right and good at many levels. One may also recognize several ways to exercise your influence. You can vote for the person supporting your view, and invest in them either with time or financially. Also, you can make your case to others, and equip yourself about the facts with some of the resources provided below.[vi] Lastly, you should remember that the ultimate answers to the problems of man the government cannot provide. As someone who has spent hundreds of hours ministering to the sick and dying moments before they slip into eternity, I can assure you that both sides of the political aisle are missing the most important thing. Christians must share the good news. Rev. Robert Sirico reminds us, “Deep reform will require the Christian community to once again seek out the vulnerable and in them to re-discover Christ, the final source of healing and redemption, the balm of Gilead.”[vii]
[i] For one particular example of this see: www.acton.org/print/5871
[ii] Robert Sirico, “The Health of Nations: Why State-Sponsored Health Care is Not Compassionate,” in Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, (Washington DC: Regnery Publishing, 2012): 143.
[v] Devon M. Herrick, “National Healthcare Entrepreneurs: The Changing Nature of Providers” (Policy Report n. 318, National Center for Policy Analysis, Dallas, Dec. 2008), www.ncpa.org/pdfs/st318.pdf
[vi] “Why Obamacare Will Fail: A Reading List,” : http://mises.org/daily/3737
[vii] Sirico, 151.