In five days, the Senate is poised to vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act, its version of a bill to repeal and replace the ACA. It’s no secret that healthcare in the U.S. is the most expensive in the developed world and delivers poor quality for its high pricetag. We live in a messy democracy, and this is a messy issue, so it’s not a surprise that the laws on the books now are a mess and any future laws will also be a mess.
Nevertheless, I’m 100% against the BCRA and its House counterpart as ways to address the problems of American healthcare, even though as a healthcare provider and a taxpayer I’ve seen firsthand the flaws of what we have now, because what trumps those two identities ultimately is my identity as a Christian.
The way these bills will redistribute wealth in our country is antithetical to the way that Jesus taught and modeled Christian handling of wealth and power. He values the poor so much that he hinges our final identity as disciples or hell-bound rejects on what we did for “the least of these,” and considers that the best reflection of whether we truly believe in him and all he’s done for us.
Many Christians in the U.S. believe that it should be the role of the church and of individuals to work for “the least of these;” such an attitude seems to imply, “I will give to the least of these–just don’t take my tax money to do it.” Given the essential guarantee of inefficient spending of tax money on healthcare in the U.S., this is totally understandable.
As a healthcare provider, I’m on the front lines of this inefficiency. I feel this exact tension every time I provide care for my patients who have Medicaid insurance–the very insurance which will be drastically cut if the ACA is repealed and replaced. One of my patients was staying in this apartment building, in which rent for a 1-bedroom starts at $3,500 a month. I probably did around $15,000 of work for this individual all paid by Medicaid–meaning my patient paid $0. When I talked to my husband about it at home, he was incredulous.
“We paid for that,” he said, shaking his head. “That came out of our taxes.”
I know. It hurts, especially because it’s quite possible this patient of ours is wealthier than we are at the end of the day.
The taxpayer part of me immediate springs up to declare what many Christian taxpayers would say in a the same situation, that this person does not deserve to get so much healthcare for free.
But this is where I ask every Christian taxpayer to immediately delete the word “deserve” from your vocabulary.
Christians do not get to talk about deserving.
No one deserves grace. No one deserves for our love or our resources to be stewarded efficiently or fairly. Our belief system is built upon a God who gave that which was most precious to him in exchange for that which was worse than worthless. Our current president would consider Him a terrible dealmaker–most of us would as well.
And yet we are all the incredulous beneficiaries of his generosity and sacrifice.
That’s what motivates me to keep seeing Medicaid patients, for all the frustrations it entails–the no-shows, the ones who are clearly taking advantage of the system, the sometimes overwhelming complexity of needs. There are so many people in Massachusetts who get care they need to stay out of pain, to stay at work, to live their lives because of Medicaid. Yes, there are charlatans–but what are any of us but charlatans in our own way? We are all scammers, thieves, addicts.
So for us to rob those who need this money and this healthcare in order to finance the wealthiest among us–even if we all get tax breaks, I don’t believe that’s what Jesus would have wanted. So please, call your senator and don’t let this abomination pass. And if it does, midterms elections are just a little over a year away; make sure Congress is held accountable.