A recent Harvard study estimates that 45,000 Americans die per year because they don’t have health insurance. Therefore, a health-care bill that allows 36 million uninsured to get some form of health coverage would likely save tens of thousands of American lives per year, more each year than the total number of American soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
This fact, if true, leaves us with three options.
- Do nothing and watch health-care costs continue to increase.
- Pass the Senate’s health-care bill, save the lives of 45,000 people per year as costs continue to go up due to increased number of people covered.
- Support the health-care bill, save 45,000 lives and control costs through the use of insurance cooperatives and a public option.
Obviously, the best outcome is choice three, but it seems just as obvious to me that choice two is vastly preferable to choice one. We have certain obligations to each other, and if we can save each other’s lives, all things being fairly equal, then we certainly should.
We should especially feel obligated to save each other’s lives if we are Christians. The Bible instructs us to love our neighbors and treat others as we want to be treated. It would seem to me that in this debate, Christians would be leading the charge to insure 36 million and to save the lives of 45,000.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The Christian Coalition is leading the charge against the health-care bills and making donations to its opponents, the leaders who are trying to maintain the status quo of 45,000 uninsured dying per year.
This seems hypocritical. “Thou shall not kill” is the sixth commandment and yet the Christian Coalition is fighting to preserve the deaths of 45,000 souls per year. Given the concern of the Christian Coalition for the state of our culture, our declining values and the waning influence of God over the lives of Americans, we would assume that its members believe that a high percentage of these 45,000 are unchurched and unsaved. Nevertheless, the Christian Coalition does not seem to want to save their lives or their souls.
Similarly, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia’s 11th district, an OB/GYN doctor, led a rally on the steps of the courthouse recently. Gingrey’s Hippocratic Oath as a doctor is to “first do no harm,” and he is a pro-life, practicing Catholic. Isn’t a Christian doctor obligated to help those who would die without insurance?
Gingrey and the Christian Coalition no doubt object to any provisions in a health-care bill that would allow abortions to be covered by health insurance. Fine. Like many pro-life Democrats in the House, they should argue passionately for a health-care bill without provisions for abortion coverage.
If they did, we would have a strong bipartisan coalition that favored extending health insurance but opposed abortion. This coalition might be so strong that it could keep abortion coverage out of the bill.
Democratic leaders have demonstrated willingness to move heaven and earth to get even the tiniest appearance of bipartisan support for a bill; surely they would be willing to work with a large, bipartisan coalition that was pro-life, pro-universal health care. This bipartisan coalition would be more likely than a smaller coalition of pro-life Democrats to keep abortion coverage out of the bill. Is winning the midterm elections really more important than saving lives or stopping abortions?
Finally, there are President Barack Obama and the Democrats. Their poll numbers are plummeting, and the health-care plans seem to get less and less popular each day. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. Thirty-six million uninsured and 45,000 on death’s door are depending on the Democrats to finish this job.
Mother Teresa once said, “God did not call me to be successful. God called me to be obedient.” These are the words of a saint, not a politician, but let us hope and pray that obedience prevails in the halls of Congress after Thanksgiving.
Sean McKenzie, a Methodist, teaches high school in Calhoun, Ga.