If there is an overarching question in the current health care debate in the United States it is this: Who’s going to pay for it? The financial bottom line—of government programs, insurance companies, physicians’ practices, hospital administrations, and families, alike—is the bottom line in health care (and many other issues).
The financial viability of our health care system is crucial and must be addressed, regardless of the fate in practice of the Affordable Care Act. But the question I keep coming back to as I dig into the underside of our system is this: Who is paying for health care as it is? Who is suffering because of the way things are?
If the relative virtue or vice of a society is reflected in the way it treats those Jesus of Nazareth referred to as “the least of these”—people who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, in prison, or from somewhere else—then our society is in big trouble.
Our cultural myth of rugged individualism and self-reliance enables our practiced indifference to “the least of these” by assuring us that we earn everything we have. When we don’t have, we nevertheless do have the opportunity to have, it says. We are the people who “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.” Too bad for those who can’t because they are too sick.
But shouldn’t being sick be the primary qualification for a person to see a doctor or have a necessary surgical procedure? Shouldn’t staying healthy be qualification enough for a person, made in the image of God, to receive preventive care in order to stay that way?
I can hear a likely response to my idealistic questions now: “Who’s going to pay for that?”
I don’t know, but I do know who is paying for it now. Before we start crunching numbers we need to re-consider the bottom line beneath our bottom line.