Republicans release ‘American Health Care Act’

“Obamacare has failed the American people. Over the past seven years, we’ve seen premiums skyrocket, choices dwindle, and government take more control over our health care. Left unchecked, the damage wrought by Obamacare would continue to spin out of control.”

With these words, House Speaker Paul Ryan has introduced the American Health Care Act, the long-awaited bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. According to the Speaker and other media sources, here is what the measure contains:

•    The bill maintains coverage for people with preexisting conditions.
•    It allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of twenty-six. It also requires all insurers to offer ten essential benefits, including maternity care and preventive services. And it bars insurers from setting a limit on how much they must pay to cover a person.
•    The “Patient and State Stability Fund” allows states to allocate resources in ways that will best care for their most vulnerable populations.
•    The bill enhances Health Savings Accounts, creating choice and competition among insurers.
•    The measure continues Medicaid expansion for low-income Americans until 2020, then provides an advanceable, refundable tax credit to create an open market for insurance coverage. The credit is capped to prevent wealthier Americans from claiming it.
•    The bill repeals fines on people who don’t carry insurance. However, it levies a 30 percent penalty for lapses in coverage.
•    A provision bars Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds. President Trump reportedly offered to preserve Planned Parenthood’s funding if the organization would promise to stop providing abortions. The organization quickly rejected the president’s offer.
•    Analysts have not yet had time to assess how the bill would affect federal spending or the number of people covered by insurance.

House committees plan to begin voting on the 123-page legislation this morning, launching “what could be the year’s defining battle in Congress,” according to the Associated Press. The bill’s passage in the House is not assured, and opposition is mounting in the Senate because of concerns that poor people could lose insurance.

I am neither a lawyer nor a lawmaker, so I’ll confine my response to four biblical reminders relevant to the debate. Their familiarity makes them no less significant.

One: The governing authorities “have been instituted by God” and work as “God’s servant for your good” (Romans 13:1,4). Paul wrote these words about Nero, one of the most despotic rulers in history. God can use any leaders for his purposes, including ours.

Two: God loves the poor. Proverbs 14:31 summarizes dozens of biblical texts on this subject: “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” A righteous government must care for those who cannot care for themselves.

Three: We should meet our own needs if we can. Scripture is clear: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10), for “each will have to bear his own load” (Galatians 6:5).

Four: Christians are commanded to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:2). If you want peace in our nation, you must pray for it.

Balancing medical needs and personal responsibility is the opportunity and challenge our leaders are negotiating. Praying for them requires no negotiation, only obedience. Why not now?

NOTE: I invite you to join me for a seminar I am teaching on how to engage the culture for Christ. You can register here for the four-week course. The class meets from March 30 to April 20, 6:30 to 8:30 PM on Thursday nights at Dallas Baptist University. We will develop a Christian worldview, understand trends in the culture, and learn how to speak the truth in love on topics from medical ethics to the LGBTQ movement. Please join us.