With the U.S. presidential election one year away, candidates are already attempting to attract voters by rolling out policies addressing a variety of topics.
One of the most pressing issues voters want candidates to discuss is health care.
Americans spent $3.65 trillion on health care in 2018, a 4.4% increase over 2017. According to Fortune, that amount averages out to $11,212 per person, with 59% of that amount being spent on hospitals, doctors and clinical services.
Prescription drug spending grew 3.3% from 2017 to 2018, with the increase attributed to higher prices and not increased use.
According to GoodRx, the most popular brand drugs increased by 5.5%. The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review reported that from 2017 to 2018 price increases associated with seven drugs cost insurers and patients an additional $5.1 billion over two years.
Personally, our family has noticed the uptick in health care costs. Blessed with a company that provides good health insurance, our out-of-pocket costs have risen extensively over the last two years.
We have a traditional 80/20 PPO with a deductible. What we are discovering is that even though the deductible has remained the same, our out-of-pocket expenses still increased due to the 20% we must pay after the deductible was met.
The only way this could happen would be for an increase in costs for medical services and prescription drug costs.
While the debate between politicians focuses on public versus private health care models, the average American continues to suffer from our inability to honestly and practically address rising health care costs.
By 2027, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation projects that health care spending will rise from its current rate of $3.65 trillion to an astounding $6 trillion.
How will the average American afford health care? Will Americans be forced to make life-and-death decisions based simply on the affordability of treatment and medicine? Some already do.
Where are the constitutional ideals of “justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, general welfare and the blessing of liberty and prosperity” when the wealthy are the only ones able to afford life-securing health care?
As a Christian, the rapidly escalating health care costs and the reality that my neighbors cannot afford health care trouble my soul.
How should Christians react to rising health care costs? What can Christians do to prepare themselves for the future? Should Christians be involved in addressing this issue for themselves and their neighbors?
The Bible clearly suggests that our health is a central concern of God. From the beginning to the end, the Bible offers stories and instructions on health care.
The Hebrews are given detailed instructions on how to remain healthy as they wandered in the wilderness.
One of the largest facets of Jesus’ ministry was centered on healing the sick. Even Paul offers health care suggestions to Timothy for a sour stomach.
With all of this biblical evidence, we can conclude that the health of God’s creation is central to the good news.
Even knowing health care is central to God’s goodwill for humanity, questions persist about practical ways Christians can respond.
Here are four suggestions:
- Christians need to embrace the attitude of Jesus when it comes to the health care of others, demonstrating both compassion and offering practical solutions.
We must be honest about our responsibility as Christians to look after the health care of others. We must care for both the spiritual and physical needs of others.
Far too often, the church has fallen prey to the notion of individualism, which means every person is only responsible for themselves.
Such an attitude – especially when it comes to health care – is contradictory to the gospel.
- Christians should make an effort to live healthier lifestyles.
We must do a better job of taking care of the bodies God has given us. Now, an emphasis on a healthier lifestyle should not be confused with human attractiveness. They are quite different.
Living a healthier lifestyle simply means eating a better diet, exercising more often and taking better care of ourselves.
Our bodies are the only bodies God has given us, so let’s take care of them. As Paul rightly pointed out, our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).
- Christians should establish personal health savings accounts.
This idea is a realistic and practical response to the potential health care crisis. Emerging generations after the Baby Boomers are facing the reality of stagnant or declining incomes when adjusted for inflation, higher health care costs and a future uncertain about retirement possibilities.
Because of longer life expectancies, the depletion of Social Security benefits expected in the next 15 years, and the inability of many citizens to invest in savings, a new approach needs to be taken.
In the past, families saved for homes and cars. Future families will need to open health savings accounts to subsidize what insurance and benefits do not cover.
With the escalation of health care and prescription drug costs, traditional insurance and government plans will no longer be enough to provide adequate financial coverage.
Christians need to plan ahead, and in some cases, churches can begin to offer health care grants to those in need.
Churches can work with local clinics and pharmacies to establish grants for families in need of care and medicine.
- Christians need to inform themselves on the issue of health care and vote for candidates who offer realistic and practical policies that will benefit the average citizen.
Christians can no longer afford to look the other way, thinking a private or public solution will magically appear.
As a people of goodwill, Christians should think critically and creatively about the growing health care crisis. The crisis is growing so large that solutions must come from both private and public sectors.
We need candidates not beholden to insurance companies or groups ready to burn the whole system down.
We need sensible people at the table who know what it’s like to pause at the thought of a surgery, sacrifice your own medicine so a child can breathe without restriction and look at the cupboard wondering if the pantry will satiate your hunger so you can pay a medical bill.
Just as Jesus gave the man near the pool the opportunity to take up his mat and walk, Christians should also be working to empower others with opportunities for healing and prosperity (John 5).
When the man Jesus healed got up and walked, his entire life changed, providing him the possibility for employment to take care of himself and others.
We too need to do all we can to help people live healthier lives and create systems that do not bankrupt them if they get sick.
Most people just want the opportunity to take up their mats and walk, but the current crisis keeps them on their backs, paralyzed by financial inadequacies.
While the wealthy get the opportunity to walk without the fear of returning to the mat, most Americans live in constant fear that at any moment something could happen sending them back to the mat.
Christians should take the lead in transforming health care. Why? Because our Lord is the great physician.
Therefore, let us lean into our responsibility and embrace the role of the Good Samaritan, who cared for the health of a stranger (Luke 10:25-37).