Thursday, September 17, 2009

More healthcare?* You know it!

Here is my first column for the Dordt Diamond this year:

In some alternate universe, Americans recently elected a hardcore leftist as president. That president is now bent on destroying the world’s best healthcare system and making government America’s only healthcare provider. If he succeeds, alternate-America’s limited healthcare resources will soon be rationed out by panels of bureaucrats who determine each citizen’s worth.

In yet another quantum reality, healthcare in the United States is controlled by a cabal of evil corporations intent on making as much money as possible by killing as many sick Americans as possible. These corporations have now rallied to protect their power by organizing a national campaign of propaganda and intimidation against healthcare reform, drawing ignorant rednecks to their cause through fear.

I feel very bad for the inhabitants of those alternate universes. But I don’t think we should be fighting their battles for them.

Apparently though, a lot of Americans disagree with me, because this summer has seen a fierce debate about “government-run healthcare,” “death panels,” and “corporate-funded-DC-Beltway-PR campaigns” (that last gem was coined by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow). The debate has taken place on the internet, on TV, and at countless town hall meetings across the nation. People have brandished automatic weapons, handed out pictures of our first mixed-race president drawn as a Nazi, and literally bitten off fingers, all in an attempt to stop the evil leftist president/the greedy evil corporations.

Meanwhile, in this universe, one of my best friends just found out that he will most likely not be able to buy health insurance for himself and his new wife, because he has a preexisting medical condition that no insurance company is willing to cover. In this universe, the U.S. federal government spends more on healthcare, per person, than the Canadian government – and in Canada, everyone is covered. Tens of millions of Americans cannot afford insurance, and millions more can afford it, but are denied coverage because of preexisting illnesses. Medicare and Medicaid, the current free government healthcare plans, grossly underpay the doctors who serve their patients. Despite that, both programs are still on the verge of bankruptcy. Something must be done.

President Obama’s proposal – which is far to the right of any other healthcare program in the Western world – contains many common sense and much-needed reforms. Insurance companies should not be able to turn away or drop customers. Tax credits to help people buy their own insurance will keep us all responsible for our own healthcare while giving a boost to those who can’t afford insurance on their own. And a requirement for all citizens to have insurance, while a little unsettling to our individualist mindsets, is a good way to make sure no one gets a free ride from our healthcare system.

Obama’s proposal also has some troubling aspects. The so-called “public option” – a government-run insurance plan meant to be an alternative to private plans – might pose a threat to the private insurance industry. The public option cannot become the only option, or we will start seeing healthcare rationing. And Obama’s claim that his trillion-dollar plan will not add “one dime” to our massive budget deficit is dubious at best.

These issues need to be discussed. Our representatives need to hear from us on them. Our healthcare system desperately needs a fix, and we all have a chance to be involved in that fix in a way that honors our calling as servants of a God who calls himself “a refuge for the poor” (Isaiah 25:4).

Or, we can keep drawing Hitler mustaches. Those Nazi comparisons really never do get old.

* From SNL's 2008 Presidential Debate Series:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: "If you’re just joining us, the first segment of tonight’s debate, all three hours and forty minutes of it, was entirely given over to a discussion of healthcare. And sweet Georgia Brown, it was more boring than you could possibly imagine. A vitally important issue to be sure, but when this one here gets to talking about it, it’s all a person can do to keep the mind alive."


  1. 'Twas a good column. I enjoyed reading it in the DIAMOND.

  2. Thanks Robert. Your column made me laugh out loud in several places. I'm ashamed to say I haven't made it to a single on-campus worship event yet this year; it might be time to change that.

  3. Joel, thanks for posting you diamond article