I first asked this question in 2009 during the months in which Congress debated the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare).
I was struggling with the irony of religious conservatives, who have a sordid history of trying to force religion into medicine, rejecting the effort to provide health insurance for all Americans. I wondered what they thought Jesus would do when faced with a similar situation.
It is impossible to imagine Jesus declaring: “I’m here to relieve all your suffering … except for your pre-existing leprosy.”
Now as religious Conservative seeks to overturn the Affordable Care Act, I’m still struggling.
When faced with the prospect of depriving tens of millions of people of affordable healthcare access, what would Jesus do? WWJI? Who would Jesus Insure?*
According to religious conservatives, Jesus does not allow abortions, so laws should prevent abortion, or, failing that, should place innumerable roadblocks in the way of women who want abortions.
According to religious conservatives, Jesus wants all life to be preserved, so they mustered a public campaign to prevent Terri Schiavo’s husband from honoring her wishes and allowing her to die instead of continue on in a vegetative state.
According to religious conservatives, Jesus considers homosexuality to be an abomination, so discrimination against gay people should be enshrined in law.
Since they appear to believe that medical decisions (even other people’s medical decisions) should be made with regard to what Jesus would want, what do they think Jesus would want?
I’m no theologian, but I feel confident that Jesus would not approve of taking affordable healthcare away from tens of millions and going back to the health insurance system prior to the ACA.
Would Jesus tie health insurance to employment? I doubt it. He made manifest his concern for the poor and downtrodden, so it is doubtful that he would want their miseries magnified by denying them access to healthcare.
Would Jesus allow pre-existing conditions to be exempted? Not likely. He ministered to the sick without regard for how long they had been sick before he arrived. It is impossible to imagine him declaring: “I’m here to relieve your suffering, except for your pre-existing leprosy.”
Would Jesus consider it a priority to preserve existing insurance companies? Would he reject a public option for health insurance because it threatened the profits of insurance giants? Once again, not likely. He would not put profits ahead of the life and health of innocent people.
Who would Jesus insure? The conclusion is inescapable. He would insure everyone. He would insist that it was the moral responsibility of those who have health insurance to make it available to those who don’t. And the way we do that is by providing a public option for health insurance, exactly the same option that the elderly now enjoy.
So I have a suggestion. For those who believe that we should make healthcare decisions based on what Jesus would do, how about making healthcare insurance decisions based on what Jesus would do? Obamacare may be anathema to religious conservatives, but it is impossible to deny that his plan for healthcare reform bears the closest resemblance to what Jesus would do.
WWJI: Who would Jesus insure? Everyone, of course.
There’s a word for religious conservatives who want to repeal the ACA: hypocrites.
* I know that is “whom would Jesus insure” is grammatically correct, but “who would Jesus insure” sounds better.