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I commend President Obama for forcing the issue of health-care reform into the public debate. Our present system, still the best in the world, needs to expand coverage to the uninsured. I've seen why.

The husband of a woman in my wife's Bible study lost his job and health insurance. Though in pain, he delayed seeing a doctor for months. Finally, his father loaned him money, and he had a large tumor removed from his colon. Had the tumor been discovered earlier, his prognosis might not have been so grim. Christians are helping this family, but there's little such hope for most of the 45 million uninsured Americans.

So, while it's clear we need health-care reform, it's not clear how to implement it, or who will decide who gets medical care. A May court case illustrates this problem. A mentally retarded Georgia teenager suffering from cerebral palsy had been receiving 94 hours of in-home nursing care from Medicaid per week, until the state decided to reduce it to 84. The patient's doctor protested. Her mother sued. Then, in Moore v. Medows, arguing before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the government attorney argued that the state is the "final arbiter" of medical decisions. While the court tried to find middle ground, it affirmed the government's position, stating, "A private physician's word on medical necessity is not dispositive." 

This should be a warning sign for nationalizing health care: The government will make medical decisions, including, as we've seen in Canada and Britain, decisions of life and death. A British ophthalmologist who always had supported her country's National Health Service recently wrote about how a Zip Code lottery would decide the fate of her cancer-stricken father. She explained, "It is only ...

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Christianity Today
We Need Health-Care Reform
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August 2009

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