Let’s Make Healthcare Great

Shortly before I got married, my mentor, who also happened to be my future wife’s employer, told me that health insurance does not cover child birth until a woman has been on a policy for 10 months. I was well aware that regular human gestation was nine months, and some births are premature. I thought my mentor could keep my wife on her employment policy beyond her employment, but he said he couldn’t.

Being a pastor, I contacted The Southern Baptist Annuity Board, now known as Guidestone, and it was confirmed that childbirth would not be covered within the first 10 months. Lori and I were obedient to God’s teaching about not having premarital sex, but I was very worried about the possibility that she could get pregnant shortly after our marriage, and we would be burdened with expensive bills. I prayed that no child would be born that quickly. God answered that prayer, and even with pleading to have the original request overturned, after 32 and a half years, we still have no child.

Lori was marrying me, so she left her job in Georgia, and we set up household in Virginia, where I served a congregation.

This predicament is just one problem with a healthcare that is primarily employment based. Government indirectly has funded this setup since typically people are not taxed on their health insurance provided by their employers.

But the employment provided healthcare doesn’t work as easily for everyone. I have served as a pastor for over 33 years. I’ve been a Southern Baptist Pastor with health insurance through Guidestone of the Southern Baptist Convention. I retired earlier this year from that. My last payment for Lori and myself was over $1600 per month. That was the cheapest plan I could get, and it included a $10,000 per year deductible.

After leaving the pastorate and moving to Georgia, I have used the Affordable Healthcare Act to get a silver plan, which I’ve paid a little over $500 a month. This plan has a much lower deductible, and my wife and I are very pleased with it. Yes, it’s going up this coming year to $581 a month, but that’s a lot better than the $1600 a month. I am sure the latter policy would have gone up too. Incidentally, anytime in the past when I received a “raise,” the increase in my healthcare more than offset my “raise.”

But this situation is not limited to pastors of autonomous churches. Small business people, who are not a part of large company, must pay rates in the range I was paying.

How many people could start a business that could eventually employ others, hesitate to start that business, because they need the insurance plan they are on with an employer? And wasn’t the Affordable Healthcare idea originally a conservative idea…at least until Obama adopted it?

Republicans profess to support small business, but make it difficult to take that step since people may be afraid to leave the employment of a large company to start that business.

And what about those people who want to work, but can’t find a job? How do they pay for healthcare? Even in the best economy, there are people who are unemployed, or can only find part time work that doesn’t provide healthcare. A lack of healthcare, when a medical emergency arises, can cause financial ruin.

I’ve helped people pay bills as a pastor and personally. I’ve bought food for people. I can easily pick up someone’s tab for lunch. But I cannot personally afford to pay for someone’s healthcare. That requires a lot of people banding together, which should be done through the government.

I’m not going to argue that the constitution requires government to pay for healthcare, other than promoting the general welfare. But the government is indirectly subsidizing healthcare by letting employers provide it without taxing the benefits of employees.

I know plenty of conservatives who look forward to age 65, when they will get Medicare. If you going to oppose government healthcare, then you need to be consistent and oppose Medicare.

I’ve paid taxes for years, writing big quarterly checks to my respective state and to the federal treasury. I don’t begrudge paying for a government that benefits me. But why should I write big checks that benefit others, and I’m not allowed to get a benefit from the government I’ve supported. Yes, taxes would probably go up to pay for government healthcare, but when you consider the value of it, I believe it is well worth it.

If companies didn’t have to subsidize healthcare, they could pay bigger wages to the workers.

And young people should have healthcare. I remember how worried I was about healthcare when I graduated from college and started to work fulltime. I had been on my mother’s policy, and was being picked up by my new employer. I was concerned about any possible gap. What if I had a health emergency as I started work, and something went wrong with the system. I feared being without coverage.

An argument frequently made by conservatives is that no one should be forced to buy it. But medical emergencies do happen, and only the most hardened libertarian would say to a dying young person, “you made your bed, now lie in it.” And when that person is treated, somebody is going to pay for it. Why not just spread the cost across a broad base of people who all paying into the system?

I know that there are Christians who use Christian programs that substitute for insurance. But they don’t have to accept you. A pre-existing condition can keep you out of their fold.

I know we have a culture where people live together outside of matrimony, and at least some companies cover live-in partners. But in such a predicament, you could not only be thrown out the door on a moment’s notice, but you could lose the roof over your head. You could lose your health insurance.

We are blessed with good healthcare. But it’s a blessing everyone should have access to.

The opinions above are not necessarily those of The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

Ashton C. Smith. Copyright © December 18, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC




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