• When Christian Culture Tries to Solve Health Care

    It happens like clockwork every time health care hits the news. My various social media feeds light up with "Actually, this should be the job of religious groups and charities, not the government." It’s a non-negotiable doctrine among the Fiscally Conservative Faith, in fact. The go-to examples are always collections for emergency funds or free health clinics run by religious groups, which, given the limited range of things a clinic can do, already tells you that the suggestion is rooted in naiveté, bad faith, or both. 

    Pretend these claims were made in good faith and run the numbers: 24 million people lose coverage, an average 2017 silver plan for a 40 year old costs $410/mo ($4920/yr), and America has a little over 338,000 churches in the US with a median size of 75 members (or mean size 186). We can only approximate since premiums between states and age groups vary widely, but here’s how those numbers balance out. Since "It's not government's job!,” if every single one our our 338,000 churches scraped together a mere additional $350,000/year from their average 186 members, it would barely cover just the 24 million who will lose coverage. 

    Of course, this ideal fantasy scenario only exists in 2017. By the time those 24 million are out, the collections would need to increase to a million or more per year to accommodate premium surges for older Americans. Then things would start to get bad. We'd hit the reality that the CBO’s 24 million estimate would be too low; this number would soar tens of millions higher once people realize churches would help with premiums. The CBO then blurts out a collective “Oh, Christ! We didn’t account for Christ!” I hope that 186 person church can start pulling together a few million in pocket change every year. Really, who doesn't have a few tens or hundreds of thousands in cash to give away? Surely every parishioner would gladly redistribute their income in a way that is completely fair and perfectly respectful of individual dignity.

    Or instead of actually helping with premiums, churches could open more clinics and let the physicians among them (at least those who also follow the Fiscally Conservative Faith) volunteer an extra weekend; anyone with a condition not treatable there will surely die. Or they can scrape together emergency funds here and there when selective cases become catastrophic and lives are already in jeopardy, leaving anyone not already in their social network to die unnoticed, though still with an iPhone. 

    Or yet again, this is a really dumb idea that won’t be swayed by argument because tenants of faith are not swayed by arguments. It’s almost as if we don’t have ~30 examples of national health care systems from which we could draw to resolve this completely self-inflicted problem. It is surely a good thing for religious groups and charities to participate in the ways they can, but the messianic fantasy wherein they are the one true solution is narcissistic and cruel. At 17%+ of GDP, setting health care on the shoulders of religious groups and charities is like using a scalpel in a situation that requires a sledgehammer when you also have a sledgehammer.