What would a large mainline gathering be without a left-wing ideological foray into public policy? The PCUSA General Assembly couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do so, of course, and one that was passed last night is entitled “On Supporting Single Payer Universal Healthcare Reform.” It says:
1. Endorse in principle the provision of single-payer universal health care reform in which health care services are privately provided and publicly financed.
2. Direct the General Assembly Council, through appropriate offices including the National Health Ministries, the Washington Office, and the Presbyterian Health, Education, and Welfare Association (PHEWA),advocate for, educate about, and otherwise pursue the goal of obtaining legislation that enacts single-payer, universal national health insurance as the program that best responds to the moral imperative of the gospel; monitoring progress toward this goal and reporting back to the next two General Assemblies (2010 and 2012)
3. Direct the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly to send a copy of this resolution to the appropriate committee chairs of the U.S. Congress and to the Washington and United Nations offices of the PC(USA).
4. Direct that $25,000 from the Mission budget of the PC(USA) be sent to the PACT Network of PHEWA for the purpose of holding ten regional, one-day seminars supporting single payer universal healthcare reform, moneys to be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
Single payer universal health coverage (not “care,” which is what you get from a doctor, but “coverage,” which is how you pay for it) may be a good idea, though the track record for it in the developed world is spotty at best. But a case can be made for it, I’m sure. That case isn’t found in the half-page of rationale offered on behalf of this overture. Instead, we get a smattering of random facts meant to indict the current system, an assertion that the American College of Physicians (not the AMA) is for it, a reference to Jesus as a healer and the Great Physician, and this mathematical gem:
And single-payer universal healthcare reform would increase coverage from the 60 percent of Americans already covered by Medicare (over 65) or Medicaid (severely limited wealth) to 100 percent of Americans, a net increase of only 40 percent.
Even assuming the 60% figure is accurate (I highly doubt it, and there’s no source cited), the “40% increase” is a howler. An increase from 60% to 100% is actually a 66% increase. Whatever.
Here’s the point: as a matter of prudential judgment, universal single payer health coverage may be good or bad. Lots of people, some expert on the matter, most not, have opinions. Lots of Presbyterians have opinions, and I’ve got no problem with them writing their congresscritters or whatever else they want to do to push those opinions. But the PCUSA, as a Christian denomination, has no expertise in this whatsoever. All it has is left-wing ideology, poorly expressed, and the willingness to shovel $25,000 down a rathole to propagandize some small number of individuals on the subject. Congress rightly pays no attention to pronouncements like these, because they know that the denomination can deliver nothing, neither knowledge nor votes, to back them up, and so basically you’ve got $25,000 being wasted that could have been used elsewhere (how about a downpayment on dealing with clergy abuse?), and an extraordinarily simplistic statement on an extraordinarily complex public policy issue that will only cause knowledgable people to snicker at the PCUSA’s hubris.
On the other hand, in the face of the torrent of bad legislation passed by this GA, who will notice?