Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Morality and Health Care

Recently on the Lou Dobbs program on CNN, Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, was featured in a "face off" on the health care debate. Adam was asked to present the moral argument in favor of universal health care. He was countered by Bishop Harry Jackson arguing against the morality of universal care.

Two interesting (amusing) points.

1. You'll notice that Lou Dobbs seems to have trouble with Adam's name. First he calls him "Leonard," impatiently asking "Leonard" to answer the question. I assume he is confusing him with Leonard Hamilton, who is head men's basketball coach at Florida State. Maybe Lou is an FSU fan, or maybe he remembers when Leonard Hamilton was coaching at Miami. Or maybe he's just a basketball fan. Later he calls him "Alexander," for Alexander Hamilton.

2. Bishop Jackson's argument against universal care is quite remarkable. He says that a few years ago he had a life-threatening bout with cancer. Because he had good insurance, he had the best care and he was cured. If we had universal coverage, he might not have received the limited expertise of the best doctors. Those who have the resources to pay for the best care should get it.

I have pasted the transcript below.

You can also go to Adam's blog and see the whole video at:


LOU DOBBS: Well, supporters of the president's health care plan are arguing that the government has a moral responsibility to provide health care for all Americans. But does it? That is the subject of tonight's face off debate.Joining me now is Reverend Adam Hamilton. He is a senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas. Reverend Hamilton says the government should be providing affordable health care for everyone.Reverend, great to have you with us.

REV. ADAM HAMILTON, UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF THE RESURRECTION: Thank you very much, it's an honor.DOBBS: And Bishop Harry Jackson who is the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C. He says that there should be no government intervention in health care whatsoever.Bishop, good to have you with us. We appreciate it.

BISHOP HARRY JACKSON, HOPE CHRISTIAN CHURCH: Good to be with you.DOBBS: Reverend Hamilton, let's begin with you, if I may, as we get this debate started. Why do you believe that the federal government has a moral responsibility to provide health care for everyone?

HAMILTON: I think it has a moral obligation to make accessible, affordable health care to everyone. Not everyone may take advantage of that, but it has an obligation for that. And I think part of the role of government is to offer the safety net needed for the most vulnerable of people in the country. So when I think of the most vulnerable of people, I'm not thinking about people who choose not to work, but people who are the working poor for whom giving up the equivalent of a house payment to be able to provide health insurance for their family is simply not possible.And I have been with people in my congregation who had to choose between making the mortgage payment or deciding to pay for their health insurance, and they choose the mortgage payment, or for people out of work, and certainly right now in this economic crisis, people who have been out of work for some time and their COBRA has run out.And I think we have to ask the question, what happens with these folks.

DOBBS: I'm really asking the basis for your statement that the federal government has a moral obligation.

HAMILTON: I guess the question is --

DOBBS: That's the question. Leonard, that's the question.

HAMILTON: Right. And so what constitutes a moral obligation, though? And a moral obligation is, in my mind, related to justice. So we look in the scriptures and we hear -- from a Christian perspective, we look in the scriptures, we find hundreds of calls for justice.DOBBS: All right.

HAMILTON: And when we think of justice, it's ensuring the rights of those that can't speak up for themselves and don't have access to...

DOBBS: Bishop Jackson, we just heard where Reverend Hamilton is coming from. Your view?

JACKSON: I believe, Lou, that we have a great health care system. A few years ago I was given a 15 percent chance of living, had cancer of the esophagus. And had I been denied or delayed treatment, Lou, I wouldn't be alive today.So one of the problems of this moral morass we're in is if you raise the cost of health care by broadening out all of the people that are going to need to get these services, what you may do is say that you're not going to get to certain people, that people that have urgent situations aren't going to get treated.We're going to be like some of the government that you overlooked or looked over and talked about. Also, I think --

DOBBS: We overlooked a couple, too, but we'll get back to them.

JACKSON: Forgive me for that. But the reality, then, is that my life worth less because I'm worth more in terms of net worth? Do we have the ability to say I'm going to get every homeless person health care even if it means you're going to have other people die?The government is going to have other people figure it out, and I believe historically the church has been the people who have decided that they are going to create hospitals, care for the sick and the needy and the poor, and the government is not known to manage things well, Lou.So I'm concerned that if we change these things, delay, denial means death.And I also want to get, if we get the time, into the issue of paid abortions, which will make it go up by 33 percent.

DOBBS: Let's get into that in just a moment. I want to let Reverend Hamilton respond.

HAMILTON: First of all, Lou, you've been highlighting countries over the last few episodes where they have health coverage available for more people than we have here in the United States, more folks who currently have no health care here.And that's not raised the price of health care insurance. It's actually lowered the price of health care coverage and what's spent per person.I think it's possible for us to maintain our current plan for those of us who are happy with it. I have good health insurance. I'm happy with that.What I'm concerned about, and I know Bishop Jackson has to be concerned with the people in his congregation as well, you know, 15 percent of the population for whom they don't have that access. What about those folks? And the scriptures call on us to speak up for those who can't speak up for themselves.And so I think we have to figure out, somehow we have to solve this problem. However it's solved, it's probably a combination of private and public.

JACKSON: But it doesn't mean endorsing this particular plan. The problem is we're steamrolling a plan that has not been thought out. Its implementation is horrible, and we need to slow our roll, analyze this thing, and do something that is responsible and moral.DOBBS: Let's get to the issue -- I'm sorry.

HAMILTON: I was going to say, to Bishop Jackson's point, we haven't -- I'm not endorsing the current plan either. I'm endorsing the idea behind having accessible health care coverage for everyone.

DOBBS: I think we can all sign up for the idea that it should be something better. From there, there seems to be absolutely no evidence of any kind empirically to support any kind of proposition in any stage of legislation either in the House or in the minds of those in leadership of the Congress or the White House as to what that might be.We have approval and disapproval ratings and the public opinion polls, and we don't even have a plan before us. This is as Bishop Jackson points out.Let me to the point that he raised. And Alexander -- I'm sorry, reverend, what is the morality here of federal funding here for abortion?

HAMILTON: First of all, Alexander was the secretary of the treasury, so maybe --

DOBBS: I did an association.

HAMILTON: But when it comes to abortion, first of all, I also with Bishop Jackson consider myself pro-life. I would not support public funding going to abortion.But everything I'm hearing from both sides is saying that's not going to be a part of this.DOBBS: Do you believe -- let me ask you this as a reverend. Do you really believe what you're hearing from either side on this? I want a real straightforward answer from a Christian good fearing man. Do you really believe what you're hearing from either side?

HAMILTON: I think there are folks who are trying to speak the truth in the midst of it. But there's so much heat and --

DOBBS: Do you go straight to heaven when you equivocate, or do you find yourself a Purgatory or something fancy like that?Bishop Jackson, you get the next one.

JACKSON: OK. Well, I believe that we really need to watch the advocates of this program. It's clearly been politicized.And Lou, it's almost like a sophisticated shell game. Folks are saying we want to do the best for the public, but you don't get to read the details or understand the details. And there are many nuances of this moral approach that we don't understand about.And I go back to the fact that I would not be here, Lou -- I had a 15 percent chance of living only, had the greatest health care in the world. Why do we jeopardize the care from the world's best doctors at a plan we don't even know what it is?

DOBBS: I'm sorry, go ahead, you get the last word.

HAMILTON: I was going to say, Lou, that's wonderful that Mr. Jackson had health insurance coverage so that he could still be here. But what about the people who don't.DOBBS: That's the only outcome we want, I'll guarantee you.

HAMILTON: Exactly.

DOBBS: I'm sorry, your point?

HAMILTON: My point is that we would hope that -- what about the 15 percent of the population who don't have access to affordable care? They wouldn't be standing here with Bishop Jackson.

DOBBS: Then it becomes what about the number of people who, as Bishop Jackson is saying, who, under rationing, because there is a limitation to resources, would be denied health care?This becomes a circular argument I think. I understand your moral position, and I think that each of us is sympathetic to it. The moral quandary, obviously we're going to have to explore that. But we've got a lot of government exploration to do and a lot of government issues to overcome.Thank you very much. I hope you both will come back as we discuss this issue in the day and weeks ahead.

HAMILTON: Thank you, Lou.

JACKSON: Thank, Lou.

DOBBS: And Bishop Jackson, we're awful delighted that the result was, as Reverend Hamilton put it, extraordinary positive.JACKSON: Thank you.

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