Voices
OVER THE LINE: People line up at an Affordable Care Act open enrollment event at a public library in La Grange, Ky.
Luke Sharrett/The New York Times/Redux
OVER THE LINE: People line up at an Affordable Care Act open enrollment event at a public library in La Grange, Ky.

Can we afford it?

Healthcare | The costs of Obamacare will involve far more than money

When my doctor confirmed to me a couple of weeks ago that all my symptoms strongly suggest Parkinson’s disease, it didn’t take long for the thought to cross my mind: Wonder if I can afford this?

It wasn’t primarily a question based on dollars. I’m blessed with good health insurance, a big family, and a caring church. The money would be there, I was pretty sure. But on what terms?

If I were a very wealthy person, there’d be no problem. I’d just write a check, or a series of checks, for whatever care I found I needed and preferred. No restrictions.

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More typically for most of us, though, I’d reach for my health insurance policy and review the terms I found there. That’s the nature of insurance—a contractual agreement about terms. Is Parkinson’s a covered disease? What’s my deductible? Might the insurance company argue that this was pre-existing? Might I be too old? Is there a lifetime cap on benefits? Will I be able to pay next year’s jacked-up premiums? Etc. Not so much a series of worries, mind you; just some specifics to check out.

But I couldn’t keep my mind from wandering. What if all this were happening in neither of the two contexts I just described, but under Obamacare—a year or two or three from now? What if I were dealing not just with my own checkbook or my own doctor or with the insurance company I had contracted with? What if I were dealing instead now with a government agency?

I had to ask that question not because I think government-sponsored healthcare is a good option for Christian individuals and organizations to pursue. I don’t think that at all. But I had to ask because all the evidence suggests that’s where we’re heading—whether we like it or not. And if we go there, we need to be asking: Can we really afford this?

After all, as WORLD reader Franklin E. Payne Jr. puts it, “all of medicine is religious.” As a physician who for 25 years taught family medicine at the Medical College of Georgia, Dr. Payne tells me a family doctor “can barely make it through a single day of his or her practice without confronting at least several moral, ethical, and even specifically biblical issues.” From decisions about abortion at the beginning of life to “quality of life” issues at the end, doctors face an unending series of questions—the answers to which tend necessarily to be definers of those doctors’ worldviews.

What happens when that worldview becomes increasingly secularistic? What happens when that worldview quite specifically ignores (at best) and rejects (at worst) the specific standards of the Bible as they have come through many generations to be honored and applied by the medical establishment? And especially: What happens when that worldview more and more falls under the jurisdiction of a monopolistic and overweening federal bureaucracy?

Can we Christians afford to be muscled into such a relationship?

When we used to pay out-of-pocket for our medical care, or when we used to shop for the health insurance that best fit our values and needs, we had the liberty to keep our consciences and moral compasses in mind. But already, we’ve begun to see what it’s like when Uncle Sam begins dictating the terms by which he’ll authorize or refuse payment of our various medical claims. A dizzying list of rules and regulations comes so fast that none of us can possibly keep up. And even if we could, our recent experience is that it all will be changed tomorrow.

So who in the current context has either the time, the energy, or the know-how to sort it all out? Even if you weren’t obligated as a Christian to weigh the moral, ethical, and biblical implications of Obamacare, compliance is proving to be an overwhelming assignment. But we do have that obligation. And it’s enough, as I said, to make me wonder if I can afford it all. It’s enough, in fact, to make my hands a little shaky even if I hadn’t been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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