Obamacare by the Numbers: Who Really Cares?

Posted on February 22, 2014 by


The Congressional Budget Office recently reported new numbers related to the impact of the Affordable Care Act.  The report provided good news for Democrats and other presidential supporters when it estimated that the number of uninsured has dropped to approximately 30 million Americans.  On balance, however, Republicans and opponents have more fodder for the political battle.  Insurance enrollments totaled 1 million less than anticipated.  More damaging yet was the $1.2 trillion price tag and the loss of an estimated 2.5 million jobs over the next decade due to the impact of Obamacare on the economy.

Too often opponents of Obamacare are accused of not caring about the disadvantaged.  It would seem these numbers suggest an alternative motivation for opposition.  Surely one can care about the disadvantaged without supporting a job-killing program that will inevitably reduce the quality of healthcare for all Americans.   We have fifty years of history in this country demonstrating to us that the government does only a few things well.  When it intervenes into areas of life that can be handled by Americans on their own, it almost always does the job less efficiently and with unintended consequences that are uniformly negative.

One of America’s greatest ideals has always been the idea of individual responsibility.  Grover Cleveland understood the value of this ideal and upheld it as president.  In his second term, the country entered into what some historians refer to as the deepest depression this country has ever faced in 1893.  Some Americans called on him to use the power and money of the federal government to help Americans who were suffering.  He refused, citing his concern about negatively impacting the character of Americans who have long valued the notion of taking responsibility for oneself and one’s family.  Too, he was concerned that government involvement would result in dependence on the government by some.  Finally, President Cleveland recognized that the free enterprise system provides the highest quality of living for the most Americans when it is allowed to operate in an unfettered manner.  The Depression of 1893 seems to indicate the value of Cleveland’s position.  Americans found innovative ways of surviving the depression through private charity, community gardens, labor exchanges and cooperatives, and a variety of other self-help measures.  In addition, the economy rebounded within two years and in the election of 1896, Americans were so confident that things were improving, they voted William McKinley into the White House who espoused the same mentality as Cleveland with regard to the role of government.

As Christians, we know that Scripture is clear about our responsibility to help those within the body of Christ who are in need.   Too often in our day and age, however, we are eager to turn these imperatives over to the government.  I would contend that approach is an abdication of our responsibility.  More importantly, however, I believe there is a greater question involved.  What method of helping those in need is most effective?  What method allows for the maintenance of biblical principles such as honoring work, taking responsibility for one’s self, and providing for one’s family?  Recognizing human nature, which approach to helping the needy maintains human dignity while demonstrating true compassion?  These are questions seldom asked in the political arena, but they ought to be asked within the Christian community when we are considering society’s problems.  They certainly remind us that the Obamacare question cannot be reduced to simple accusations about who cares about the disadvantaged and who does not.  Not surprisingly, the early numbers about this massive government program suggest what we should have already learned from history.  The government does only a few things well.   Perhaps providing our healthcare is not one of them.