Christians, Please Report to the Health Insurance Reform Debate

08/28/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As the health insurance reform circus plays out on the Hill, and the big pharma and health insurance industry lobbies pour tens of millions into the fight to preserve their obscene profits, I'm struck by one question:

Where are the Christians in this debate?

I don't mean to call out every Christian. I'm not talking about abortion-clinic picketers. They're a busy and vocal bunch, preoccupied with making sure that women who seek an abortion feel sufficiently hated.

I'm not talking about Christian military chaplains leading crusade prayer groups among deployed US infantry in Afghanistan. As it is, they're on their third or fourth tour of duty and may be too tired to keep up with domestic issues.

Nor am I talking about Republican Christians who decry infidelity, homosexuality and gay marriage in public while conducting extramarital bacchanals in private. Better to keep the doors of that "family" "church" on C Street closed for this fight.

Instead, the Christians I'm wondering about are the millions of ordinary, considered followers of a Bronze Age guy named Jesus, a guy who, to my mind, had some pretty specific things to say about the US health insurance industry and its practices.

I ask because as often as I hear it repeated that the US is a "Christian nation," I find it very odd that Christians who live here generally don't seem to have noticed the evidence that Jesus Christ would have serious problems with the for-profit health insurance industry.

It's an astoundingly wealthy industry that got that way by withholding coverage from the sick at every opportunity. What would the parable-prone healer think of the pay-or-die private health insurance model the US shamefully supports -- alone among the 39 most industrialized nations on earth?

I'm only a heathen flipping through the Bible, but I think I have an idea.

On insurance companies who take premiums, then withhold coverage from its paying and sick customers, Jesus offers no booklets filled with fine print, no long hold times on the phone while He services other customers. He's pretty clear:

You shall not steal; you shall not offer false testimony. - Matthew 19:18

Private insurance companies have held on to billions of dollars by routinely denying coverage for any pre-existing medical condition. What would Jesus withhold to maximize shareholder value?

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages [...] healing every sickness and every disease among the people. - Matthew 9:35

Heal every sickness? Every disease? With nary a glance at a profit projection spreadsheet?

I think it's safe to say Jesus would make a terrible health insurance company MBA.

Speaking of profit, what would Christ think of the salary of AEtna CEO Ronald A . Williams? For his corporate leadership, Mr. Williams was paid over $66,000 per day in 2008.

Is not His message to Mr. Williams -- and to his contemporaries at Cigna, Coventry, Humana, WellPoint and HealthNet -- simple and clear?

Then [Jesus] said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." --Luke 12:15


Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. - Matthew 19:24.

I'm no bible scholar or expert on the life of Christ. I might just be cherry-picking here. For all I know, there are Biblical verses endorsing price-gouging and commercial empires built upon human sickness. Jesus might have been a big fan of a system that wastes half the money put into it on intermediaries and profit. There might be all kinds of evidence that Jesus wouldn't want universal health care.

But I doubt it.