The Uninsured and God
The United States Supreme Court case to decide the fate of the newly approved U.S. health care laws has me thinking about God. And I’m thinking this whole discussion suggests that God is active in creation.
The issues in this case are complex. Proponents and opponents are passionate. The stakes seem high. It’s pretty exciting — and important!
I have been following the discussion for some time. I have my own thoughts on the new health care system, of course. But I’ve been thinking about the big picture lately.
Dealing with the Uninsured
One major issue in the debate revolves around providing care for the uninsured. At present, those with health insurance pay about $1,000 extra each year in hidden costs to cover the uninsured who need medical care.
Years ago, congress passed a law that requires health care providers to provide care to the uninsured — at least provide care in certain circumstances. Apparently, the main reason this law passed was that the majority of people in America believe health care providers are morally obligated to help those in great need.
Of course, one way to “handle” those who do not have insurance is to deny them help when they need it. When an uninsured victim of a stabbing shows up at an emergency room, for instance, our society could “handle” the situation by turning the bleeding victim away.
In other words, the problems that arise when uninsured need emergency care could be dealt with by letting the uninsured suffer and die. “Too bad you didn’t get insurance!” we might say. “But it serves you right!”
Fortunately, very few people in the U.S. want the uninsured turned away from health care when it’s needed most. The law passed forbidding this and the present health care plan both provide evidence that the majority of us think the most needy should be helped.
God and Our Moral Sensibilities
So… why do so many of us with health insurance even care that the uninsured get help? Why do we think it’s wrong just to let those without insurance suffer and die?
There may be many answers for these question. But a main answer — perhaps THE main answer — is that the majority of us feel morally obligated to help those in great need. We think that at least somebody ought to be the Good Samaritan.
But from where does this moral obligation come?
The best answer, say those of us who believe in God, is that our basic moral sensibilities derive from God. Of course, Christians have different ways of talking about God as the source of or morality. But they all point to God as morality’s source.
It’s important to note that Christians need not say God is the ONLY factor sustaining our sense of morality. Christians might also say familial, cultural, evolutionary, or other factors are also in the mix of shaping our moral intuitions.
But Christians claim — rightfully, in my view — that any fully satisfactory answer to why people feel morally responsible must be an answer that involves God in some essential way.
No matter what the Supreme Court decides in this case, I am convinced that the U.S. health care debate has at its root a common sensibility that moral intuitions about right and wrong exist. And I’m convinced that these intuitions most plausibly arise from the presence of God in our lives and in the world.