A proposal for an amendment to the US Constitution...

In a recent email discussion about the upcoming election among Christian friends, one of them asked, "How can anyone not like health care reform?" My response was, "I'm all for healthcare reform. Let's do it again soon. Maybe we could actually work towards a constitutional solution next time around."

Another friend chimed in, questioning whether it was the "right debate" to focus on the constitutionality of the law, saying, "as of now I think its constitutionality is settled." He also cautiously supported Obamacare saying it "seems like a reasonable use of government powers provided that the care delivered meets the appropriate standards."

I felt that my response would be worthwhile to share, and I'm curious what others think about my proposal regarding an amendment to the constitution. Here's what I wrote:

First, a nitpick. Just because SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) says it is constitutional doesn't make it so. When they change their minds (which does happen) it isn't the constitution or constitutionality that's changing. Nothing goes from constitutional to unconstitutional (or the reverse) unless the constitution changes. Only their minds and hence the current decision changes. I'm not trying to make this the point of contention but it's crazy not to point out that the emperor has no clothes. Yes it has been voted constitutional by 5 crazy-heads, at least for the time being. So we are stuck with (yet another) unconstitutional law that has been *ruled* constitutional. I still say we should enact health care reform. And again, let's shoot for something constitutional this time. :)

As to its substance, I think you unintentionally put your finger on one of the biggest problems when you said, "provided that the care delivered meets the appropriate standards." Who determines that? The federal government does. And while I'm asking questions, what recourse do we have if it doesn't meet *actually* appropriate standards? Maybe we should work to get an amendment passed that says "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people..."?

Oh wait, we already did that. Maybe we could add, "No, really, we mean it. Don't make us count to three. One... two... two and a half..."

Mark my words, this intrusion of the federal government into our health care decisions is leading in a particular direction. And it is beyond me why we would trust it to be a good direction with a government that over the past three decades has proven itself to be both financially incompetent and bloodthirsty.

What ever happened to that old slogan, "My body, my choice!"? It seems pretty apt here.

Joseph and his wife, Heidi, have two children, Tate and Eliza Jane. Joseph graduated from Vanderbilt University and Clearnote Pastors College. Joseph serves as pastor of Clearnote Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Comments

I should add that "crazy-head" is not meant disrespectfully. It's what I call people who are being silly.

-Joseph

Just because it's constitutional (which I believe it is), doesn't mean it's sensible. Health services are in limited supply--the more expensive & sophisticated, the more limited they are. This means there is always going to be rationing, either by money (those who can afford it get it) or by some other means. Right now the insurers ration it. Probably most readers don't know, for example, that senior citizens usually have to pay 100% of the cost of tetanus immunization. That's insurer-rationing. 

But right now, the patient has some ways to influence the rationing: if he's a senior, he can select one Medicare Advantage provider over another. If he's employed, he can try to push his employer in the direction of this provider, rather than that one. And government, when it is not the only player, also enforces some competition and choice. Some will say that this isn't much. But it really is, and the best evidence is the fact that there are appeals processes that allow for exceptions and variations in individual cases. Insurers provide that because they think they have to (or sometimes because the government forces them to do it), not because they want to do it.

But when the rationing is done by a government committee ("death panel") and the government controls all the health care alternatives, there will be no real choices and there likely will be no appeals. If you're over 70, you don't get brain surgery, not even if it's to fix you up after a car accident. That is one of the rules now being floated in Washington.

Competition and choice are not just about American individualism. If they were, Christians might have serious doubts about them. But Christians know the enormous effect of human sin. They know, with Baron Acton, that "absolute power corrupts absolutely." So Christians know that the existence of alternatives and of competition are one way in which God restricts the evil impact of sin in his world and on his human creatures. Government monopoly of medical care, is as dangerous in a sinful world as would be government monopoly of the food supply. Maybe that's coming next.

Great post, Joseph!

That Obamacare is wildy unconstitutional is evident to all who have read and studied the Federalist Papers, and therefore have a robust understanding of the tensions that our founding Fathers waded through to give us the constitution. First of all, under the Articles of Confederation, the union of the states was so loose it was similar to EU in that a common currency was all that held it together. The federalists central reason for wanting a federal government was so that the states could ban together for reasons of national security.

But the antifederalists were gravely concerned that a federal government would trample their rights. We need to remember the historical context here. Many had just given their lives to overthrow the British Empire. The last thing they desired was a federal government to act like King George III. Many delegates refused to sign the constitution until the Bill of Rights was added (Patick Henry, for example.)

Here we find ourselves in a day and age when King George III is looking pretty tame. Yes, he taxed the colonists' tea. But how about passing a law that requires private businesses to provide abortifacient drugs to its customers? This is so radically unconstitutional, such a flagrant trampling of our rights as Americans to conduct our own business, that I don't even know how we got here.

Of course we believe in healthcare reform. But the liberal strategy is to make the system so bad through regulation, that we all cry: "well SOMETHING has to be done." And they hope we'll be ready for anything.

Health savings accounts are simple and effective at keeping costs low. When the system is not overburdened by regulations, the average family could be able to buy a high deductible "disaster policy" for around $100 a month. This is for major medical things, like the wife gets breast cancer.

Then, rather than throwing $600 (minimum) in premiums to an insurance company each month, a lesser amount can be placed in savings until the deductible is met. The advantages of this is that people will choose eating healthy and exercises to expensive blood pressure medication, when it is a case when either will work, just by way of an example.

When it is your own personal savings that you are dipping into instead of health insurance money, you will be more careful. It's actually a very basic economic principle and will work for the majority of Americans. It's not the cancer patients that are causing the spike in premiums, but the every day costs.

Psychotropic meds are another cause in spike--a huge amount of Americans are on prosac, etc, and those drugs aren't cheap. The cause of this is western medicine's compartmentalized view of human body. Instead of seeing a person as a whole, with a soul, he is seen as a blob of chemicals. When the brain chemistry is off, pump him full of drugs, like he's a machine. That'll fix him. 

If the Health Insurance Deform Act is constitutional, we owe the East India Tea Company a big apology for two centuries of bad press in our schoolbooks!  Methinks the Founders would have a very specific view towards the idea that the powers of taxation allow the government to do anything as long as it's a tax.  Put more to the point, I think they'd be kicking Roberts' rear end all the way back to his boyhood home in NW Indiana for that one if they could.

And I'd love for the 10th Amendment to be added to the Constitution!

Leslie,

As IO see it, obtaining a high-deductible private health insurance policy would be OK as a stopgap, as long as you don't have pre-existing conditions that wouldn't allow you to purchase that insurance at any price. Without going into the gory details, my husband is on long-term disability (LTD) through his former's employer. We can purchase health insurance from them at the same cost from them as all other employees do until next June 30. I also have pre-existing conditions. I am working hard to find almost any job that has decent benefits even though I have a B.S. degree and I recently completed an associates degree to add to my skill set. I also need work because when my husband went on LTD, our family income immediately decreased by 40%. It had already decreased when we decided I should return to school because I'd been making between 15-20K at a part-time job. 

There are things that I think need to be changed in the health care reform plan, but if I can't find a job with decent benefits or get health insurance through a professional association I belong to in the next 9 months, we'll be hung out to dry. (I understand most of its provisions don't take effect until 2014.) We simply can't get by on discounts from doctors who allow us to pay in cash and prescription discount cards. I doubt most  individuals or families could do this unless everyone was in near-excellent health.

For example, about 15 months ago I was in a serious rollover auto accident. Spent 5 days in the hospital, had 2 surgeries on my left (dominant) arm about 180 mi from home and another one about 6 weeks later at a hospital practically in our backyard. The bill for all of this (including all doctor bills), after managed care discounts was over $130,000K. What if that happened to one of us if we had no health insurance? Even if they sliced a considerable amount off the bills, we'd probably be paying this off for the rest of our lives, because we're smack in the middle of the baby-boom generation.

I know we are far from alone. Without even thinking about I could give you at least a dozen examples of people in the same boat we're in. None of us are deadbeats.

I apologize if I came across as too harsh. I have no beef with you personally. You just hit a raw nerve when I read your post.

Spot-on, Dan, but how you can think the federal government "controlling all the health care alternatives" in this nation is in line with the constitution is beyond me. If that's constitutional, is there *anything* that it isn't allowed to completely control? Is it limited in any practical way whatsoever?

-Joseph

Absolutely, Leslie. And the government isn't going to ignore the expense benefits of healthy eating instead of expensive blood-pressure meds. In order to keep the costs of this program down they will embark on more "educational" programs to convince people to eat healthy. Eventually they will realize that education doesn't solve our personal problems. After all, we drink sugary drinks because we like them, not because we never learned they were unhealthy. So then they will ban sugary drinks through penalties taxes refusing to provide health care unless we eat the way they want us to.

Inevitably, they will begin to control what we eat since that is a major part of true health care.

-Joseph

Sue I apologize for hitting a raw nerve!

Although you are far from being alone, your scenario does not represent the majority of Americans. The point I was trying to make was that if we can keep the healthy people without preexisting conditions clogging up the system with unnecessary treatments, healthcare will be cheaper to all. Healthcare is not exempt from economic laws which every other industry understands. My basic point: when people are in control of their everyday health costs they will spend less than when they are not. I know many people who are looking for ways to get their "$600 worth." In other words, they pay a giant premium so they are going to look for ways to make it seem like it's worth it. I do believe in disaster policies for things like you mentioned, car accidents, etc. (BTW, those kinds of cost are usually covered under car insurance policies, as I'm sure you know, but not everybody realizes.)

The problems with big government are so complex though, that it is hard to imagine a solution under the current regime. Many people are having a hard time making ends meet even with 2 spouses working. This is because one spouse is supporting the family and the other spouse is supporting the government. More government is hardly a solution.

Dear Sue,

Some trust in chariots, some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Let me exhort you, dear sister, to recognize not that horses or chariots (or the federal government or health insurance) are bad, but that God cares for his children. He is our help. He is our hope. Those who put their hope elsewhere will be disappointed, but those who rely on him will not be put to shame.

Love in Christ,

-Joseph

Hi Joseph,

Some employer-sponsored health insurance plans already do this. For example, I know a woman whose husband developed high cholesterol, although it wasn't dangerously high. He was under very heavy pressure to start medication for this instead of trying to change his diet and exercise more for about 6 months, which his doctor recommended. His doctor had to write a letter to the health insurance company to stop them from forcing this guy to start meds right away.

Hi Joseph,

I might have come across that I didn't trust in God about our situation in my post and indeed I didn't say anything about it. But I pray daily that there might be a new medication that could cure the disease that required my husband to go on LTD or stop it from progressing. Going boldly to the throne of grace, I even ask God that He perform a miracle and heal my husband. 

We have already seen one prayer answered. He is under the care of a world-class specialist in the disease that treats his condition. Normally, this doc has a 12+ month waiting list. But his family doc really pushed his case and my husband got an appointment within 3 weeks of his referral to the specialist, and this doctor is about a 25 min drive from our home. (We would have considered anything up to 4-5 hrs away in our insurance.) I certainly consider that an answer to prayer. 

Love in Christ,

Sue

You wrote in part:

Although you are far from being alone, your scenario does not represent the majority of Americans. 

It might not represent most younger, healthy Americans, but that's not the case with many of us baby boomers. As a friend of mine said the other day, "It's certainly not uncommon to get to our age and not to have at least one pre-existing condition." When I look at my small group at church (6 women) all my age or a little older, 4 of 6 of us have pre-existing conditions that I know about. Of the 4 of us that are married, 3 of 4 of our husbands have pre-existing conditions that I know about. None of us smoke, drink to excess, or are obese. Some of us (not me, unfortunately) exercise regularly.

You also wrote, in part:

(BTW, those kinds of cost are usually covered under car insurance policies, as I'm sure you know, but not everybody realizes.)

Unfortunately, that's rarely the case according to our auto/homeowner's insurance agent. Our policy has pretty good coverage if we hit someone else in an auto accident, but only a small amount to cover medical payments for us. I asked the agent if we could raise it and he said yes, but the most it could be raised to would be 8K. That would have hardly put a dent in a large accident like the one I had.

Three, I totally agree with you that it's dead wrong for people to "get their $600 worth". Doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants need the money so they don't turn them away. I've heard that some medical clinics put their health care practitioners on salary to prevent this sort of stuff.

Thanks for listening,

Sue

I am having trouble figuring out why a Pastor Bayly (or any minister) is considered an authority on constitutional matters.

The influence he wields has been given to proclaim to good news, not bind the consciences of his members about the day's political minutae.

I hope my tone is not read as being upset. Just genuinely concernced that the church is leaving its charter behind when it blows its authority pontificating on political issues that no few will care much about in ten years.

If the pastor was wrong about some political issue, then it would not be unreasonable for a member to question which of his other views are simply the opinions of a man and not the word of God.

At a minimum, I hope such a distinction is made very clear from the pulpit.

Dear Neoz anonymous person,

A few points:

  1. I never claimed to be an authority in either normal sense of the word on constitutional matters.
  2. The opinion you have expressed here would also prevent pastors from counseling people about most anything.
  3. There is a reason I posted this here, and not at ClearnoteChurch.com

In Christ,

-Joseph

Joseph,

Here's how you answered "Neoz" earlier this year:

I've thought at great length about your question. It started when I realized that a number of Christians that I know and am close to were planning to vote for Obama. I was not impressed. Your argument was raised more particularly in asking me how I could vote for a man who was "belligerent" and intent on foreign wars. I was not and am not in favor of most of our foreign military involvement, yet I could easily say that opposing abortion is far more important than opposing our foreign wars, even if all of them are unjust. All you have to do is compare the numbers to see this.

We will always be voting for sinners--men who do and support many wrong things. But certainly we cannot assign moral equivalence between working to end poverty (which is impossible according to Jesus) and working to end abortion.

Do you have a problem with pastors who urged their congregation to oppose those promoting death camps in Germany? Or do you look back and have a problem with those who were silent? Do you have a problem with those pastors that urged their congregation to oppose slavery? Or do you have a problem with those who refused to address it because it was "too politically charged"?

We look back with shock that Christians in Germany didn't have their priorities straight. They were willing to silently accept the murder of millions?!?!? What was WRONG with them? Surely you wouldn't respond, "But don't you realize that the other political parties also had sins?"

Our nation has had the equivalent of numerous Nazi holocausts in the last 4 decades. It's morally reprehensible. It's far worse than anything else our nation does. It overrides all other concerns. It makes the wickedness of slavery pale in comparison. It makes our unjust wars look laughably innocent. All of this is because of the sheer numbers of murders taking place.

Many of the same points are applicable here.

The government could send storm troopers in to drag men, women and children away with hooks in their noses for refusing to approve of abortion with their insurance premiums, and presumably the pastors' duty would be to be silent with regard to the rightness or wrongness of such "political" "minutiae".

In condemning only the one who condemns evil, does not Neoz approve evil? Isn't he calling pastors to just the apathy their flesh would love to indulge anyway, giving them a plausible principle by which to indulge it?

Thanks, Daniel. I had forgotten about that interaction. In this instance, I'm less adamant not because there aren't serious moral issues involved, but because I didn't take the time to elucidate them in the post. I simply left them implied.

Those who have ears to hear the warning have heard. Those who refuse to hear are deaf.

-Joseph

Regarding the question of pastors being experts on law, one of the key premises in our Constitution is that it ought to be "perspicuous" to the average reader.  So when the average reader reads "the right to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed," that's exactly what it means.

This is one of the key things that differentiates Protestants from many other traditions as well; we believe that the Scriptures can be interpreted by the average Joe, and we then also train pastors to be especially expert in the analysis of texts.

In contrast, lawyers are educated a lot in case law, where a later decision can modify or eliminate a previous one.  In this light, I would argue that a pastor, at least of the Bible-believing Protestant mold, may be a better analyst of the Constitution than many/most lawyers.  They have the training (or should have at least) to view a text, and they have the predilection to view it as a non-negotiable starting point.

and they have the predilection to view it as a non-negotiable starting point

(or should have, at least).

I couldn't resist. :)

Really, Bert and Daniel, we need to remember that all these objections are meant to keep us--pastors, elders, laymen, all of us--from doing the work.

We can and should skewer the false objections, but we must not get distracted from the real work. If we get pulled too far into the side-debate of whether we should be doing the work, the work will not get done, and they will have accomplished their end, even if we "run rings 'round them logically".

-Joseph

Good conversation. I am fairly paranoid about this blending of Christianity and politics because I can think of so many example of pastors proclaiming from the pulpit declarations that are now clearly seen as examples of partisan politics.

For example, the many sermons declaring the obligation of Christians to support Reagan's SDI and the like now seem to have spring from the week's political fervor and not from some biblical extrapolation.

 

P.S. I certainly don't mean to play unfairly by using a pseudonym. I have a pretty low online profile and I have been personally annoyed when my name is googled and what comes up are random blog comments that I made about some long-forgotten nonsense in 2003. I hope my anonimity does not suggest that I have something to hide.

Regarding using a pseudonym, we exhort men to use their real name in commenting on this blog. It's your choice though. However, if you make personal attacks (on anyone) we would require you to identify yourself or go away. (There are also a few other situations we would require a real name.)

I've personally seen many more examples of blending Christianity and entertainment than Christianity and politics, although I know that happens as well. Using a manipulative guilt-trip to convince Christians they have a duty to support a movie like Fireproof, is an example of what I mean.

-Joseph

Hear, hear!

Joseph,

I was expecting a new amendment and I find the 10th Amendment (one of my favorites) from 220 years ago.  Those Founding Fathers were sure smart!  I just wish we listened to them.

"Neoz," I am also paranoid that way, but it is because pastors were not using the Scriptures or their training therein to "support SDI," as you suggest.  If the Scriptures point us to a particular understanding--such as Paul's experiences with the magistrates pointing us to an understanding of limited government--then it is the pastor's responsibility to preach this.

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