In the very early hours this morning, the US Senate voted 51 to 48 to begin the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act, or as it is commonly known, Obamacare.
There are many misconceptions about what the ACA is and what it does. Too many people think that it just taxpayer-funded health insurance. And while that is part of it (known as the Public Option, and the expansion of Medicaid), there is so much more in the Act that was intended to help and protect people, and repealing it, without something to replace it is not only dangerous for those that depend on it, but, honestly, unBiblical, and immoral.
As my title implies, I don’t think Jesus would, if he were a US Congressman, vote to repeal the ACA. Let’s look at what we know of Jesus from the Bible, the teachings of which many of the GOP (who want the ACA repealed) claim to follow:
There are 31 stories of Jesus healing an individual in the first 4 books of the New Testament (the Gospels), and there are at least 20 stories of Jesus performing ‘mass’ healings (more than one, often referred to as ‘multitudes’). Jesus cared not only for the spiritual needs of those who came to him, he cared for their physical needs, their illnesses, their blindness, their paralysis.
And on top of setting that example, Jesus also taught his followers to care for people.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
– Luke 10:25-37(NIV)
I don’t think it’s an accident, or merely narrative tool that this parable is about a man that is in need of medical care. He could have mentioned a man in need of food or someone without a home, but Jesus chose to use a man that was dying. The Samaritan, henceforth known as “The Good Samaritan”, gave his time and his money to care for a man in need, and Jesus used this as his answer to the question “who is my neighbor?”, but also the original question “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Which brings us back to the GOP and their wanting to repeal the ACA. Republicans like to say “this is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles”. And as such our government and laws should reflect that. But when it comes to things that actually help people the way Jesus did, they say, bafflingly, that “it’s not the government’s job”.
If our Constitution and laws make us a Christian nation (we can argue it doesn’t, but for the sake of this post, let’s just agree with Conservatives on that point), then shouldn’t the actions of the government set up by that Constitution reflect the actions of the Christ it supposedly represents?
The Affordable Care Act, while not a perfect piece of legislature, and something that needed to be tweaked and fixed from the start, was a huge step forward in protecting the life and liberty of American citizens. Providing health care for all harkens back to the very words of our founding documents. In the Declaration of Independence, it’s written “[men/mankind] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And in the Constitution “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (Emphasis mine.)
So not only in the teachings of the Christ they claim to follow, but in the founding documents they claim to hold so dear, are Republicans facedwith concepts that show that repealing the ACA is not only a sin, but morally and ethically, and patriotically, WRONG.
Now it can be argued that people shouldn’t depend on the government and the Public Option shouldn’t be in there giving people ‘free’ healthcare. And again, I am not saying that the ACA doesn’t have issues that needed to be fixed from the start (and, arguably, they would have if Congress had focused on doing so from the start instead of voting hundreds of times to repeal it.) But there is way more in there than the Public Option. Let’s look at just a few things in there that, if repealed, would do more harm than good:
Children covered by parents insurance until age 26
Coverage under your insurance no longer ends when you child turns 18, this means your son or daughter is covered as they pursue their education or as they get their first job and enter adulthood, taking the pressure off of them so they can focus on become responsible adults and eventually able to obtain their own insurance.
Cannot be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions
You change jobs, or are transferred to a new state, or something else happens that forces you to change your insurance. But you have an illness, maybe even a very serious one. Insurance companies can no longer deny you coverage of that condition. This adds amazing security to cancer patients, or diabetics, or any number of people with an endless list of conditions. This gives you the confidence you need to find a better job, or move closer to loved ones.
No lifetime limit on coverage
This is a personal one for me. 10 years ago, before the ACA became law, I became ill. Very ill. To this day we don’t know exactly what is wrong with me, but it involves a lot of crippling pain, weakness on my left side, and some brain issues. Before I was terminated from my job (because I couldn’t do the job anymore) and my insurance was still in effect, I had to have some very expensive tests done. All of which required approval from my insurance before they were done, so I thought they were covered because the insurance approved them. But then the bills came in, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bills that I will never be able to pay back. A call to the insurance company revealed a sad truth. They could set a limit on how much they pay out and can cancel my policy for reaching that limit, without warning and without covering procedures they had previously approved.
The ACA ends that despicable rule. The insurance must cover the things they agree to cover in your policy, for as long as your are paying your premiums and cannot set some arbitrary limit and put your health in jeopardy.
This is really important for cancer patients, whose treatment is literally life or death. And anyone else that needs lengthy and sometimes lifetimes of treatment. A car accident, like the one my mother was involved in, can lead to years of recovery. Now insurance companies can’t just cut us off.
Your premium must be spent (mostly) on your healthcare, you can even get a refund if you don’t use your insurance.
The ACA sets a limit on how much of your premium is used for administrative costs. The rest MUST be used for your health care. Insurance companies can no long make monstrous profits by not providing the care they are supposedly in business to provide. In some states you can even get a refund on premiums you paid but didn’t use for health care. This ensures your money is used for it’s intended purposes – your health.
These are just a few of the things put into the ACA that benefit ALL Americans. These are the things that will be stripped away when congress and our new President repeal the ACA without replacing it with a new law that includes these (and many other) things.
To do so, to just rip away the protections of the ACA from American citizens, is not only irresponsible, it’s immoral.
Please call and write your congressmen (https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials) and tell them to do all they can to protect us, the American citizens, from this action. If the ACA is to be repealed, the consumer protections in it must be kept intact by replacing it with another law that includes them. We cannot put the lives and health of our fellow citizens, our neighbors who we are called to love, on the line for political statements.
 “31 Individual Healings of Jesus Christ”, http://stronginfaith.org/article.php?page=111
 “America’s Founding Documents”, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs
 “Key Features of the Affordable Care Act”, https://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts-and-features/key-features-of-aca/