Hillary on the Hill

"What was it about the sight of a smart woman with a command of an issue that so stunned America's lawmakers?" The question was asked by Kate Walsh O'Beirne in a recent Wall Street Journal article. She was talking about Hillary Clinton's presentation of the administration's health-care plan . . . and the patronizing response on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers endlessly praised Mrs. Clinton's articulate responses-as though surprised that a woman would be so smart, O'Beirne writes. Politicians of all stripes have doubts about the economics of the plan, yet no one asked Mrs. Clinton any tough questions about the numbers. "Apparently," O'Beirne says sarcastically, "because girls don't do math." Well, whether our lawmakers are really the chauvinists O'Beirne makes them out to be, she raises a serious issue. Americans face the prospect of a drastic upheaval in the way health care is delivered in this country, and we do need to ask tough questions. Many Americans see national health care as simply a practical matter of whether everyone will get medical coverage. They fail to see any deeper principle at stake. But for Christians there is a deeper principle, and it is this: How does health-care policy fit within the biblical teaching on the role of the state? The distinctive role of the state is summed up in one word: coercion. God has given the state the power of the sword-the authority to force people to do things on pain of being fined or imprisoned. Now, it's easy to justify the use of coercion when we're talking about stopping murder or burglary. But what about when we're talking about forcing everyone to buy government-approved health insurance? Is this a proper use of state coercion? Few Americans realize just how coercive the Clinton plan really is. It's much more coercive than European social insurance plans, says columnist Richard Grenier. European governments allow people to buy private insurance on the side-somewhat like America's public school system where families can still choose private or Christian schooling. But under the Clinton plan, everyone would be compelled to buy health insurance from government monopolies called Regional Alliances. The word alliances may sound voluntary, but these would be as voluntary as the draft in war time. As Grenier points out, buying any health service outside the government-assigned alliance would be illegal and criminally punishable. It's as though the government were to force everyone into public schools-and outlaw private schooling. In its latest version the Clinton reform expands the range of insurance plans and doctors offered within the alliances. But the principle remains that the government would decide which choices are open to you. And what the government gives, it can also take away. These are the tough issues Congress should have raised with Hillary Clinton. Our current health system has problems, but is this the way to solve them? Is this the reason the state bears the sword-to punish people who choose their own health insurance? Over the next few days, I'll be talking about a Christian approach to health care. And I'll make sure we do ask the tough questions. The biblical questions.


Chuck Colson


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