The Trump campaign in 2016 and many other Republicans in other races made substantial reform or even repeal of Obamacare a central plank in their platforms. To the surprise of many observers (me included), the party now controls the White House, Senate, and House. So what are they going to do about the federal role in health care?
Obamacare was easier to oppose than to replace. As of this writing, the Republican right wing has nothing but scorn for the plan that the House leadership has rolled out. Columnist Christian Schneider thinks of it as merely Obamacare lite, or as he derisively calls it, “Fauxbamacare.” The plan still includes the expensive expansion of family children’s coverage to age 26 (full disclosure: I have a son at this moment who benefits from that eligibility expansion). Even more surprising is the Obamacare feature that prohibits people with preexisting conditions from being denied insurance.
Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer winces at those two significant remaining Obamacare features, but he is sure he knows the reason: once you grant an entitlement to the people, you can never take it away. People love their entitlements and think of them as divine rights. They will punish anyone who tries to take them away. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are political third rails, as they say in Manhattan about their subways. If you touch them, you die. House Speaker Ryan knows that, and he knows that whatever the House comes up with will have to get past the Senate. Mr. Trump, meet Washington. It is not a corporation.
I have never understood why the health care industry only rolled over and agreed to the “no denial for preexisting conditions” provision. A risk pool cannot operate if people can check in and out at their convenience. A risk pool works financially if healthy people join it and stay in it. Free financial markets determine what kind of premiums are required to cover people for the kinds of medical costs that are incurred in the general population over time.
What interests me as a Christian in this long-running argument is the moral philosophy that underlies the whole debate: is free health care a right? Obviously, if you have the money, you can buy any health-related services you want. The real issue is over who pays. The American people seem to want to live in a fantasy world. They want unlimited health care—MRIs and CAT scans anytime they want; affordable access to any medication they want—but they want somebody else to pay for it.
Free health care is not a right. In fact, it does not even exist—there is no such thing as free health care. Hospitals, physicians, tech people, pharma, and transport companies all need to be paid. People do not have a divine right from God to receive expensive health care that somebody else will pay for. We don’t have a national federal right either—there is nothing in our constitution that guarantees that somebody else will pay for your health care. Health care that somebody else pays for is a privilege, and we should regard it as such. There are only two ways to make this happen. One is for the federal government to take over the whole system and tax its citizens to subsidize it. The other is to set up free market risk pools and encourage employers to offer membership in these risk pools as a way to keep their employee talent.
Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.
You can sign up to receive Pastor Jeske's free daily Grace Moment devotions via e-mail by clicking here.