Most major churches in my home state of Ohio have decided that Medicaid expansion is good public policy. In recent weeks, churches have come out in support of Gov. John Kasich’s plan to expand Medicaid coverage to 275,000 low-income, uninsured Ohioans. Pastors argue that taking care of our own people is appropriate for a Christian nation – apparently removing their own congregations from the equation.
Currently, Ohio has approximately 11.5 million residents, of which 2 million are on Medicaid. Most churches have very tight budgets and barely have enough cash to help the tired, the poor and the homeless. Why aren't churches volunteering tackling these issues themselves, instead of asking for more government? Is it because the churches believe that government has the money and resources?
If government is the church’s solution for helping the needy, why do we need churches? If government is the solution, why should I take the time to go to church and donate money to the poor, when all I have to do is have the government take money out of my paycheck and redistribute it to the poor?
After all, churches are telling us -- through their actions – that we help the poor by having a large bureaucratic machine take care of the poor, the tired and the homeless. In fact, by having government take care of the poor, the rest of us don't have to worry about them or even think about them. Is that really what Jesus would want the church, and all of us, to be doing?
In fact, looking at it that way, expanding Medicaid has to be the right solution. All we have to do is vote for expansion and bring in more federal dollars (from China) to cover the cost of those who don't have insurance because they are poor and single. What is another 500,000 Ohioans on Medicaid? After all, the money is coming from the federal government, not from us, so why should we care?
Never mind that we will eventually have to dramatically increase taxes to pay for this expansion in Medicaid. Businesses will clearly pay more in taxes because they can afford it, or they will pass the taxes on to their customers who will gladly pay them in increased consumer prices. Customers will not change their behavior because they will feel so good about helping the homeless that they will buy even more products and services from these businesses. Seeing this, businesses will increase the pay of their employees knowing that the money will be used to buy more product and pay more in taxes to help the homeless. This cyclical behavior always works well, so let’s just continue doing it.
Heck, we don't even need to raise taxes, because Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke will just print more money and sell more dollars to the Chinese, because the Chinese really want to help our poor. China is very prosperous, as we know, and all of their 1.2 billion people live in luxurious high-rise condos overlooking luscious green parks -- and oh, their beautiful blue skies. China is a perfect example of how the United States should be. Government takes care of everything, and Christian churches aren't around; clearly, they aren't needed in China.
Why not just expand Medicaid to cover all 11.5 million Ohioans? Currently churches are advocating to add 275,000 more low-income, uninsured Ohioans. If the system works so well, and those on Medicaid enjoy the system, why not put everyone on it? If we want to bring in more federal tax dollars, why don’t we just put everyone in Ohio on Medicaid and bring in the accompanying revenues? At 10 cents on the dollar, we would be fools to turn down this free money.
Our society has a major problem. If you are a church leader, you should ask the simple question: What would Jesus do? Would Jesus say, I should not personally take on poverty, I should rely on others to fix poverty? Would Jesus, who worked as a carpenter in a family-owned business, say, I should not try to work hard, build up a business, hire people and help them to help themselves, but instead I think everyone should be given a free handout? Of course he wouldn’t. Nothing is free, and handouts always come out of someone's pocket.
God didn’t give the Hebrews the Promised Land -- he gave them the tools and skills they needed to get there. God didn’t give Noah an ark -- he gave him the information he needed in order to build it to save himself and his family, and the world’s animals. God didn’t give us all salvation -- he gave us the free will to choose, and choose we must. Jesus didn’t just give everyone fish -- he taught his disciples how to fish.
Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both believed that the churches should handle caring for our poor and needy. Not only does it provide an opportunity for evangelism, but it offers a true chance for salvation for the people reached and for those who offer a helping hand -- both on this earth and in the life to follow.
God’s love shared with people through the church -- not through government -- is how we should be helping those who need our assistance.
Andrew O. Brenner is an Ohio State Representative.