UT Wordmark Primary UT Wordmark Formal Shield Texas UT News Camera Chevron Close Search Copy Link Download File Hamburger Menu Time Stamp Open in browser Load More Pull quote Cloudy and windy Cloudy Partly Cloudy Rain and snow Rain Showers Snow Sunny Thunderstorms Wind and Rain Windy Facebook Instagram LinkedIn Twitter email

UT News

What Christian Lawmakers Should Keep in Mind When Voting on the Health Care Bill

Our elected officials who say they follow Jesus have the opportunity to demonstrate their allegiance to his life and teachings. They can practice what they preach.

Two color orange horizontal divider

Many political leaders who support the U.S. House of Representatives or U.S. Senates’ version of a new health care bill proudly identify themselves as Christian, pro-life and pro-family.

What puzzles me is how these leaders reconcile their personal values and commitments with embracing a plan that limits or excludes poor people as well as persons with pre-existing conditions. In other words, how is this plan pro-life, pro-family and consistent with their Christian beliefs and practices?

In fact, this plan is an affront to Jesus because it excludes the most vulnerable people from coverage. Jesus did not waver in the priority he gave to those who were poor, hungry, sick or imprisoned, or who were strangers.

There is ample biblical evidence for making this claim. Consider just one example, Jesus’ words about God’s judgment of nations in his parable of the sheep and the goats. Jesus says those who do not feed the hungry and provide for the poor, and who refuse hospitality to the stranger and care for the sick fail to be faithful to his example and to God’s expectations (Matthew 25:34-46).

The current proposal from the House to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, complicates coverage for the poor and especially for those with pre-existing conditions.

It does so by opening the door to unaffordable premiums tied to placement in high-risk insurance pools. I do not claim expertise with regard to the best system to replace Obamacare, though a single-payer system makes the most sense, and tying health insurance so tightly to employment seems outdated as well as misguided.

Those who can afford private insurance, the best option, could opt out of the single-payer plan; but all people would have access to adequate health care if not to the better quality, “Cadillac” model. Such an approach would align with those of most European countries and Canada but also would concur with Jesus’ values.

Until we shift to a mindset that recognizes health care as a fundamental human right and accordingly provide stable universal coverage, we will fail as a nation. Thoughtful people may disagree on how best to offer this coverage, but any health care plan that reflects Jesus’ values and example must include affordable coverage for all people, including those who are poor and already sick and those who may be unemployed or lose their jobs. Anything less would be inhumane, unworthy of American ideals and at odds with what Jesus advocated.

Some may say that providing health care to everyone is too expensive, or that we don’t have the resources for universal coverage even if we agreed on its virtues.

But this objection raises a question that has less to do with available resources and more to do with priorities for those resources. Keep in mind that Jesus said “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise” (Luke 3:22). And let us not forget the well-known “Golden Rule” that Jesus commanded his followers to embrace: “In everything do unto others as you would have them do to you” Matthew 7:12.

Wouldn’t Jesus extend his ethic to the poor and sick in need of health care?

Our elected officials who say they follow Jesus have the opportunity to demonstrate their allegiance to his life and teachings. They can practice what they preach. They can embrace core values of their faith: care for the sick, the poor and the stranger — values that Jesus embodied, championed and died for — as they do their noble work. Failure to do so not only points to a lack of their faithfulness, it screams hypocrisy.

And besides, it’s better to live in a country where everyone can drive a Ford, Chevy or Dodge than to live in a country where some can drive a Cadillac while others must walk. I think Jesus would agree.

Allan Hugh Cole Jr. is a professor, senior associate dean for academic affairs and director of undergraduate programs in the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin.

A version of this op-ed appeared in USA Today, San Antonio Express News, Abilene Reporter News, Austin American Statesman and the East Bay Times.

To view more op-eds from Texas Perspectives, click here.

Like us on Facebook.

Media Contact

University Communications
Email: UTMedia@utexas.edu
Phone: (512) 471-3151

Texas Perspectives is a wire-style service produced by The University of Texas at Austin that is intended to provide media outlets with meaningful and thoughtful opinion columns (op-eds) on a variety of topics and current events. Authors are faculty members and staffers at UT Austin who work with University Communications to craft columns that adhere to journalistic best practices and Associated Press style guidelines. The University of Texas at Austin offers these opinion articles for publication at no charge. Columns appearing on the service and this webpage represent the views of the authors, not of The University of Texas at Austin.

The University of Texas at Austin