The Death Of Single-Payer Healthcare

It looks entirely possible that the Democrats will pass their healthcare bill, and utterly impossible, as we’ve expected, that it will reflect a single-payer system — the kind most other developed nations have that ensures medical care to everyone within their borders.

I don’t assume that other countries are simply more kind-hearted than the United States when it comes to providing for their sick and injured, nor do I think that a sudden inundation of decency will usher in a single-payer system here. It’s economically unwise for the U.S. to continue down the path its on, and some day, I hope, our politicians will recognize what these other countries have come to understand, and that’s that a chronically ill population beset with disease that would have responded well to prevention and monitoring is a disaster for productivity. It is a deepening morass for hospitals struggling with “charity” cases and millions of dollars in unpaid bills, and it’s an economic nightmare for those who for whatever reason don’t have insurance, or have insurance that bails on them, and then become bankrupt when serious illnesses strike. Moreover, it’s a moral issue for a nation that blithely calls upon its Judeo-Christian heritage when disaster strikes, but ignores the imperatives of that heritage between disasters.

American Christians are a comfortable lot, really. We cry “persecution” when our kid’s Bible study group can’t meet in a classroom during school, we change churches because the ratio of hymns-to-choruses is off, we’ve found a political party full of people who hate the same people we hate, and we pretend to be Biblical literalists in our analysis of bedroom and reproductive issues while ignoring the Scriptural mandate to give to others with an open hand — understanding the power God has given government to maintain order and provide for its citizenry. Christians in the U.S. don’t tithe, and I’m not sure they’re Biblically obligated to give 10 percent — in most cases, it ought to be more, easily, and yet the Church in the U.S. contributes about five percent of its income. Our walk with Christ is one undertaken too often along the safest and prettiest paths with little regard to where he actually might be leading us, and when it seems he might be drawing us toward interaction with, empowerment of, and advocacy for the poor, we expend enormous effort constructing a theology of marketplace-driven “Christian” solutions and an exegesis of “Biblical” insouciance toward others.

American Christians are seemingly more concerned with being right than righteous, and generally don’t do well on either. But the energy devoted to hating Obama, demonizing liberals, sabotaging the public square and souring the dialogue therein is remarkable, particularly on the part of genuinely good people who nonetheless take their cues from Beck and Limbaugh and not Peter and Paul. The Republicans, fattened and fed by swelling ranks of “values voters” and Palin-drones, have announced a season of slaughter on any attempt to build a public option to address the healthcare poverty of millions. The Democrats have had their collective spines removed, judging from the tepid response to outrageous GOP arguments, and Christian social moderates and liberals have preached a lovely message of healthcare activism to a choir dropping dead from age, exhaustion, and irrelevance.

Where is the voice for the poor? And why isn’t that voice roaring from our Churches?

In a nation battling 10 percent unemployment, even greater underemployment, and the flushing away of living-wage jobs with health benefits, tying access to medical care to employment is foolish. Elderly conservatives who decry “socialized medicine” from their hospital beds after Medicare-paid knee surgery cannot be the voice of the popular uprising against a single-payer system — but they’ve been co-opted, swept up in an anti-Obama firestorm that isn’t content to try to destroy the man, but everything he touches as well. It’s a low point for the nation and a stain on American Christians.

If the time spent explaining away the Gospel imperative to care for the needy, the sick, the aged and the poor were instead directed toward a living out of that imperative, we would have a system that doesn’t require its citizens to live in that horrible space between serious illness and the fear of becoming bankrupt if ever developing one. That’s not a space where kindness or grace lives. And while I believe that a single-payer plan is the U.S.’s only reasonable economic and social option, I also believe that until every single politically conservative Christian in this country has a real-life story to tell of their own physical and financial ruin at the hands of our for-profit system, not a damned thing will change.

One Response to “The Death Of Single-Payer Healthcare”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’d like to remind any nay-sayers to your blog, that many of us who have lighter skin, European backgrounds, and are “born” here, that all of our ancestors weren’t. Our ancestors came here under many of the same circumstances, and who are we to judge?
    Thank you for your care!
    Love, Bev

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