One of the culture shocks I experienced when I came to America from the UK six or so years ago was having to fork out for health insurance every month. Of course, in the UK health care is “free.” (Which means you pay twice as much for half the service, but you don’t notice it because it’s deducted via general taxation.)
In fact, not only did I have to fork out a monthly premium, but the insurance didn’t even kick in until I had paid $5000 in medical bills! However, I now realize that I got off pretty lightly then as my monthly premium was only $280 per month for a family of six.
Over the last two years, my premium has risen rapidly up to $800 per month a year ago, and now close to $1000 per month, the last two hikes due largely to Obamacare requirements. And I still have to pay the first few thousands of any bills!
I have to say though, that the healthcare we’ve received here has been of an incredibly high standard. While I’m so thankful for the amazing work medical professionals do in the UK, they just don’t have the time or the resources to offer the kind of care we get here. Grand Rapids hospitals are space age, the technology is at the cutting edge, the waiting times are virtually nil, and the staff have the time to care, which is absolutely priceless.
But, if the disastrous first month of Obamacare is anything to go by, it looks like American health care is going to end up costing a lot more, while the availability and quality of care is going to be significantly reduced.
A small minority will benefit, including the very poor and those with pre-existing conditions. However, as usual, the majority of the hardworking middle classes are going to take a huge financial hit, with premiums and deductibles rising on average 25%, and in some cases doubling, as millions are being forced into government plans despite the President’s oft-repeated promise that would not happen.
And most families just don’t have the money.
Americans are relatively well-paid, but as is the case everywhere, most families live to the very edge of their income and only have a couple of hundred dollars free every month to save up for special treats, car repairs, vacations, family trips, birthdays, college fees, etc. Obamacare’s premiums and deductibles are going to swallow up that small cushion, month after month after month.
Many can’t do it. Many won’t do it. They’ll simply refuse to pay the premiums and take the risk. Others will go into debt trying to maintain their previous lifestyle and pay the premiums. The remainder will pay the premiums but have nothing left over for life’s little luxuries. They all end up in the same place, increased costs and reduced health – both physically and psychologically.
What can Christians and the church do in this situation? First, confess our sin of omission. It’s tragic that Christian conservatives have not led the way in proposing legislation or designing healthcare programs that demonstrated practical love to the weakest in our society. We’re good at protesting against the evils of abortion and gay marriage; we’re not so good at providing for those who are impoverished by sickness and disease. The result? Under the guise of caring for the poor, the behemoth of Obamacare is changing the very nature of the relationship between the American people and their government, and also using the opportunity to impose social change and immoral values on individuals, families, and businesses.
Second, let’s be careful that when we oppose Obamacare, we don’t sound as if we could hardly care less about those who are sick, poor, and unable to afford or access health care. Although we must respect those whom God has set in authority over us and the laws they enact, that does not mean we should not argue against injustice and immorality in these laws. We are right to resist a bullying government’s intrusion into the most intimate parts of our lives. But when we do so, let’s sound a bit less selfish and a bit more loving towards those who desperately do need a safety net.
Third, teach financial stewardship to Christians. As premiums and deductibles rise higher and budgets tighten further, Christians are going to need regular and systematic biblical teaching on budgeting, planning, cutting expenses, etc. Future generations will need to learn much greater financial discipline than their parents. Dave Ramsey should do well out of Obamacare!
Fourth, pray for contentment. Yes, most of us will have much less money in our pockets. We’ll have to cut out some sports, some fishing, some clubs, some technology, some vacations, some clothes, etc. But we’re not exactly going to be living in slums. This is an opportunity to display God-centered satisfaction with our lot in life and demonstrate to others how we have learned to be content whatever our financial state.
Fifth, preach the Gospel. Obamacare’s costs will end the American dream for many people. Others are never going to get a chance at it. That’s really sad; yet it’s also an opportunity. In the midst of the evaporating mirage of prosperity we have the water of life to offer thirsty and disillusioned people. We have the Great Doctor who came to heal the sick of their deepest disease and who offers His services for free (Luke 5:31-32).