Commentary

Of conscience and health care

Tim Utter

While I appreciate Senator John Marty’s concern for America’s health care system (“We are all in this together,” April 2012, page 4), his endorsement of the federal government’s euphemistically-titled “Affordable Care Act,” however, is not the answer. While proponents of this sweeping legislation will argue to the contrary, the cost of health care will go up while the quality of health care will go down. If we have any doubts, simply compare the administrative cost and quality of service between any given government welfare program and any given private charity.

From its very conception, what is popularly referred to as Obamacare has been problematic at best. Not only was the controversial law passed without a single vote of support from the opposition political party, the then-Speaker of the House of Representatives was moved to utter one of the most irresponsible promotional statements in congressional history: “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”

Senator Marty believes that health care is not an “individual concern,” but rather a collective concern that demands a universal governmental system. However, as the eminent Swedish professor of medicine, Dr. Gunnar Biorch, wrote back in 1976: “The setting in which medicine has been practiced for thousands of years has been one in which the patient has been the client and the employer of the physician. Today the State, in one manifestation or the other, claims to be the employer and, thus the one to prescribe the conditions under which the physician has to carry out his work.” (Biorch offered this in a paper titled “How to be a clinician in a Socialist Country,” given at the University of Chicago.)

Senator Marty believes that health care is not an “individual concern,” but rather a collective concern.

With the passage of an unprecedented law that forces citizens to purchase a consumer product on threat of fine or jail, is it any wonder that the Supreme Court is currently discussing the law’s constitutionality?

Health care vs. religious freedom

Expressing his concerns regarding the Affordable Care Act’s effect on religious freedom, Dr. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, testified in February before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “We are religiously opposed to supporting abortion-causing drugs,” Harrison said. “While [our church’s health plan] is grandfathered under the very narrow provisions of the Health and Human Services policy, we are deeply concerned that our consciences may soon be martyred by a few strokes on the keyboard as this administration moves us all into a single-payer system.” He concluded: “To paraphrase Martin Luther, the heart and conscience has room only for God, not for God and the federal government.”

The enactment of the Affordable Care Act must also be viewed in the context of the inherent nature of pervasive government. Ironically, the same government leadership that promotes egalitarianism is predisposed to elitism. While American citizens are being coerced into a universal health plan that basically emulates Canada’s model, we should recall that two years ago when Danny Williams, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, needed surgery, he opted out of his own government health plan to make a trip to Rochester’s Mayo Clinic. As one of Canada’s elites, he was not going to stand in line for surgery like ordinary Canadian citizens. Nor will American elites.

Tim Utter is an admissions counselor at Concordia University, St. Paul.

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