August 13, 2009 8:13PM

Health Care Reform: WWJD?

Today’s post comes from my theologian father:

There was a man (M) going down from Jerusalem to Jericho who needed health care (Luke 10:25–37). All bypassers were free to provide for him or keep walking. The Priest (P) and the Levite (L) used their freedom in one way and the Samaritan (S) used his the another way.

WWJD? He said do what S did. (M’s quality of care was outstanding.)

WWJND? He did not say that S, P, and L should agree on the level of care and funding for M and chip in. Maybe He realized that P and L had a bullet‐​proof majority. Maybe He realized the time, attention, care, funding, and personal touch of S were very important. Maybe He realized that even if M got to an inn, the innkeeper would be at risk for exceeding guidelines and would have to wait longer to be reimbursed. Maybe He realized the devil was in the details and could complicate or possibly compromise M’s care: the timely availability of government run donkeys (ambulances); inns (hospitals); professionals at every point in the chain and in between; plus, auditors to prevent fraud and abuse. The moral lesson Jesus drew was: use your freedom to care for your neighbor and do not hand it over to P and L if you want your neighbor and yourself to get to Jericho.

Today, millions of Ms are by the side of the road in nursing homes, and the Ps and Ls have already said they want to shrink their funding so they can fund care for the rest of us. Sympathy and sentiment are wonderful but do not always work well as criteria for good policy.

Jesus was a magnificent policy wonk.

For more on how the Parable of the Good Samaritan applies to health policy, click here and here.