Is Health Care the Government’s Job?

“Show me in the constitution where it says the government should pay for its citizens’ health insurance!”

I’ve read the above, heard the above. so have you.

I’d like to answer it.

Where it says we all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Where it says it is to “promote the general welfare” of its citizens.

Oh, and may I point out that no health care proposal made by anyone on either side of the aisle has suggested that the government should pay for health care for everyone. Or even half our population. Or even one-fourth.

(Should I point out the irony in the above statement -which has been made into a meme- in that it implies the “government” should not pay for our insurance although we pay for the “government’s” insurance?)

Show me where in the constitution that it says the government will collect income taxes? Or pay oil company subsidies? Or manage a social security program? Or outlaw a natural herb? Or pay the insurance for house and senate members? Federal pensions?

“Don’t be silly,” you say. “There was no such thing as health insurance when the Constitution was written.”

Exactly. Things change.

But despite the fact that no one is proposing that government use taxpayer funds to provide 360 million Americans with health insurance, this lie persists.

Wait? No, you say? You never said the government shouldn’t pay for all Americans because obviously it doesn’t. You meant that the government shouldn’t pay for  certain Americans. You know who we mean.

Who? People not fortunate enough to have employer paid or subsidized health insurance? Or people who can afford their own insurance?

People like you?

How about we simplify this. There is only one reason why we should care about all people having access to health care: because we are decent human beings who don’t just believe in the right to be born but the right to live.

And what about 2 Thessalonians 3:10, the verse the religious right loves to point at when they want to justify cutting entitlements and their fight against universal healthcare?

As always, we have to identify the speaker and the audience.  This is Paul speaking to the new brothers in Thessalonica, whom he left behind to carry on the ministry and care of the church. He reminds them that Paul and his company showed them by example how they were to conduct themselves, and that included every man “working,” not slothing.

So did Paul mean to tell all Christians that people who do not work do not deserve to eat? If so, then why were the Jews commanded to leave the borders of their fields unharvested so the needy could help themselves? Why did Jesus tell us to feed the hungry and care for the poor without adding, “unless they are able to work”?

Since Paul wrote to the churches and gave them instructions, we know that he was speaking to those who were growing and caring for the church. He was not speaking to the community those churches served. Just as he set an example, he reminded the Thessalonian church to earn their keep so not to be judged by the community as charlatans and takers.  Perhaps we would do well to wonder if those living off the church today are following Paul’s instructions.

Nowhere, you will notice, does God or his son Jesus, nor any prophet, teacher, leader, patriarch, matriarch, believer, apostle, disciple, say that if the needy, the hungry, the poor, the sick, the “least of these” does not work, they do not/cannot/should not eat.

The church I attend teaches us to examine the entire word of God when it seems either contradictory or incomplete. To examine the preponderance of evidence rather than take the lazy way to interpretation that usually leads one to read into a verse what one wants to read into it. I think this is one such example.

We must look at everything the Bible teaches about helping those in need: the Jewish law to leave crops at the borders of their fields; the many times Jesus spoke about and acted upon caring for those in need; the story of the good Samaritan. In light of all these, do you really think that one sentence addressed to those in charge of the Thessalonian church is proof that God is anti-welfare, anti-universal healthcare, anti-any care unless we determine that you are physically or mentally unable to work?

For me, the answer is a certain, “No!”

Photo by sergio omassi on

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