Last Thursday the House passed the American Health Care Act, which is now headed to the Senate, to be voted upon. Most people I follow on social media have the sense to be outraged by this attempt to push the US further along on its path to being a society predicated completely on deregulated free-market principles, rather than the value of human life. However, a slim handful of individuals with diagnosable Stockholm Syndrome are attempting to sanitize their captors’ latest punch to the gut, through passive-agressively justifying the GOP’s decision, by way of comparison to the Affordable Care Act. Agreed, the ACA indeed has flaws, but many of them are related to the U.S. healthcare system being a for-profit sector, instead of being a for-public health sector. Under Obamacare, premiums are high, because of inflated costs to ensure providers’ profit margins. As such, a fundamental change in the structure of our healthcare system is the answer to budgeting concerns — not decreasing the amount of people & conditions that medical insurance will cover (the problem could be solved in its entirety by cracking down on corporate tax-dodging, & then implementing a universal healthcare system; but that’s a rabbit trail for another post). I won’t go into the many reasons the AHCA does not, in any meaningful way, even begin to ameliorate the ACA’s shortcomings or why it doesn’t make the economic sense touted by its proponents, as there are more qualified socio-economic analysts capable of that. What I’d like to unearth here, is the undeniable immorality inherently present in this bill.
To start, we’ll need to establish that the reason human life is intrinsically valuable in the first place is that God created humankind in his image (Genesis 1:27), which means that we share some of his nature, attributes, & characteristics. This is the doctrine of Imago Dei, & it entails that humans are valuable because we have been assigned value by our Creator, who designed us as little semi-replicas of himself. In light of this truth, caring for our fellow image-bearers is one of the highest acts of worship unto God, & is, in fact, a central & indispensable tenet of the church & its mission. Now, many Christians who were unwittingly duped by the Southern Strategy &, therefore, cling blindly to regressive values, would seek to quarantine the bible’s clear emphasis on human justice to merely voluntary acts of the church, but there is no solid biblical or logical argument with which to support this stance. The Bible leaves room for discourse surrounding the method by which image-bearers may meet each other’s essential needs; but it leaves no room for image-bearers leaving each other’s essential needs unmet. Accordingly, using governmental programs as a means of caring for one another is a perfectly biblical & invariably more equitable option for worshipping God, by honoring his image in other human beings. Resistance to doing so, is rooted in neither a biblical worldview, nor sound economic theory, but squarely in an uncritical adherence to the myth that Neoliberal economics (a.k.a. Reaganomics) is an effective & morally conscionable way of steering a society. Of course, creating long-term dependence (not to be confused with ‘interdependence’) is not beneficial for anyone, but that’s a highly exaggerated risk & there are plenty of intelligent ways to avoid that pitfall, while still tangibly loving other image-bearers as God desires. Therefore, we can agree that the commodification of basic human rights, such as education, clean water, & health care is objectively immoral. & since the AHCA would strip millions of human beings of life-protecting resources & then make them accessible only at a prohibitively high price, it clearly qualifies as objectively immoral too. The bill is objectively immoral in plenty of ways (as evidenced by the fact that its proponents insulated themselves from its broad, sweeping cuts), but let’s explore its aggressively anti-image-bearer intentions by examining a couple of the “pre-existing” medical conditions for which the AHCA would allow individual states to deny citizens coverage, by putting them in “high risk” pools, which few can afford:
Pregnancy: Removing the ACA’s mandatory coverage of child-bearing & post-pardum medical expenses, effectively creates a society in which only the affluent can afford to have children, so under the AHCA, progeny becomes a luxury consumer good. Let me flesh that out: choosing one mate from all of humankind & procreating with him or her to leave with the rest of the world a beautiful hybrid of the people you were, as well as a testament to the love you shared, & then painstakingly raising said offspring to shape the world into a better place than the one into which they were born, will be the equivalent of buying a Corvette because you think “it’d be rad”. Having had our first baby last year, my wife & I will readily testify that pregnancy & delivery are already expensive, but without medical insurance that covers the associated costs, having children would be out of the question for us & the other working poor families in the US. My wife & I agree that abortion as a course of action for an unwanted pregnancy is off the table for us, but I’m compelled to point out the inconsistency of a party that wants to outlaw it, but would simultaneously push legislation making any accidental pregnancies a pecuniary death sentence for any lower-income family or single woman finding themselves in such a situation. Would this provision of the AHCA not increase the number of desired abortions, as well as the number of parents needing social safety nets? As a friend of mine asked on Thursday: “If you’re going to vote ‘no’ (on abortion), then where is your ‘yes’ (to viable alternatives or prevention)?”; I echo her incredulity. One of the arguments commonly put forth for defunding Planned Parenthood is that the agency serves the function of eugenics by making pregnancy termination a readily accessible option for those of lower socioeconomic status. Good point. But there’s no functional difference between making it easy for lower-income citizens to have abortions & making it prohibitively expensive for them to have children. Eugenics by another name is eugenics all the same. So, upon examination, it becomes abundantly clear that the rationale behind the the AHCA stems from a worldview that appraises the genetics of rich human beings as more worthy of being passed on than those of poor human beings. I wonder if God shares that same worldview of his image-bearers? If only the Bible would leave some clue as to God’s heart for the poor.
Mental Health: The four basic categories of human need can be described as: physiological, social, spiritual, & psychological/emotional; mental health is essentially a synonym for that last category. Given that mental health is important enough to be considered an entire dimension of human need, it would seem that ensuring citizens’ access to mental health treatment(s) would be a priority for those in charge of crafting policies purported to facilitate maximal human flourishing in our nation & around the world; but it’s not. Like pregnancy, the AHCA would grant states the option of regarding mental health issues as “pre-existing” conditions, & denying coverage for the appropriate course(s) of treatment. Let’s establish something before we go any further: mental illness is real. God is a rational & emotional being, both of which are commutable traits that he passed on to his image-bearers, so humans are rational & emotional beings as well. However, unlike God, our mental state is imperfect & subject to change(s) due to countless factors that are often out of our control. Also unlike God, we are not self-sufficient (despite what proponents of the meritocracy myth would have us believe), so when our mental health takes a turn, it’s a reasonable assertion that we often require professional help to guide us in the process of regaining our psychological/emotional well-being. Given that we share God’s psychological/emotional capacities, but sometimes require help in order to fully exercise them, to deny an image-bearer access to mental health assistance is to deny a portion of his or her image-bearing identity. Yes, the underlying message the AHCA communicates to those too poor to independently acquire the mental health services they need is that their psychological/emotional health is unimportant, & consequently, that they are not fully human. Moreover, human beings’ lives are not compartmentalized, so when one experiences mental illness, the associated ramifications invariably bleed into the physiological, social, & physical spheres of his or her life, so the ultimate underlying message is that he or she is not human at all & the life presently slipping away from him or her isn’t worthy of any aggressive collective intervention by the rest of humankind. “Your illness, your fault. Humanity will be better without you.” A single one of our fellow image-bearers experiencing this is already grievous, but as the husband of a seasoned mental health professional, I can tell you that the AHCA will convey this very message to millions of our brothers & sisters, & the aggregate repercussions will be like something out of dystopian fiction. Again, I wish the Bible wasn’t so vague about God’s stance on the well-being of his image-bearers.
Sexual Assault: I will not dignify this one with an an in-depth examination; even the most calloused heart & most Breitbart-washed mind can see it’s a crime against God’s hand-crafted humanity to allow states to decide whether post-gang rape medical treatment is a human right or a consumer “splurge”.
Summarily, the AHCA is objectively immoral because it scoffs at the image-bearer in each & every one of God’s uniquely created humans who cannot afford the exorbitant costs of high risk pool health “care”. So unless you’d like to be cast aside by society after experiencing a health-related crisis that isn’t within your personal budget, don’t allow that to be an inescapable reality for anyone else. Revere the image of God in your fellow human by contacting your senator & demanding that ACA not be replaced by any federal healthcare program that is not at least as image-bearer-honoring as what is presently in place.
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” (Matthew 25:40)