Students filled the Recital Hall in the Dixon Ministry Center to hear a panel of Cedarville professors discuss the Affordable Care Act. The panel, held on Thursday, Feb. 27, addressed the economic, ethical, legal and political implications of the health care law.
The first portion of the event, dedicated to the panel members each speaking on their area of expertise, opened with professor Mark Smith addressing the constitutionality of “Obamacare.” Smith, director of the center for political studies, said that the individual mandate, or the requirement to acquire healthcare insurance or pay a non-compliance penalty, has been declared constitutional by the Supreme Court.
“The significant constitutional question here is whether or not the federal government has the power to force you to buy a product,” Smith said.
The Supreme Court was able to decide in favor of the Affordable Care Act in this case by considering the individual mandate a tax, Smith said.
When asked his personal opinion on the decision, Smith said the court should have struck the individual mandate down.
“It was a fascinating and flawed decision,” Smith said. “Generally we don’t define commerce as requiring a purchase. Commerce is understood as when people engage in commercial activities across state lines. This (Obamacare) is something the states have the power to do, not the federal government.”
When addressing some of the more fundamental theoretical issues of Obamacare, professor and economist Jeffrey Haymond spoke on the government’s goal to provide insurance access to all U.S. citizens.
“Insurance is something for us to pool similar risks to share the burden of an unacceptable loss,” Haymond said. “Most insurance is incentive based. You pay according to what risks you bring to the table.”
Haymond used the example of young drivers paying more for car insurance than their experienced counterparts because of their higher risk for having a collision.
In the case of Obamacare’s goal of universal coverage, participants who “did not win the so-called lottery of life” would not be penalized for health conditions outside of their control, Haymond said. Instead, people like the elderly or those with pre-existing health conditions will be covered regardless of ability to pay.
“We have left the world of insurance and entered the world of income redistribution,” Haymond said. “There are going to be winners and there are going to be losers with the Affordable Care Act. Those who are going to pay are those who are younger and healthy, relative to those who are sicker and older.”
Dennis Sullivan, director of the center for bioethics, addressed the ethical side of the health care bill.
Because the goal is to insure more people, Obamacare is good news for the uninsured and underinsured, Sullivan, a physician-ethicist, said. Speaking specifically to the Cedarville audience, Sullivan summarized Isaiah 58, saying care for the poor and disenfranchised should be a priority for the Christian.
“(The Affordable Care Act) may not make good constitutional sense,” Sullivan said, “but it makes good ethical sense in that a little shouldering of the burden among the healthy does help in the economic sense of paying the bills.”
During the second portion of the event, panel members answered questions posed by the moderators and members of the audience. Nursing graduate program professor Clifford Fawcett answered a question regarding the effects of Obamacare on patient and health care provider interaction with some practical examples of changes that may be seen in the future.
“We already have a problem with providing access (to health care),” Fawcett said. “We are expanding access and we have a finite number of providers. When you increase the patient side and not the provider side, you will have problems.”
Fawcett, a family nurse practitioner, said that in the future it will take patients longer to get appointments with their doctor. It will also be harder to find a primary care provider or see a specialist.
Sullivan added that doctors are already seeing more patients per day while spending less time with each patient, just to make the same amount of money they made in the past.
The panel ended with a question from an audience member which addressed the need to respond to the Affordable Care Act as Christians.
Professor and attorney Marc Clauson said that all citizens, Christian or not, have the legal ability to question any law. They also have the ethical and moral obligation to object to laws that go against their beliefs. However, Clauson said he does not think that is much of an issue regarding Obamacare. Instead, Christians should focus on separating their dislike for the law from their need to obey the government.
“As a Christian,” Clauson said, “given the circumstances in which we are placed, we also have an obligation to act as a Christian within that context, the best we can, so long as we don’t overstep any obvious moral or ethical boundaries or our consciences.”
Mary Miller is a senior nursing major and off-campus news editor for Cedars. She loves her coffee, enjoys reading and looks forward to exploring the world after graduation.