“Keep the State Out of It” Isn’t Necessarily a More Faithful Response

May 6, 2017 2:20 pm

A good friend suggested to me that looking for state aid in the realm of healthcare perhaps reflected a lack of faith in God’s prescribed means for healthcare, which was in his view personal responsibility in the free-market economy. Laying aside for the moment the notion of there being a God-ordained way of healthcare being provided, I took up the issue of whether one’s faith should be called into question based on the economic theory of healthcare provision one embraces. 


My friend, what if *a* government is the means by which God delivers a good or service? Isn’t that actually the essence of the debate for a Christian? God uses means, the civil authority being but one legitimate means of his provision being delivered.Let me use a comparison: there are a couple of instances in the OT of direct ‘hand of God’ deliverance from military disaster, but typically God ‘gave’ victory to a people via the means of the military personnel. Nevertheless, their trust was in God, not the means. One may see a miracle of healing but more typically the means of God-given health are through good eating, exercise, and medical treatment, especially with injuries and dread diseases. The medical personnel themselves, and access to the care they offer, the ‘means’ God uses, is then the issue. A Christian living in Germany and receiving the means of healthcare via a state-run program does not possess less faith in God than a Christian here who receives it via a private insurance paid program. The same is true for anyone receiving Medicaid here, or medicare for that matter. Do they have less faith? That’s surely not the case. Moreover, the Christian may even conclude that the means of God’s provision for his/her health via the state sponsored, tax-payer funded program (whether at the fed or state level) is an aspect of common grace in a society where mutual care for one’s neighbor is paramount.


I agree that no human institution – even those given by God such as the state, or family, or church – can ever provide all we need. The real issue is what we may agree are legitimate matters for each of these spheres to offer. Many believe the state has no responsibility at all in many areas in which it currently has influence and action: education and medical care are but two ready examples. There are those who would wish for the closure of every single public school and defunding of every public university and college. There are likewise those who would prefer that every fed and state med program be defunded and closed. But if one concludes that either of these is a legitimate place where the state – at whatever level – may serve then the issue becomes one of boundary and funding source/management. It seems that this is where the ongoing debate occurs. Should state governments give funds to private charities who assist those in medical need, whether that is in reference to preventive care, regular care, help with addictions, counseling, and so on? Is that anti-Christian?


What I myself have concluded is that the market *alone* is not an adequate power to secure access to life-sustaining care for my neighbor because it has made the insurance company rather than the patient the customer in the transaction, de-personalizing the goods and services, and penalizing with a lack of access all those who through no fault of their own cannot enter the market via the insurance companies and receive care due to pre-existing conditions (many from birth). In some cases this literally bankrupts families, destroying private property and multi-generational wealth. In the current scene, it also reinforces a view of culture that suggests the health of my neighbor is inconsequential to my own. The currently proposed legislative solution creates a closed market rather than an open market and reinforces the further fragmentation of our society.


In practice, this view means that prematurely born infant twins down the street from me who have nearly died twice are simply not the concern of the larger society. Now one may suggest that the people in the neighborhood should take up a collection for the cost of care for these babies who keep stepping up to death’s door – and there may well be neighborhoods in the US affluent enough to collect enough for the bill, which is in excess of a million dollars – but most neighborhoods cannot afford such a gift. Let us suppose they survive, but with heart problems. Will they be covered in medical insurance programs for that issue? Not if the legislation currently being proposed becomes law (it may well be adjusted). This *may* be a case in which the broad distribution of wealth by the state’s hand so that families are not bankrupted due to illness, or the state intervening to say that this patient cannot be refused proper care,  is to the better of the wider society. Moreover, profiteering at the expense of others – price gouging – is a place where the state may also legitimately step in. When a drug or treatment that saves lives and literally costs about $30 or less to produce and deliver is sold for $300 simply because the company knows the recipients *must* have it to sustain life and have no other options, it creates consumer slaves to a company rather than customers in a properly governed market.


Easy solutions? No. Not under any illusions about that. But I think that’s equally true concerning the dismissal of the role of government in this discussion in the name of faith.




Categories in: