The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has issued a statement in response to the health-care reform legislation signed into law March 23. The statement follows.
ST. LOUIS, March 23, 2010–As most are aware, Sunday night the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Senate version of a 10-year, $940 billion restructuring
of the U.S. health-care system. A subsequent vote adopted a companion bill that would make modifications to the Senate bill, thus making the final bill more palatable to the House. This “reconciliation” bill of “fix it” changes then would need approval again by the Senate.
President Obama is expected to sign the new health-care legislation into law today. When he does, this historic piece of legislation will guarantee near-universal insurance coverage of American citizens. Beyond that, it will require people to buy coverage, call for the creation of state-based insurance “exchanges” or marketplaces, prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions, and impose higher taxes to bolster Medicare and other programs.
Clearly these sweeping new laws will have far-reaching ramifications, the extent of which, at this early date, cannot be known. It seems apparent there will be challenges to the new legislation — perhaps even attempts to repeal it — at both the federal and state levels.
One area of particular concern for The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod regarding this legislation centers on the sanctity of life. To allay the concerns of pro-life advocates, President Obama has promised to issue an executive order ensuring that no federal monies will go toward the provision of abortions. Some groups, however, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Right to Life Committee, have expressed strong doubts that an executive order truly will accomplish this. For its part, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, a staunchly pro-life church body supporting the protection of human life from conception through death, cannot support or endorse any portion of the new law that allows government funding, even indirectly, for abortions.
Another area of key importance to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod is the possible effect of the new legislation on the Synod’s Church Plan, particularly those parts of our Concordia Plan Services that deal with the health benefits of our church workers and their families. The Board of Directors and the executive staff of Concordia Plan Services (CPS) have been studying vigilantly the implications of the new health-care legislation on the Synod’s ability to take care of its workers and their families. At this point, CPS leaders cannot possibly have all the answers or anticipate all the ramifications of the new law. They will be scrutinizing developments as they unfold and reporting in timely fashion to their constituents.
In many respects, this statement is preliminary in nature. There are too many factors yet to materialize, too many unknowns, for the church to issue any sort of comprehensive commentary at this point. That being said, most people acknowledge that the nation’s health-care system needs improvement. The main points of contention have been how best to reform the system and how to fund such reforms. Christians of good heart and conscience can disagree about many aspects of these issues. We encourage Christians to be engaged actively in these discussions and debates as concerned citizens who care deeply about the health and life of our nation and all of its citizens. We also pray that the legitimate political debates regarding such issues will not intrude into congregational life and teaching in ways that detract from the church’s unique mission of proclaiming the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has been about the business of helping the less fortunate, in countless ways through a myriad of channels, since our founding some 163 years ago. We will continue in this. Compassionate care and prayer will remain foundational in our life as the church as we respond to the health care and spiritual needs of those around us. Long before health insurance and government-related health-care programs began, the Christian Church understood her responsibility to care for those in need. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the leaders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). We care for others because God first loved us in Christ Jesus (1 John 4:19).
May our Lord grant our nation and its leaders wisdom as the process of health-care reform unfolds.
Posted March 23, 2010