Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. – Ezekiel 34:2-4
Healthcare is a universal human right.
The libertarians will disagree, but from a Christian perspective there is broad consensus that the conclusion is unmistakable.
Healthcare is a universal human right and most Christian denominations would agree with the United Methodists that, “it is a governmental responsibility to provide all citizens with health care.”
The United Methodist Discipline states:
“Providing the care needed to maintain health, prevent disease, and restore health after injury or illness is a responsibility each person owes others and government owes to all . . . Like police and fire protection, health care is best funded through the government’s ability to tax each person equitably and directly fund the provider entities.”
In case you missed the meaning of that statement, we are talking about single payer insurance.
On the other side of the argument, writing for Freedomworks, Julie Borowski makes the libertarian case against the Affordable Care Act. “The dangerous philosophy behind the law,” she argues, “is that too many Americans now see health care as a human right rather than a good.”
“The Declaration of Independence states that we have an unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That doesn’t mean that other people should be forced to sustain our life or make us happy,” she writes. “These legitimate rights do not place obligations on anyone except to not infringe on the rights of others.”
Of course, when you boil it all down, the issue is money.
“They think it taxes rich people too much, and coddles Americans with excessively generous, excessively subsidized health insurance plans. They want a world of lower taxes on millionaires while millions of Americans put ‘skin in the game’ in the form of higher deductibles and copayments. Exactly the opposite, in other words, of what Republican politicians have been promising.”
“What they fundamentally did not like is that the basic framework of the law is to redistribute money by taxing high-income families and giving insurance subsidies to needy ones.”
This, they believe, is immoral. The ACA, they argue, was never about healthcare, it was about the redistribution of income.
Whether intended or not, the ACA does redistribute income as this chart from Gary Burtless and Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution shows, the Affordable Care Act enacts substantial income redistribution in the United States.
For those who care about economic justice and narrowing the gap between rich and poor, the redistribution does benefit the bottom two-tenths on the income chart. The bad news is first that it does not help a great deal. And second that as a percentage of annual income, the gains at the bottom come at the expense of the middle class. In raw dollars, of course, those at the top contribute the most, but the highest percentage is borne by those at the lower end of the middle class.
The Rev. Dr. William C. Trench serves as senior pastor of East Greenwich United Methodist Church in East Greenwich, R.I. He blogs at Thinking Faithfully, from which this post is republished with the author's permission.