Two Talents

Faith-based expressions of a Christian.

The morality of health care

with 2 comments

Try as I might, I can’t ignore this political issue. Yet.

There are two moral positions to consider when it comes to so-called “Obamacare”; the universal, or nationalized (i.e. government controlled) health care law of the land. The first is the easy position, which is that there are people in this nation who do not have health insurance. To hold to a belief that such is their tough luck is not only decidedly un-Christian, it’s also immoral. After all, isn’t the moral position one of equality for all and not wanting people to either be unable to seek proper health care, or to be placed in a position of financial ruin if they do? Of course, it’s not as simple an argument as that, because some Americans have access to health insurance but choose to not obtain it. Those folks convolute the situation, but even if we ignore them we still find a substantial number of Americans who do not have health insurance due to legitimate reasons.

On the other side of the coin is the cost of insuring those who are without health insurance because of legitimate reasons. If the cost issue were nothing more than me losing an extra $10 from each paycheck it would be difficult for me to argue against it, given the morality equation involved. If, however, insuring those without imperils the nation at large we encounter the moral issue of whether it is right to help a few at the ultimate great expense of the many. And by “great expense” I mean something beyond personal financial consequence.There are arguments which call into question whether Obamacare will actually reduce overall costs and the national debt, which has already reached a frightening figure. You can question whether those arguments have legs but you cannot argue against factual history. John Stossel wrote a piece pointing out that Medicare and Social Security are not only unsustainable (something politicians from both sides of the aisle agree upon), but that they are also damaging to the nation.

Medicare has a $36 trillion unfunded liability. Social Security’s is $8 trillion. There’s no money to keep those promises.

Unfunded liabilities are exactly what they appear to be: monetary commitments without funding to provide for them. Not long ago Congress passed a “pay as you go” clause, which said that the government would only pay for what they had money on had to cover. Senator Jim Bunning used his power to block continued unemployment benefit payments in order to make a point. The point being that just after passing the “pay as you go” legislation Congress was making commitments to extend unemployment benefits without money on hand to cover the costs. Bunning intended to point out the hypocrisy of this behavior on the heels of legislation that claimed to denote fiscal responsibility. Bunning was vilified by the Democrats, the media and several of his Republican colleagues, and a deal was eventually struck wherein he relented and the benefits went forward. Despite his personal bombast and erratic behavior, Bunning had a valid point to make. Whether you agree with how he made it is moot. The point was that “pay as you go” was obviously fluff; a sham to forge an appearance of fiscal restraint that simply did not exist.

Bunning’s outburst (or pout, if you will) shed light upon the issue of unfunded liabilities. Our government has become fluent in this practice and it is fiscally irresponsible and dangerous. Could you or I operate our home finances in such a way? Sure, but not for long, and ultimately we would have to own up to it, much to our chagrin. And yet our government either doesn’t realize this or ignores it. Back to Stossel’s article:

That FICA money you thought government had saved for your retirement is gone. There’s nothing left but IOUs backed by nothing. Your money was spent not only on current retirees but on wars, welfare, corporate bailouts, earmarks, and all the other stuff Congress wants. For years, this was possible because the FICA tax brought in surpluses that allowed government to pay retirees more than they contributed and still help buy those other things.Those days are gone. The huge group of baby boomers has started to retire, and that means trouble. In 2008, for the first time, Medicare paid out more than it took in.

Everyone saw this coming. You would think that when something as large, expensive and important as Medicare became insolvent our representatives would take notice and perform due diligence to correct it. Instead they engaged in demagoguery.

So instead of filling the government’s coffers and hiding the real size of the budget deficit, the entitlement programs have now begun to drain the treasury. Part of the “problem” is that we live longer. When Social Security started, most people didn’t live to 65. Now we average 78.

This means that baby boomers like me who expect to collect Social Security and Medicare are basically stealing from children.

Think of the burden: When I was a kid, there were five workers for every retired person. Now, there are only three. And soon there will only be two young workers to fund each baby boomer’s Social Security and Medicare checks.

When I explore this alarming matter on my Fox Business New show tonight, Veronique de Rugy, an economist at the Mercatus Center, will point out that Social and Medicare right now consume almost half the federal budget. In coming years, if nothing changes, they will swallow nearly the whole thing. But since Congress will want to spend money on all the other things it now buys—not to mention a new medical entitlement—the government will either have to raise taxes to stratospheric heights, borrow like crazy, or inflate the dollar. Whichever it chooses, we’ll have serious problems.

All three options are losing options. Burdensome taxes severely punish the populace and do nothing to ultimately raise money for the government (it wipes out entire classes of tax-paying citizens, particularly the middle class). We have already borrowed staggering amounts, which we are obligated to pay back. Or should I say, our children and their children are obligated to pay back. And inflating currency has never worked and is a foolish endeavor. Just look at African nations who have done so, only to see their inflation rates balloon tens of times and their currency end up being the butt of jokes. It wasn’t long ago that Mexico was in this boat and the exchange rate for one American dollar was something like 1,000 Pesos.

Our forefathers would be appalled. After the American Revolution, when the new government was debating how to pay its bills, George Washington said this about a national debt: “We should avoid ungenerously throwing upon posterity … the burden we ourselves ought to bear.” Well, we sure are dumping my generation’s debt onto posterity.

Realizing that Obamacare is essentially a second, even larger version of Medicaid we arrive at the ultimate question regarding health care: Is it moral to pass on to future generations the burden we are unwilling to bear ourselves? I get the feeling that many who are without health insurance wanted Obamacare to pass because it would mean they could obtain health insurance. However, when you consider the cost to our nation at large and specifically to future generations that position is not only short-sighted, it is also wholly selfish and immoral. And if you are a Christian who would damn others solely so that you can have health insurance now you are quite possibly beyond shame.

Can we provide health insurance to those who cannot legitimately obtain it without burying future generations? Probably. Do I believe our government is capable of it? No, I do not because the entire system is broken. Having said that, I hope in God’s name that I am wrong.


Written by Shawn

March 26, 2010 at 4:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Shawn,

    I agree with your assessment that the government is too bloated and filled with incompetence to properly manage the huge endeavor that Obamacare will be. While I wholeheartedly agree that our health care and Social Security systems are broken, and that affordable health care should be available to everyone, I do not think that the President’s plan will work.

    There are other facets to the problem that you don’t mention, and there are probably many more that will surface as time progresses. I envision greedy insurance companies gobbling their way through as-yet unseen loopholes in the system, becoming larger and more bloated as competition is destroyed. I see my own currently-excellent health care benefits (subsidized by my company) dwindling while my out-of-pocket expenses rise. Incidentally, this last point is not just fear-mongering; I have already received a notice from my company’s HR department to rest assured that “probably” no changes will be made for the rest of this calendar year, but that changes are definitely coming. Pretty scary, when you consider that November is when changes to policies are usually announced, and already HR is setting the stage for a big shoe to drop.

    So, being in the middle class, I see my own benefits eroding while my costs increase, plus I will have to endure an additional tax burden to pay for Obamacare.


    I predict this will be a common occurrence for all middle class citizens who form the backbone of the country, and when this class dissolves in the midst of crippling taxes, I wonder who will then fund the programs to cover the millions of people who can no longer afford their health care policies, and will have to use the public option.


    March 30, 2010 at 2:02 pm

  2. Well, today we employees received our second notice, with a few details. Item number 4 is the one that has me the most concerned. Looks like we’ll be taxed for the amount our company pays for AS INCOME:

    Dear Colleagues:

    Earlier today President Obama signed the “Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010” (H.R. 4872). This law modifies the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (P.L. 111-149) that he signed on March 23, 2010. These laws will lead to comprehensive changes in the US health care system and, over the course of time, will have some effect on the {company} health plans.

    While many provisions of the new laws become effective in 2013 or later, some provisions take effect in 2011. These provisions include, but are not limited to, the following:

    1. A requirement that medical plans cover adult children up to age 26 provided they are not eligible for other employer-sponsored coverage;

    2. Over the counter medications will no longer be eligible for reimbursement from Health Care Flexible Spending Accounts;

    3. No lifetime limits on the dollar value of most health care benefits; and

    4. Employers must report on Form W-2 the aggregate cost of health coverage (determined on a basis similar to that under COBRA) received by an employee under the employer’s healthcare plan.

    We expect the applicable federal agencies to provide clarifying guidance regarding the implementation and administration of many provisions included in the new laws. We anticipate that the guidance will help companies like {ours} better comply with the requirements. Until further guidance is issued, we may not be able to provide you with answers to specific questions you may have.

    As I mentioned in my recent note, please keep in mind that {our company} plans operate on a calendar year basis, so we anticipate that any changes will typically be effective at the beginning of a calendar year and we will give employees advance notice should changes need to be made.

    As we work to comply with the new laws, please look for information regarding any changes in future newsletters, annual enrollment materials and other communications.

    Best regards,

    Executive Vice President Human Resources


    March 30, 2010 at 7:55 pm

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