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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Do You Really Want Universal Healthcare?

Be Careful What You Wish For!
Three mornings ago, my alarm clock went off at “o-dark-thirty” and the commentator was shrieking in a high-pitched voice that there was a growing tendency in the US for universal healthcare. Even in my groggy state I thought, What? Are you nuts? You’ve got to be kidding me! Who in their right mind would want universal healthcare? The short answer is: obviously more than a few people. I was awake.
The notion of ostensibly affordable, universal healthcare might seem attractive at first glance, but upon closer scrutiny it is fraught with a number of serious difficulties. I have good reason to write about this because I lived under the social healthcare system in Holland for nine plus years as well as another nine plus in the Canadian system. Some people are just gluttons for punishment I suppose.
We’re rapidly becoming a bunch of “rights” oriented people here in the US. For some strange reason, we believe it’s our “right” to earn a minimum wage and to have our employer pay all of our healthcare benefits—even if we’re in a low or non-skilled job. Therefore, as the reasoning goes, somebody, anybody ought to pay for my healthcare. It really doesn’t matter who pays it, just so someone picks up my end of the stick. Given the lunacy of many modern Democrats and their incessant carping about the Bush tax cut, the most obvious people to pay for universal healthcare are the rich.
Since a lot of you don’t speak Dutch—I know that some of my readers do—I’ll give you some of the headlines that appeared in Canadian newspapers when I lived up there. “Metro wait for surgery forces 100 heart victims to hit U.S.,” “Second heart patient dies as surgery delayed nine times,” and “Patients wait in line for hospital bed.” Get the idea?
Dr. Bill Gairdner, whom I greatly admire, wrote a book that was published in 1991 with the title The Trouble with Canada.[1] As he chronicled the ills of our neighbor to the north, he put pen to paper and described what he called the “medical mediocrity” of Canada. Some of the most egregious problems with the national healthcare system in that country included “regular cost overruns, long line-ups for surgery, experts leaving the country, patients dying as they wait for service, lack of equipment, wage clashes between professional staff and hospitals, fee-schedule battles between physicians and the government.”[2] Other than that, it was a fine program.
No, that’s not entirely true either. As someone who experienced it, the care was simply sub-standard. That’s not to say that the doctors were not qualified. They were—by and large. The problem arose from the ubiquitous presence of the government with its hand involved in regulating everything! And you’re going to get that every time you head down the path for universal healthcare.
A bureaucracy will be called into being and, God help us all, life will become exponentially miserable. Oddly, there are still people who refuse to accept this truth. And you can count on the fact that those who will be most in favor of universal healthcare for the masses will not have it for themselves. They’ll be insured privately—and probably on the taxpayer’s dime. These are the same fine folks who rail against school vouchers, but refuse to send their children to public schools, once again proving that we’re all equal, but some are more equal than others.
Bill Gairdner came up with two very predictable reasons for the veritable demise of Canada’s healthcare system. He writes, “First, because as human nature and economic theory tell us, the demand for an unlimited free commodity is infinite; and second, because others who have tried to make socialized medicine work, whether in Eastern Bloc or Western nations, have failed miserably.”[3]
Let’s reflect on those words for a moment.
In the first place, the system gets log-jammed by people who have little or nothing to do in life than to visit the family physician—and this actually happens. People with perceived illnesses inundate the doctor and those who really are sick get dumped on in the process because the waiting list is so long. You see, it’s free. There’s no co-pay so you just go and go and go. The demand for a “freebie” is infinite whether it’s healthcare or a three-martini lunch. The problem is that the demand is infinite while the commodity is decidedly finite. Many, however, never give this truth a second thought.
The second reason Gairdner gives for the failure of Canada’s healthcare system is the lesson of history. I remember when Hillary Clinton was hot to trot about her healthcare plan. I could not believe that anyone with any historical consciousness would be in favor of it. Fortunately for us all, it crumbled, crashed, and burned. Nevertheless, it had its supporters and if something similar is presented in the future no doubt some will step forward in support of what has repeatedly—repeatedly—failed miserably elsewhere.
Some genius will probably think that the US is different and what was a failure elsewhere will not be a failure here. Don’t count on it. What is required for such a system is a collectivist, utopian Socialism run by an elite group of ideologues and bureaucrats. Why we could have the majority of our tenure-track, liberal college and university professors and those permanent bureaucrats that have never had a real job implement the program for us. Wouldn’t that be fun, not to mention very costly?
How would the US healthcare program be funded? The answer is simple: the same way any (quasi)-socialistic program is funded: out of tax revenue. Any socialistic, cradle-to-grave (womb-to-tomb) “giveaway” is designed to curry favor with the non-thinking, buy vote support from those who have bought the lie that they’re “disenfranchised,” and to increase government’s power of the people.
Before I close this issue let me say a word to my pastor colleagues. There’s a driving instinct for us to be compassionate. That’s a good thing. What I have observed however is that those of us who are Presbyterian or Reformed have not given much thought to what a truly biblical worldview would look like on this subject. While I don’t propose to have all the answers, I do, however, believe that certain things are crystal clear.
First, we must, at all costs, avoid the Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, liberal, social gospel approach. Jackson and Sharpton appear to be pastors without churches. The “Reverend” seems more of a subterfuge than reality and for the life of me I cannot understand why the ACLU does not hammer them for mixing Church and State.
Second, we must be genuinely concerned about the poor—recognizing that they will always be among us—without unduly or unjustly favoring them (Comp. Deut. 15:11 [Matt. 26:11]; esp. Ex. 23:3). We are to do that which is just according to the Word of God (Micah 6:8).
Finally, it is within the purview of the modern Church to teach its members to be responsible citizens in our society. Surely we must be concerned about the lost, but we must also—and at the same time—be about the business of ongoing, solid biblical teaching among those who profess the name of Christ. It is patently clear that the Word of God written calls Christians to work and not to expect handouts and “freebies.” We are also not to discriminate because of the different classes that exist. In this all, there is a spiritual “secret” to be learned. The Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs called that secret The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. The Apostle Paul says it this way. “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil. 4:12, ESV).The subsequent verse reminds us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Our strength is not in adopting the ways of the secularists nor is it by succumbing to the temptations of the social gospel. Our help is in the name of the Lord who created the heavens and the earth and from his infallible word we will form our ethics and take our marching orders. Will you speak for him?
[1] William D. Gairdner, The Trouble with Canada, (Toronto: General Paperbacks, 1991)
[2] Ibid., 299.
[3] Ibid., 300. Emphasis his.


Blogger Randy said...


So, you are really hard on Canada's 'failed' health care system. Yet, America spends more per person on health care than any other country in the world. We also rank 40 something in health care among all nations, depending on the report (liberal & conservative reports).

So, while health care is not a 'right.' I suspect that giving some of 'my' God given money for the health of others somehow fits into the ways of the kingdom of God.

Or perhaps not. In which case they can just die. (did Jesus ever say something about love for neighbor?) Did someone once say, "When I was hungry, you said I had no right to food. When I was thirsty, you said it was your water. When I was sick, you said, die."

Perhaps it is simple greed. We don't want taxes. We won't give too much money to heal the sick because it's our money. And we want good health care because we can afford it. Don't forget - we want to charge a lot of money because we are the well educated doctors...

Perhaps a good Calvinist would believe that it's our total depravity that keeps people from receiving good health care. And it really has very little do to with 'rights.'

10:11 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

I come down hard on Canada's health care system because I lived in it for ten years. I had a man in my congregation die--after eight years--waiting for a heart transplant. Most of the open heart surgeries are performed by flying the patient to Houston and having Americans do the operation for the Canadians.
Of the 40 million people in the US that don't have health care, a large, large number of them are illegal immigrants, another chunk is comprised of young people willing to take their chances, and if our health care is so awful why do people come here to get it? For example, why in the world would an illegal alien go to a US ER when health care is so much better in Mexico?
Just as an experiment, why don't you try going to some place in Europe or recommend some place in Europe where the health care is excellent and the taxes are lower than in the US? Good luck. I spent ten years in Canada and another ten in Holland. You need to get out more and stop drinking the liberal, socialist Kool-Aid.
Rattlesnake 6

2:34 PM  

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