The Medicaid program, a government monstrosity meant to help low-income families and individuals get necessary health care, drastically needs to be reined in with a shift made from government-sponsored care to private, charitable care. This would solve several problems, including making sure everyone is medically covered.
Medicaid was created in the mid-1960s under the Social Security Act as a social insurance program to help those in poverty pay for healthcare. It provided matching federal funds to states that implemented, administered, and funded the program. While there have always been a significant number of people on Medicaid, figures show that numbers have risen dramatically with the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA), known as Obamacare. The reasoning is simple – the law provides for states to expand Medicaid and 25 states, plus the District of Columbia, have expanded programs.
The number of people enrolling in Medicaid after AHCA was implemented is 25 times greater than the number enrolling in private coverage under the mandated law requiring health insurance for every American. In raw numbers, figures from 2000 through 2011 show that enrollees in the program went from 34 million people at the beginning of the millennium to 54 million in 2011. Numbers from the government Medicaid website indicate there are at least 59.1 million people currently in the program and that does not include the number of pregnant women using Medicaid for the births of their babies. The website claims that 40 percent of all births in the United States are paid for by Medicaid. If you include other forms of welfare, such as food stamps, numbers suggest that 10 million were added to the welfare system between 2009 and 2011. That makes for a grand total of 108 million welfare recipients, excluding those receiving Social Security and Medicare.
The cost of providing government-financed medicine to people has increased also, largely because of activists working to include procedures never before considered. Oregon became the first state to pay for puberty suppression medication in teenagers. While some may wonder why a teen will not want to grow up, the reasoning is rooted in LGBT activism. These teens may want to consider changing their gender and the medication prevents them from developing as their normally would grow. Medicaid also pays for birth control pills, the morning-after pill, and abortions, depending on the state and regulations.
This is a problem for a number of reasons, including financial and moral. This country has a debt problem to the tune of $18 trillion. The United States cannot continue on the path it has trodden in order to remain fiscally strong. There is also a widening of moral standards where some Americans are forced to pay taxes – which then indirectly fund the Medicaid program – that go toward things some are morally opposed to providing such as abortions, birth control and morning-after pills and sexual gender options.
There is a better way. Providing medical care to the poor has traditionally been a religious undertaking, according to Barbra Mann Wall, PhD, R.N., FAAN, who wrote a paper on the subject. Early Christians saw it as a mission of the church to take care of the sick, as well as feed the hungry and care for widows and orphans. That principal was implemented in the United States with hospitals being established in the late 1700s. Both Protestant and Catholic churches created a number of hospitals in the post-Civil War era, particularly in the South and West, where there was a high number of poor. There is not a solid number on how many hospitals churches started, but there are a number of for-profit hospitals in America that remain tied to religious organizations. In addition to churches, charitable groups like the Shriners also created hospitals such as the Augusta Burn Center in Georgia. A back-to-basics approach with a shift of healthcare responsibility to churches would simultaneously rein in Medicaid expenses.
Churches made a mistake in letting the government take over caring for the sick and poor. This is a responsibility that should be placed, once again, on charitable organizations through church-based hospitals and small doctor’s offices. Church-based hospitals and family doctor’s offices, if run as they once were, would provide the same services as any other medical facility. Those who could pay, or had insurance, would pay. Those who could not afford care would have their bills paid for by a foundation. Medicaid would no longer be necessary. There should be a focus on wellness and preventive care, just as there was in the early days of this country. Additionally, church-run hospitals would not provide services contrary to Christian beliefs. Those donating to these hospitals would get a tax deduction. Meanwhile, money needed for Medicaid could be reduced.
The fear in this plan is that people are not generous enough to make it work because it is voluntary. This simply is not true. Statistics show the most charitable giving comes from states where religious faith still plays a large role. This is in additional to paying taxes. It is a pretty solid bet that a reduction in taxes would lead to more charitable giving to these hospitals. There would still be public hospitals and government-funded care for others not wishing to go to the charitable hospitals, but the amount of debt the public hospitals incur and the amount of public money spent on medical care for the poor would be greatly reduced, lowering the need for numerous offices and government employees to administer the Medicaid program. That would lead to a healthier fiscal America as well as a reduction in government.
It would be up to the churches to implement this idea and up to federal and state government to support it with tax reductions. It is an idea whose time has come. It will take courage – faith even – to make it happen. It is the only way to rein in the Medicaid program and shift the burden to the private sector, where it should be.
Opinion by Melody Dareing
Photo by William Patrick Butler – Flickr license