My Brother’s Keeper: The Ethics of Health Care Explained

A patient waits in the hallway for a room to open up in the emergency room at Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston on July 27, 2009. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

To invoke an enduring biblical question: Are we our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers?

We can thank, or curse, the wrangling over Obamacare “repeal and replace” for shoving the question in our face in the most illuminating and uncomfortable way. Especially the part of the health care law that requires everyone to participate by buying coverage or paying a penalty — a key to generating the money needed for the insurance system to work but, in the view of opponents, an affront to our personal freedom.

How telling that a recent CNN poll finds Americans evenly split on the current Obamacare requirement that people who forgo coverage pay into the system through a penalty, also known as the “individual mandate.” Fifty percent oppose removing the current requirement; 48 percent favor removing it. Factor in the poll’s margin of error, and you have a tie game.

It’s a classic dilemma; a tough call. It frames the never-resolved question that goes to the heart of our society’s idea of itself as a moral, Christian nation, or at least a Christian-influenced one. What obligation do we have to our fellow citizens — the vast majority of whom we do not know and never will?

If you don’t need or want insurance, some ask, why should you have to pay for other people’s coverage?

I know people who think this way, and they resent having the government obligate them to pay into the system.

Understanding that many Americans struggle and pay a high cost under the Affordable Care Act, we cannot really blame some for holding this position. But responsible citizenship compels us to take a broader view.

By its very nature, insurance depends on those without immediate need helping those who receive service now.

If you are a lucky and careful driver and you never have a car accident, you’ll end up “wasting” thousands and thousands of dollars on auto insurance by the time your driving days are done. You’ll have helped pay for many other people’s repairs while receiving no service, or refund. How unfair!

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SOURCE: Religion News Service
Tom Krattenmaker