CARTHAGE, Mo. —
I recently attended the annual Missouri Municipal League Conference. As always, this well-run conference allows city managers and elected officials to choose to attend presentations of particular interest to them and to their city. Two of the sessions I attended this year have returned to my mind time and again. Little wonder, one addressed the mechanics of the Affordable Care Act, presented by Stephene Moore, regional director for the federal Department of Health and Human Resources. The second session, “Government is Ethics,” was a thought-provoking presentation by Wally Siewert, Ph.D., director for the Center for Ethics in Public Life at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
The timing of the two sessions could not have been better, especially considering the political fiasco overtaking this nation since the idea of affordable health care came into focus during the 2008 presidential election. It’s time for all of us to back up, catch our breath and take a long, hard look at what we’ve been doing to ourselves.
I believe if we polled all of America, we would find that a high percentage of us agree that each individual is responsible for his own care. An individual has an absolute right to make decisions concerning his own welfare. He has the right, and the responsibility, to reap the harvest — or to face the consequences — of each decision he makes. I believe this question would poll high because it is a core Christian belief; a theme found throughout Scripture.
ACLU aside, we are a Christian nation, founded on Christian values.
So, if that belief was truly the law of the land, it might look like this: A policeman arrives on the scene of an accident and finds a man lying in the road bleeding. The officer determines the man has no insurance and has no means of caring for himself in this kind of emergency.
So, the officer does the right thing: He moves the injured man to the side of the road, so as not to inconvenience traffic, and bids him farewell.
Or it might look like this: A 13-year-old girl climbs into the back seat of a parked car and comes home pregnant. Her father is a hard-working man but believes cigarettes, beer and a bass boat are of higher value than family health care. So, the 13 year-old and her unborn infant are on their own. It’s good enough for them. A lot of countries address their health care needs that way.
“Whoa. Hold on,” you say. “That’s not what I had in mind. This is America. We don’t do things that way.”
Of course, we don’t. And we don’t because many of us hold another value equally high. That second core value is the belief that when our brother is in need, we have an obligation to help him. It is our duty, even if the cost of that care falls on us. And this, too, is a Christian value, described clearly in the gospels as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. That theme is also carried throughout Christian teaching. And, just as God planned, the two values co-exist. Their residence is in the heart of God’s people.
I’ve come to agree with Dr. Benjamin Carson — we now have four branches of government in Washington: the legislative, the executive, the judicial and the special interests.
And regardless of what you might have read or heard, the idea of improved and lower-cost health care is extremely popular in America. It elected our current president — twice. Public Law 111-148, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was written in Congress, passed by a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, signed into law by the president, and upheld by the United States Supreme Court. It is the law of the land.
But special interests don’t like it.
So, special interest groups began a campaign of misinformation on a scale so large that it’s unparalleled in recent times.
I’ve begun to read the law — all of it — and I’ve found some truth. The first truth I’ve found is that the initial barrage fired by special interests is a lie. The law is not 20,000 pages written in such a way that no one can understand it — it’s 907 pages, which is less than one ream of paper. It was written by lawyers, so it’s a little like reading the King James Version of the Bible — if you’re not accustomed to reading the language, it’s awkward. But it can be understood if you take your time and pay attention while reading.
I also found that the law is not socialized medicine, at least not to any greater degree than our Christian values already place us. Under the law, each person and each employer chooses a health insurance plan, just like we do today. If we like our present plan, we can stay with it — so long as it provides minimum coverage. If we don’t like our plan, we or our employer can buy another one that’s offered on the open market. Or we can buy from the exchange set up by our state (if a state declines to participate, as Missouri did, the exchange is set up by the federal government). The only restriction on open market plans is that they must meet minimum coverage requirements.
Now, I admit, I haven’t finished my self-imposed reading assignment, but so far I haven’t read anything that says I can’t continue with my present coverage or see my own doctors; or that I’ll be denied certain services when I reach a set age; or that I’ll be jailed or my property confiscated if I don’t buy insurance; or that congress is exempt (in fact, they are specifically included); or that the Muslims have special rules. All that is hogwash. So, who benefited from spreading these lies?
Now, each of us will have to be covered by health insurance, and there will be monetary penalties if we don’t comply. But that is for the good of society as a whole. That requirement addresses the injured motorist and the future teenage mom. In fact, it’s very similar to our requirement to carry auto insurance. Is it a balance between individual rights and caring for one another? You bet it is. Will every one of us be satisfied by it? Not a chance. But will it provide better coverage to more Americans at lower cost? Absolutely.
Our system of government is best. It is the envy of the world. But it is under siege. And we — all of us — are guilty of helping special interests take control of it. So we need to get informed, get vocal, and get out and vote. We can no longer depend on our two-party system for information because both sides are heavily infiltrated. If we seek truth, we need to go to the source (in this case, the law itself).
And we need to stop repeating unfounded statements.
Jim Swatsenbarg is a city councilman in Carthage.