The Obamacare 'scandal' you haven't heard about
Few Bible Belt pastors mention what's in their backyard, millions of poor people trapped in the Obamacare “coverage gap.”
November 8th, 2013
10:01 AM ET

The Obamacare 'scandal' you haven't heard about

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - The Rev. Timothy McDonald gripped the pulpit with both hands, locked eyes with the shouting worshippers, and decided to speak the unspeakable.

The bespectacled Baptist minister was not confessing to a scandalous love affair or the theft of church funds. He brought up another taboo: the millions of poor Americans who won’t get health insurance beginning in January because their states refused to accept Obamacare.

McDonald cited a New Testament passage in which Jesus gathered the 5,000 and fed them with five loaves and two fishes. Members of his congregation bolted to their feet and yelled, “C’mon preacher” and “Yessir” as his voice rose in righteous anger.

“What I like about our God is that he doesn’t throw people away,” McDonald told First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta during a recent Sunday service. “There will be health care for every American. Don’t you worry when they try to cast you aside.  Just say I’m a leftover for God and leftovers just taste better the next day!”

McDonald’s congregation cheered, but his is a voice crying in the wilderness. He’s willing to condemn state leaders whose refusal to accept Obamacare has left nearly 5 million poor Americans without health coverage. But few of the most famous pastors in the Bible Belt will join him.

Joel Osteen? Bishop T.D. Jakes, and other prominent pastors throughout the South?

Like McDonald, they preach in states where crosses and church steeples dot the skyline yet the poor can’t get the health insurance they would receive if they lived elsewhere. All declined to comment.

When people talk about the Affordable Care Act, most focus on the troubled launch of its website. But another complication of the law has received less attention: a “coverage gap” that will leave nearly 5 million poor Americans without health care, according to a Kaiser Health Foundation study.

Learn more from Kaiser about the coverage gap in states that refused Obamacare

The coverage gap was created when 25 states refused to accept the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. The people who fall into this gap make too much money to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to qualify for Obamacare subsidies in their state insurance exchanges. If they lived elsewhere, they would probably get insurance. But because they live in a state that refused the new health care law, they likely will remain among the nation’s uninsured poor after Obamacare coverage kicks in come January.

The coverage gap has been treated as a political issue, but there is a religious irony to the gap that has been ignored.

Most of the people who fall into the coverage gap live in the Bible Belt, a 14-state region in the South stretching from North Carolina to Texas and Florida. The Bible Belt is the most overtly Christian region in the country, filled with megachurches and pastors who are treated like celebrities.  All but two Bible Belt states have refused to accept the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

Should Bible Belt pastors say anything publicly about the millions of poor people in their communities stranded by the coverage gap? Is it anti-Christian for state leaders to turn down help for the people Jesus called “the least of these"? Or should pastors say nothing publicly about such issues because they are strictly political?

CNN's Sanjay Gupta explains who falls into the coverage gap

Who speaks for the poor in the coverage gap?

When these questions were sent to many of the most popular pastors in the Bible Belt, they hit a wall of silence. Virtually no prominent pastor wanted to talk about the uninsured poor in their midst.

Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest church in the nation, declined to be interviewed about the subject. So did Bishop T.D. Jakes. Their megachurches are both in Texas, the state with the nation’s highest number of people without health insurance.

Max Lucado, the best-selling Christian author who is a minister at a church in Texas, declined to speak; Charles Stanley, the Southern Baptist pastor in Georgia whose In Touch Ministries reaches millions around the globe, declined to speak; Ed Young Sr. and Ed Young Jr., a father and son in Texas who pastor two of the fastest-growing churches in the nation, also declined to speak. 

Bishop T.D. Jakes declined to talk about the millions of poor people stranded in the “coverage gap."

The list goes on.

The silence is not hard to understand. Obamacare is a polarizing political issue in the Bible Belt. A pastor who publicly weighs in on the subject could divide his or her congregation or risk their job. And some prominent pastors like Osteen are popular in part because they  do not alienate fans by taking political stands.

The Rev. Phil Wages, senior pastor Winterville First Baptist Church in Georgia and a blogger, was one of the few Bible Belt ministers willing to speak on the subject.

He says he won’t preach about the coverage gap created by the state’s rejection of the Medicaid expansion because he has what he calls theological differences with the thrust of the new health care law.

Wages says the Bible teaches that the care of orphans, widows and the sick are given to the church, not to the government. Early Christians were the first to create hospitals, orphanages and hospices.

“I have an issue with the government coming in to get money through me - through taxes - to take care of people, when my argument is that I should be free to give to charities or to my church in order to take care of the sick and destitute,” he says.

Wages says he has no doubt that lack of health insurance is a monumental problem, and that many people are poor because of circumstances beyond their control. Yet there is no New Testament example of Jesus trying to shape public policy on behalf of the poor.

“I do not see any biblical precedent where Jesus ever went to Herod or Pilate and said you should be taking care of the poor,” Wages says. “Jesus told his disciples to take care of the poor and the apostles said the same thing to the early church.”

Wages’ position is impractical and unbiblical, says Ronald Sider, a longtime advocate for the poor and author of “The Scandal of Evangelical Politics."

Churches and charities don’t have enough resources to take care of an estimated 48 million Americans who don’t have health care. The Bible is filled with examples of God's fury over economic oppression of the poor, which Christians should regard as scandalous, he says.

“If you are not sharing God’s concern for the poor, it raises huge questions about whether you are a Christian at all,” he says about pastors who say nothing about the uninsured poor.

“As God’s spokespersons, you ought to be talking about God’s concern for the poor as much as God. In the richest nation in world history, it’s contradictory to have millions without health insurance.”

“It absolutely stinks”

The coverage gap may inspire a religious debate, but for its victims the issue is raw and personal.

A recent New York Times article about the coverage gap revealed that many of its victims are the working poor: cooks, cashiers, sales clerks and waitresses.

“These are people who are working people but they haven’t been able to afford health insurance or their employers don’t offer it and they’re stuck,” says Andy Miller, editor of Georgia Health News, a nonprofit news organization that covers health news in the state. “A lot of these folks have chronic health conditions.”

They are people like Shelley “Myra” Mitchell, a single mom with four children who makes $9 an hour working at a Chick-fil-A in Georgia. She makes $18,000 a year – too much for Georgia’s existing Medicaid program, but not enough to qualify for subsidies to sign up for Obamacare’s insurance marketplace in Georgia.

Mitchell’s voice grew edgy with frustration when asked to describe her health needs. She rang up about $20,000 in emergency room bills because she has no health insurance. She can’t afford to get pap smears, go to the dentist or get surgery for a two-year-old hernia. She can’t take medication for her depression and anxiety because she can’t afford it.

She thought she could get help under Obamacare but recently learned she can’t because Georgia did not accept the law’s Medicaid expansion.

“It stinks,” she says. “I’ve been dealing with this hernia for two years now, and I can’t get anyone to help me because I don’t have health insurance. It absolutely stinks.”

Why pastors should stay silent about the coverage gap

Mitchell’s plight may stink. But at what point should a pastor go public on such a complex issue, and what could he or she actually say?

Two prominent evangelical pastors openly wrestled with those questions.

Andy Stanley is one of the most popular evangelical pastors in the nation. He is the senior pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, a megachurch with at least 33,000 members. He is also the author of the forthcoming book “How to be Rich,” which urges Christians to be "rich in good deeds" instead of wealth. His church recently announced that it donated $5.2 million to Atlanta charities and provided another 34,000 volunteer hours.

Joel Osteen has the largest church in America. He also declined to speak about the coverage gap.

Stanley says the coverage gap disturbs him. The church cannot handle the needs of millions of uninsured people alone and should quit taking shots at government involvement, he says. But he adds that it’s not anti-Christian for political leaders in states like Georgia to turn down the Medicaid expansion for the poor.

“If you really want to know how concerned someone is for the poor ask them what percentage of their personal money they give to organizations that help the poor,” he says. “Ask them how much time they give to organizations that help the poor.”

Stanley says it would be difficult for any pastor to talk about the Medicaid expansion without addressing the entire law.

“I tried to imagine a scenario where I urged people to write our governor encouraging him to reconsider his decision regarding the expansion of Medicaid for the poor,” he says. “As I imagined that, I got the feeling that by the time I finished explaining the issue, people’s eyes would be glazed over.”

Pastors who don't preach one way or the other on Medicaid expansion aren't callous or apathetic, says Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. They may be suspicious of a bigger government and skeptical of whether this move will solve the problem.

“The Bible calls on Christians to answer the cries of the poor,” he says. “All Christians must do that. The question of the Medicaid expansion is a question of how we do that. I don’t hear many people arguing that we shouldn’t care about the plight of the poor when it comes to medical care. The question is a genuine debate about the role of the state.”

Moore says some people have a “utopian view” of what state power can accomplish.

“Government programs sometimes encourage dependency, unintentionally break down family structures, and become unsustainable financially,” Moore says.

Bob Coy, pastor of Calvary Chapel megachurch in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, wondered aloud about what he could, and should, say.

Florida, which has the second highest number of people without health insurance behind Texas, has not accepted the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.

Coy says he hasn’t spoken publicly about poor people missing health coverage in Florida. But he has called the governor to get more information.

“I’m not an activist guy. I don’t tell the government what to do. I am a church guy. I teach the Bible.”

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care for the poor, though, Coy says. He grew up in a poor family that couldn’t afford to go to the dentist. His church also spends a large percentage of its budget on serving the poor.

Coy says he is suspicious of large-scale programs that are publicly funded because they are often abused.

“One side of our society is saying, 'We need this,' while on the other side is saying, 'This isn’t fair and isn’t going to work.’ So how should a pastor, who has a heart to help people, respond?”

Why pastors should speak out

The Rev. Shane Stanford’s answer to Coy is simple: Talk about justice for the poor like Jesus did.

Stanford is the senior pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis and author of “Five Stones: Conquering Your Giants.”

He is also HIV-positive. He was born a hemophiliac and contracted the virus when he was 16 during treatment for his illness.

Stanford says he publicly speaks out about the millions of Americans stranded without health coverage because he knows how it feels. Once, after heart surgery, he was getting a transfusion when a nurse came into the room and pulled the needle out of his arm because she said he had maxed out his health insurance coverage.

He says standing up for people in the coverage gap is a matter of justice.

“Sometimes pastors have to tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.”

Stanford ignores fellow pastors who counsel him to be silent about his state and others that refused to accept the Medicaid expansion.

“They say you have to be careful talking about political issues,” he says. “When I look at their lives, part of me thinks they never had that needle yanked out of their arm.”

Conservative pastors who urge their colleagues to avoid politics are hypocrites, says James Cone, a prominent theologian who has spent much of his career writing books condemning white churches for what he says is their indifference to social justice.

“When their own interests are involved, they are very much involved in politics,” Cone says. “Same-sex marriage and abortion – they have no trouble politically opposing them.”

Cone, a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, says a nation is defined by how it treats its most vulnerable members. But there is an entrenched hostility to poor people in America that goes unchallenged by some white, conservative Christians, he says.

“When poor people get food stamps, they get mad,” Cone says. “When the rich and corporations get tax breaks and pay no taxes, they don’t say anything.”

McDonald, the pastor who spoke out on behalf of poor people from his Atlanta church, says Jesus provided universal health care. The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus healing marginalized people.

“He did it for free,” McDonald says of Jesus’ healing. “The reason the crowds gathered around Jesus primarily was for healing. People want wholeness.”

Perhaps the gap between Bible Belt pastors who say nothing about the uninsured poor and those who do is also rooted in history. 

Conservative Christians have traditionally emphasized providing charity to the poor - soup kitchens, donations to impoverished people in undeveloped countries - while progressive Christians have blended charity with calls for public policy changes that help the poor.

The distinction between both approaches was distilled by a memorable quote from the late Brazilian Roman Catholic Bishop Dom Helder Camara, who said: "When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why so many people are poor they call me a communist."

That may be changing as a new generation of evangelicals rise in the Bible Belt and elsewhere. One minister who speaks to them is the Rev. Timothy Keller, a conservative Christian author who pastors a megachurch in New York.

Keller is the author of “Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just,” a popular book that argues that evangelicals should do more than preach personal salvation; they must “speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.” He is a role model for many younger evangelicals.

“God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we. That is what it means to ‘do justice.’ ’’

CNN.com recently contacted Keller to see if he would talk about "Generous Justice" and how it might apply to health care and the poor. Did he think pastors in Bible Belt states should say anything publicly on behalf of poor people being denied basic medical insurance? His publicist said she would contact Keller with the request.

Several days later, she returned with Keller’s answer.

He had no comment. 

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Baptist • Barack Obama • Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Church and state • Courts • Culture wars • Ethics • evangelicals • Fundamentalism • Politics • Poverty

soundoff (3,619 Responses)
  1. SlackerSlayer

    All of the repulsive complaints about helping the lazy,,, when this plan is giving riches to parasites that sell pieces of paper to the gullible. Welfare for insurance salesmen,,, now that is a welfare plan every tea bagger can get behind.

    November 16, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
  2. memaa

    Some of the short sighted people on here seem to think that government hand outs are the only way to take care of the poor and helpless. There was a time when good Christians and church took care of those in need. Communities were closer knit and you helped your neighbor. Now, the majority thinks the world owes them something. We live in a society that is actively trying to suppress the work of God. Yet, you turn around and say Christians don't do enough! The plain, simple truth is I don't trust the government with my money. I am against handing over money to the bureaucracy and expecting them to do the right thing. If society cares about the poor and helpless, they will find other ways to help.

    November 16, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • SlackerSlayer

      In that same old values time, you were turned away if ytou were not of the sam 'type' as the church charity. Your illusions of the past are sickening. "Leave it to Beaver" was a scripted television show, not reality.

      November 16, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
      • Bob

        I bet you live in a blue state.

        November 16, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
  3. EdL

    Must we support multi children of single moms? Of course. Daycare, clothing and many more. Food for her and her children. Without offering this support single moms might decide to have no more children, but probably not. What we must do is see that they have sufficient income to permit acquiring $200,000+ homes as well as having income for cable tv, several tv's, a new car from time to time. They deserve to live the good life They should not be required to have employment, they need to dedicate themselves to bringing up their children, they definitely need regular maid service to allow them to party if they so wish, which they will.

    November 16, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  4. M

    According to this line of reasoning, anyone who does not support Obamacare does not believe in Christ. If a Christian prefers to thousands out of pocket and form a personal relationship with someone who is impoverished, they are just as much a Christian who desires to help the poor via a systematic insurance program like Obamacare. Expediency and faith are not one in the same. The doctrine of Christ is not defined by governments and the gospels cannot be altered by it, so how can your perception, opinion, and support of legislation gauge your faith in Christ. If this was the case, everyone who supported the previous system, which stood for years, were either devil worshippers or non-practicing/unfaithful Christians. Now, they will somehow find redemption, spiritually, through their support of Obamacare. In reality, people who vainly determine legislative support and party affiliation as a notice of one's faith in Christ are are questionable Christians, and not te other way around.

    November 15, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Not the case at all. The primary reason for the ACA is to help the uninsured. EVERYBODY should be for that. I voted for Obama twice. Although I know Mutt Romney is a phony I like Romneycare in Mass. So my like of the ACA is not because I voted for Obama, It's because I want to help poor people. If anyone has a legitimate alternative to the ACA that covers as many people and the same or cheaper cost. I will support it. It doesn't matter if you are a republican or tea partier.

      November 15, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
      • Paul

        "So my like of the ACA is not because I voted for Obama, It's because I want to help poor people."

        Wow, you're really generous with other people's money. But how do you help out the poor people with YOUR OWN money?

        November 15, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          Paul I pay taxes. As a matter of fact, I'm at work right now! So my money is used also.

          November 15, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
        • Paul

          I understand that, but do you think the government is more responsible with your money than you are? Why not just voluntarity pay more taxes if you think you can help out more poor people that way?

          November 15, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          Because not enough people will "voluntary" enough money to insure 40 + million people. WE are all in this together. Keep in mind the uninsured will go to the ER no matter if they can pay or not, so you and I are stuck with the bill. Not helping them isn't really an option. Also keep in mind you have no idea what the future may hold for your children or grandchildren down the line. The benefits you want to deny people today may also deny future children of your family that may not have the means.

          November 15, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
        • Paul

          "Because not enough people will "voluntary" enough money to insure 40 + million people. "

          Like I said, you're really generous when you vote to have other people's money taken from them.

          "The benefits you want to deny people today may also deny future children of your family that may not have the means."

          You're assuming I want to deny them benefits. That's not true. I'm just saying the government isn't the way to do it.
          And besides,I already make provisions for my family. I can manage my money better than the government can.

          November 16, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
        • Tracy

          I'll further add that, I doubt there's anyone commenting on this thread that disagrees with the intent behind ACA. The problem is that the government has a long track track record of incompetency when it comes to executing large scale efforts like Obamacare. To those who think this is an issue of Republican vs. Democrat, Poor vs. Rich, or White vs. Black - it is. It's really an issue what you see clearly, if you simply can take step out of biases and see that, while insurance companies hardly did a great job, the government is very likely to do far, far worse. Look at UPS and Fedex vs. the bankrupt Post Office to point out just one example.

          November 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          I'll kill two birds with one stone:

          First Paul. 1) It's MY MONEY TOO. You act like my money isn't included. OUR MONEY PAYS FOR THE UNINSURED. You can't ignore them. 2) Does the gov't screw things up. YES. But so does private industry. I guess you forgot the reason for the economy recently tanking. It wasn't the gov't, IT WAS THE BANKING INDUSTRY (I.E. Wall street) When private companies go out of business (Bear Stears) , is that the gov't fault?
          3) You provide provisions for your family, good for you. Lucky you. News flash, everyone isn't as lucky as you even though they try just as hard as you do. When you speak of your family does that include your grand children? What guarantees do you have that things will be wonderful for them? Hardship can come upon them just like everyone else. I guess your response to family will be screw 'em.

          Tracy: 1) The reason for the post office troubles is because REPUBLICANS are forcing the post office pre pay office workers packages some 10 years in advance. No business could survive that. 2) During the gov't shutdown it was shown how many people were affected because of the lack of gov't services. The republicans tried to open certain programs because the shutdown made them look worse than they usually do. Why don't you get out and talk to the people that rely on gov't services instead of relying on fox news for info.

          November 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
        • Tracy

          Ken, the blame for the Post Office's demise is government incompetency - whether it is fault of the Republicans or Democrats. Busy jacked up the deficit with his imaginary Weapons of Mass Destruction. So basically you and I both agree.

          in the same vain Obama and his minions have created a Rube Goldberg machine of epic proportions that, in my opinion, has little chance of succeeding. I would like to think otherwise. Hopefully six months from we can revisit how well it is doing as right now it's all guesswork.

          November 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          Tracy....You and I agree on one aspect that time will tell and it's just guesswork right now. I wish repubs would help because the uninsured needs help and the old system was unsustainable. I mentioned earlier that giving people the "choice" to have or not to have insurance doesn't work because YOU and I pay for those without insurance in higher taxes and premiums. So the private industry isn't working either. So their are only two remaining options: Single payer (gov't pays everything) or Mandate (Obamacare/Romneycare). If you know of a better working way I'll support it!

          November 18, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  5. ed

    There is health care for low income folks!!!! I searched and found over 3,000 locations in Texas, 10,000 in Calif, 4,600 in NY. This info is word for word form the HRSA website:
    US Dept of Health and Human Services, http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/Search_HCC.aspx
    HRSA health centers care for you, even if you have no health insurance.
    You pay what you can afford, based on your income.
    Health centers provide
    •checkups when you're well
    •treatment when you're sick
    •complete care when you're pregnant
    •immunizations and checkups for your children
    •dental care and prescription drugs for your family
    •mental health and substance abuse care if you need it
    Health centers are in most cities and many rural areas. Type in your address and click the 'Find Health Centers' button to find health centers near you.

    November 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Ed I hate to break it to you but either the taxpayers subsidize these "centers" , donations from the public and volunteer work from doctors are needed to keep these things going. You tend to have a lot of turnover of doctors in these centers. How can you get the personal care you need from a variety of doctors. I have health insurance. I have had 2 doctors over the past 12 years. My doctors know my body better than I do. That kind of care and knowledge you wont get at a center.

      November 15, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
      • Tracy

        Ken: What you point out it is precisely the problem that many who've had their insurance yanked from them the past few weeks are facing. They health plans and doctors who know their physical condition (some very serious) intimately. Your Obamacare has ripped it all from them and the are focused to start over, at high cost, doctors who don't know them and, like a friend of mine who is victim of Obamacare, having to drive much farther to get see these new doctors. Go ahead and tell these people it was because "greedy insurance companies." Just make sure to bring body guards with before you open your mouth.

        November 15, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          Tracy please tell bob to let you out of the cave. Insurance companies have been screwing people for YEARS. You act like insurance companies just started cancelling policies. Haven't you seen the stories after flooding and hurricanes. Insurance companies not paying out and those people paid for homeowner insurance just like those for health insurance. Those companies didn't have to cancel the policy. All they had to do eventually was update the policy to meet the minimum standards of the ACA and charge the customer accordingly. If the da mn website worked properly people could see how much more they are getting for the money even if their policy cost more.

          I'm 51 years old. Have been working since I was 16. I remember copays being $5.00. Now it's $15.00. Some people pay $20 or $25 for copays DEPENDING ON INSURANCE CO. So insurance cost have always risen have always been cancelled.

          November 15, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
        • SlackerSlayer

          Well then blame those that formed the obama care plan,,, it is after all the revised republican plan from the 1990's. What is seriously insane and funny all wrapped up in one sentence is rush limpbrains saying that "obama care is the liberals plan". No, the liberals wanted the one payer plan, not welfare for parasites pretending to sell insurance policies.

          November 16, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • ed

      Ken, of course these clinics are subsidized with taxpayer dollars, and so is Obamacare! Obamacare is an expansion of Medicaid, along with new guidelines for pre-existing, no caps, etc . Are you suggesting that someone who doesn't qualify for Medicaid/Obamacare subsidy, yet cannot pay for or doesn't want to pay for health plan would not seek medical help because they may have to see a new dr each time?! I think they would be damn glad to get to see any doctor! Are you also suggesting that doctors and volunteers that so generously donate their time are sub par?! Or are they not humanitarians?! Would I want it for my healthcare now, no, because I am willing and able to pay for my own healthcare so I can have these choices. BUT if I were dealt a life altering situation I would and have used a clinic in the past. The media and Obama want us to believe there are no options other than having a healthcare plan and that simply isn't true.

      November 15, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        Your first line proved my point. The taxpayers subsidize it anyway. So you might as well have ACA healthcare because you subsidize that also, so what's the difference. You also stated that YOU wouldn't want it (the centers) for YOUR heathcare. So why should others accept it? I did not say anything bad about the doctors. But as you stated YOU wouldn't want it for YOUR healthcare so thier must be something YOU don't like about it.

        November 15, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
        • ed

          I don't know the financial difference to taxpayers between centers and Obamacare but I do know the cost of the failed website would have funded many dr visits and meds for needy people!!! I also believe changes could have been accomplished without impacting the entire health insurance industry and punishing people who have paid for their insurance and been very, very happy with what they had!!!
          I said I don't use it NOW because I don't need to, but if I found myself in a situation that needed it, I certainly would use it again. Its like being on WIC, they give you egg, milk, bread, you wont starve, but you don't get lobster. It is an option, people have a choice to take it or leave it and when your looking for help you really shouldnt be too picky!

          November 15, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          The cost of going to war in Iraq would have funded doctor visits and medicine also. The policies that you speak of is just the insurance co. being insurance co. THEY SCREW PEOPLE. Giving people the "choice" to have or not to have insurance doesn't work because YOU and ME pay for those without insurance in higher taxes and premiums. So thier are only two options: Single payer (gov't pays everything) or Mandate (Obamacare/Romneycare) Pick one.

          November 15, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  6. Steve

    I applaud Rev. McDonald. All too often, we hear from people who want to tie religion and politics together, but create diverging beliefs. Although I'm not a religious person, I'm well aware that the message that Christians believe Jesus brought forward could be summed up as "Be good to your fellow man". Yet so many out there who preach this, drive around in luxury cars, wearing expensive clothing and jewelry, but never lend a helping hand to those that most need it.

    November 15, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  7. Whatishappeninghere

    I liken CNN News coverage of the Affordable Care Act to finding the most vulnerable bodily part and then bludgeoning it for bloody effect.

    A stupid website glitch in the first 30 days? Low enrollment because of this? For decades, American families have gone bankrupt because of catastrophic illness, For decades,

    Americans have seen their health care premiums go through the roof, while insurance executive salaries keep skyrocketing. President Obama had the character to risk a lot of political capital to do something about this. When will CNN News stop the “piling on” by Republicans doing every seedy thing to distract Americans from the monumental benefits of the ACA? I no longer will be denied because I am old, or sick, or a woman! My premiums will no longer bankrupt me. Preventative care is now free.

    I am ashamed at the witch hunt now taking place and the willingness of the Media to exacerbate it.

    November 15, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Tracy

      The irony of all of that is that CNN has traditionally treated Obama with kid gloves through all the faillings of his presidency, the most notable being controlling the deficit which $17 Trillion. His campaign promise was that he'd go "line by line" to cut spending. So that people don't get the idea that I'm being partisan about, I'll also mention that Bush did a really horrible job as well on this issue. That being said, I think things have gotten so bad with ACA thing, that CNN cannot help but report what they're seeing.

      Now...let me ask you this. If you feel that CNN is not reporting this accurately, please tell me what you thing they SHOULD BE saying about ACA.

      November 15, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • bob

      “When will CNN News stop the “piling on” by Republicans doing every seedy thing to distract Americans from the monumental benefits of the ACA? I no longer will be denied because I am old, or sick, or a woman! My premiums will no longer bankrupt me. Preventative care is now free.”
      Sigh. It is sad that so many see it as ”people are suffering >> republicans don’t care >> Obama is trying to help the poor”.
      Obama rammed this thing thru without anyone on his administration having actually read it. So I cant fathom how people can line up and say how everyone should support it (if they don’t know what it does). Those who wanted to delay it to look at it were vilified.
      Obama and the dems routinely publically attack financial greed, corporate profits, etc, etc, etc. hell, his presidential run was founded on that stance. Is this not the Dem stance on Republicans? Yes/no?
      Why then did he not attack the inexcusable and outrageously high medical expenses in obamacare?
      Why not promote and drive those down to help people afford insurance in the first place?
      Why not address a jobs plan to help people out of the low end jobs in order to 1- better afford insurance and other necessities 2- feel better about themselves in the process 3- make this SUSTAINABLE and not another example of a dependency that Americans have on government?
      Seriously? Why make everyone pay higher costs across the board for bundled services that we don’t need? Why pay full price to the `corporate machine` in this plan? (don’t tell me that those receiving subsidies are paying less, we pay the difference and the `corporate machine` reaps the total profit PER EACH AMERICAN POLICY)
      Well, you make not like the source (google from somewhere else if so) but here’s why….
      Again, most of you refuse to read from a source other than lib spin. then google it yourself.

      Dem leadership blasts corporate greed all the while cashing in as long time members of the corporate club.

      November 15, 2013 at 11:37 am |
      • Tracy

        Well said.

        November 15, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        Hey bob, glad to see you awakened from the cave you're in. Babbling about the corporate machine, Financial greed and other paranoid delusions you like to spout. I'll give you some credit for wanting to create jobs though creating jobs alone wont provide healthcare insurance. There are are many small business OWNERs that don't have health insurance because they CAN'T afford it. (Even before the ACA was signed)

        They only way to shut up people like you and tracy is to get the website to work. Remember the talk of death panels? That has died down (no pun intended) Remember the talk of gov't takeover? I still have my health insurance. I didn't log into Healthcare.gov. Nobody from the gov't knocked on my door demanding I do.

        JUST FIX THE SITE and people like you will disappear forever. Until you find something else to whine about.

        November 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
        • Reve888

          How about shutting people like you up by giving you my Tricare government insurance. Most doctors refuse it because it pays less than Medicare. Try keeping a good doctor or the same doctor using Tricare. You're just as well off to go to that free clinic. THAT is an example of a GOVERNMENT insurance for you. On Obamacare, everyone can have just as terrible insurance, only for more money, so that EVERYONE can have bad insurance. It is like this, either some people pay for their good insurance and others have government funded free clinics (which I've been to and have questionably competent doctors, but are better than nothing, or everyone can pay a lot more so that everyone can have questionably competent doctors. I figure I've already got bad government insurance, so I have nothing to lose except my insurance, because one they raise my insurance 3 times, I will no be able to afford it, and then I, a working person, will be going to the free clinic, and the drug addict on welfare will be going to my former doctor while my taxes pay for his insurance. I guess that's what Obama meant when he said that we needed to redistribute the wealth!

          November 23, 2013 at 5:16 am |
      • SlackerSlayer

        That's all funny Bob, when you look at the reality that this ACA is the republicans plan from the 12990's recycled as obamacare. Funny how the republican plan a while back is now the "liberal" plan. By the way, the liberals plan was the one payer way. We don't want to subsidize parasites pretending to sell insurance policies.

        November 16, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
        • SlackerSlayer

          How many tea baggers will point out my fat finger typo, and ignore the content.

          November 16, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  8. Rev John J Wilson

    I heard about this blog and just had to drop by. You are truly an idiot and a Christophobe. No elaboration is required.

    November 15, 2013 at 7:18 am |
  9. David

    Perhaps the longest, most uninformative Belief Blog to date. I couldn't even finish it.

    The average pastor, just like the average American, doesn't even understand how Medicaid works. And now, the author comes along (with a mass of unnecessary words) and gives the goodly Christian another dissertation of how he doesn't stand up for the poor in a highly inefficient system over-run with paperwork, statistics, laws, and innuendo. It's probably more damning of a person's faith to throw any kind of support behind a system so flawed.

    No thank you. I wouldn't bother commenting on a "coverage gap" either. Did you ever think that no pastor wants to speak out about a coverage gap because no one has actually witnessed one? We're only a few weeks into this "coverage" the author speaks of. Even the Kaiser report isn't positive about where the lines are or who will or won't be covered.

    But like Pavlov's dogs, here they come to bash Christianity and the South once again. Doesn't matter that, California for example, has more uninsured people than Alabama. It just matters that California somehow loves it's poor more than Alabama does.

    If the author wants to rail about gaps, then about the gap between those uninsured who've not been helped by this "coverage" he speaks up and the 1% who have.

    November 15, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • Ken Margo

      Plenty of pastors have no problem expressing thier opinion when it comes to abortion or birth control. They don't have to agree with the ACA but they should have an opinion on what they would like to see.

      November 15, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  10. u suck

    You sir are a classless asshat who suckles at obummers teet

    November 15, 2013 at 3:39 am |
    • Crom

      Having problems with the reply button, eh? Welcome to the internet.

      November 15, 2013 at 3:59 am |
  11. Thomas

    It's not as simple as the article states. It's a matter of affordability. When the expansion means 1/4th of your entire budget, where's the money going to come from?

    November 15, 2013 at 2:46 am |
    • Crom

      You don't understand how our national debt works. It is money mostly owed to ourselves. We aren't going to go bankrupt if we stop printing money, nor does printing money do anything bad if done in the correct measure.

      A national economy is not like some household budget.
      To view it that way is to show your ignorance at the most basic of economic science.
      We have our own money supply. A government like ours is nothing like a household with only one income and one person working.
      And a business-type financial system is nothing like our government, either.
      When you run a government like a business, you show the vast depths of your ignorance and incompetence.
      This is the major failing of the right-wingers in every party. They ignored economics in school and sneer at it, thinking their business models will work for a national economy that contains thousands of business models within the circle of financial energy that IS a national economy.
      There is no system of business that deals with anything but getting money, not governance of everyone's welfare.
      Greedy people cater to those with money. This is how our government has been thoroughly corrupted.

      They control the government and use their insane misconceptions about how to run an economy at the national level, thinking capitalists must be governed by capitalists (profit-seeking greedy-fucks) using profit-seeking worldviews to distort every aspect of their incompetent attempts to do what they say they are doing, and always failing badly yet refusing to stop damaging the world and everyone living on it.

      Obama does not have a good feel for how an economy works.
      This is because his advisors are from the Chicago school of economic thought – as derpingly derped a bunch of dingleberries as always comes out of Chicago.
      They also think an economy is like a household budget. They are truly clueless fucks, so I can't blame Obama for not catching on. His talents as a people-person is most of what he's got, like Clinton. He focuses on how he responds to people and judges what they say by that instead of researching much of anything. But he's better than Hillary, so he's in charge today, not her.
      And our economy suffers greatly because he brought his Chicago gang with him. Sad times in America, no thanks to Chicago, the windy shitty.

      November 15, 2013 at 3:33 am |
  12. Funny Guy

    Only if everything was as simple and easy as it is in the bible. 5000 people fed with 5 fish and two loafs of bread. Our poor today wouldn't even settle for 5 fish and two loafs of bread. They would complain it is not enough. And too bad it takes like 20,000 fish and 10,000 loafs of bread to provide healthcare for one person. Need to keep fishing and less begging.

    November 14, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      I guess you got time to stereotype.

      November 15, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  13. Tracy

    Ken Margo: You are amazing - in the delusional sense.

    Last night, I thought I posted this, but I didn't see it go up. So here we go again:

    KEN:1)You haven’t rebutted anything. you repeat the same nonsense. (facts be damned)

    ME; Skipping this as it doesn't pertain to me.

    KEN: 2)The cancellations are result of greedy insurance companies not because of the ACA. The ACA mandates insurance companies cannot cancel policies signed AFTER the ACA went into law. The cancelled policies were GRANDFATHERED IN so companies could keep their crummy policies in effect.

    ME: What has happened is that the ACA has used economic blackmail to to force insurance companies to shut down these policies. If that were not the, you wouldn't have so many Democrats screaming at their fearless leader to do something. (edited from last nights version). Only you adn Pelosi are using this stretchy argument.

    KEN: Romneycare (The white guy plan you have zero complaint about) had very low roll out totals also in the beginning. Now everyone in mass. has insurance.

    ME: Apples and oranges. There are many state programs that are run far better than government run programs. There's no connection here. And by the way, are you a racist? What is "white guyness" have to do with anything?

    KEN: 4) You should hope the sign up number goes up. You’ll pay less taxes not having to pay other people’s healthcare bill. (Thank obama for that)

    ME: Irrelevant since the number people signing up is a joke. And if the numbers do increase, many in the healthcare industry and project costs to increase. Even if taxes do go down, money will be sucked out from consumers in other areas.

    KEN: 5) You haven’t mentioned if you had insurance. Are you one of those dead beats that want others to pay for your ER visit?

    ME: Doesn't pertain to me.

    KEN: 6) Did you hate Obama when he killed Bin Laden?

    ME: No. Great job. But many in the military believe that Obama gives himself too much credit. He just happened to be President at the time when they finally zeroed in on Bin Laden. Read up on this. Obama gave the go-ahead, but that's about.

    KEN: 7) Employment #’s have been on the plus side for over 40 months. Do you hate Obama for that?

    ME: Stop it. I can't believe any intelligent person would say that. Everybody knows, including your guys at CNN that the number of people who've dropped out of seeking employment is at an all time low. They've given up. And if there is some increase in there, it's in low income job.

    KEN: 8) Wall street is booming, helping our (including yours) 401k’s Do you hate Obama for that?

    ME. That's wonderful. I don't not only don't hate Obama for that, I also don't give him the credit for that.

    KEN: 9) Our Yearly debt went DOWN this year. Do you hate Obama for that?

    ME: Right. YEARLY DEBT. At the same time, the overall deficit has gone up, much more than under Bush, during his watch. We're now flirting with $18 Trillion. Do have grandchildren or expect to have them? I ask because that is your gift to them.

    KEN: 10) Iraq war (Another war started by a white guy you probably like) was ended by Obama. Do you hate Obama for that?

    ME: The "white guy" as you say, was wrong for getting us in that war and I'm glad Obama got us out. Unlike you, I'm not biased for or against any race or party. There are idiots equally distributed among both Republicans and Democrats. You should grow up and simply see things logically rather than siding with one group vs another.

    KEN: 11) Obama saved the auto industry. Do you hate Obama for that?

    ME: He did not save the auto industry. He saved GM and Chrysler. Ford was fine. They deserved to own the American market because they build high quality cars. GM and Chrysler built crummy cars. They were weak, poorly managed and like an number companies in 2008, deserved to go out of business. By way, aside from Ford - Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Kia, Hyundai, BMW and Mercedes Benz (to name some U.S. producers) doing fine too. Why? Because they built carts that people wanted to buy. To use your insane logic, if RIMM we're an American company, we should bail them out.

    Obama wasted taxpayer money saving these two companies. Yes, I think the Chevy Volt is a great car. But they should have been able to build and sell it without government assistance.

    KEN: I could go on with many other Obama sucess stories. But you would deny them just as you will deny the sucess of the ACA.

    Yes, go on about Obama's success stories. Please do.

    November 14, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Ok Tracy lets start from the top.

      Economic blackmail, thats's a new one to me. I haven't even heard the repubs using that one!

      Obamacare is based on Romneycare. It's not apples to oranges. The person that helped Romney (Grubman) Helped Obama set up the ACA.

      If the number of people signing up increases that'll be LESS taxes for you because local gov't spend millions on paying the bills of the uninsured. The Doctor,nurses, techs etc have to be paid. They don't work for free.

      If our yaerly debt is going down, then our entire debt will follow. Common math. Go to school.

      The reason i mentioned the white guy is because I didn't hear or see tea partiers or republicans complain about debt when the white guy is in the white house. In addition obama care is a copy of romneycare why no complaints of romneycare?

      When Chrysler and GM were begging for money ford was right next to them. look it up.

      November 14, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
      • maihoa

        I hope you also notice Ford CEo was there but it refused to accept the Fed's assistance, and it did fine after that. GM and Chrysler failed to make good products, and that was why they failed. More than 50 billion dollars pumping into those companies are gone. Obama did that to help the union. You will see the fundamental problems these 2 companies had still persisted. They will show up later. With the unions of these 2 companies demanding unreasonable demands these companies will not succeed. The reason these companies' financial problems do not show up lately because after they filed bankrupt they did not have to pay quite a few debts they had with their vendors. Those small vendors were the one who got screwed big time that time.

        November 16, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          Ford didn't accept the money. they wanted a line of credit. Fact is the 3 companies uses some of the same suppliers. If Chrysler and GM went down, Ford would have been collateral damage. Please stop with the the union bashing. Do you think companies give benefits out of the goodness of their hearts? Unions created the middle class with negotiations. The company had to agree to come to a deal so both side should take blame. Look at all the companies that shift jobs overseas. Companies aren't angels either. Give the UAW some credit. They gave up a lot to keep the GM and Chrysler afloat.

          November 18, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
  14. Ed the Oregonite

    In my small community, the churches do more to help the poor than anybody else...giving away food, providing a free medical clinic, supporting the homeless facilities. Very generous. All voluntary.

    November 14, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • Crom

      And serving less than one percent of those in need.

      Total, fucking FAIL

      This is why we have a government, a common set of laws, a common ground.
      Our government protects us using the rule of law, not some always-different interpretation of some religious text.
      This is why your religion is not above the law.
      This is why the First Amendment explicitly does NOT imply anything of the sort and why our common, non-religious government has the job of protecting and taking care of every American and visitor to our country.

      Should we call up your church when there's a shooting? Will your smelly priest come out and fight? Bah.

      November 15, 2013 at 3:50 am |
    • Ken Margo

      @Ed............Until your church can take care of 45 million uninsured people, stop patting them on the back.

      November 15, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  15. kcP

    So much for SEPARATION of CHURCH and STATE – – That means – – IF I am the Prez – (king) – I can decide whatever I want – see Syria for details

    November 14, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  16. Jeff

    Here's the Alternative to stealing from my family in the guise of Socialized medicine. Health Savings Accounts. True Compassion is giving from the heart...not being compelled or forced to do so by the Government.

    November 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Tea Party

      Exactly, it wasn't the governments job to force me to start serving blacks. It isn't the governments job to tell me I can't discriminate against gays. It's not the governments job to push for equality for women and let them have a vote when my bible clearly says the man is the head of the household. It's not the governments job to make sure the elderly don't fall through the cracks of society and freeze to death because they have no income and can't work and they have no family to take care of them, it's not like we really need old people for anything...

      November 14, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      I get it, you don't mind giving but you want to get a warm feeling in your heart when you do it so when people make you pay for other people in need you don't get to feel as good. So when you are driving to work on the public roads you don't want to be forced to pay for those roads, you want to give out of the goodness of your heart. And when you have the fire department show up and save your home from your neighbors house fire you won't feel as good if you had been forced to pay for those fire fighters and couldn't just give out of the goodness of your heart. I'm sure it's much easier to just sit back and give your 10% to the church and then whine about how you don't feel good when you have to pay for others in need. If people get hit by floods or major storms but they don't effect your house then fvck em, right Jeff? If the 14 million children right here in America are not getting a meal each day and have to rely on food assistance, they better head to Jeffs church and learn to be better Christians if they expect to get any food.

      I don't care if it makes you feel better about yourself if you get to "give from the heart", there are real people in real need and it's people like you Jeff that are standing on their necks while saying "Hey, pull yourselves up by your bootstarps you lazy brown people!".

      November 14, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
      • Reve888

        Here's a solution. Why don't the 3/4 of people on welfare that don't need to be on it get jobs and pay for the 1/4 that need it. That will free up some money to pay for the un-insurable. I live in the middle of a city and many of my neighbors are on welfare, and most of them are more healthy than I am. Why is that? I think I'm going to get disability (I guarantee that I can, even though I am capable or working if I need to) so that your taxes can go up and mine can go down. I've been tired and pulling too much weight for years. I think it is time that you pay my expenses for me.

        November 23, 2013 at 5:34 am |
    • Ken Margo

      You mentioned health savings accounts. Suppose you're not working. Account wont have much in it. Ypu better hope you don't fall on hard times. Look at the people screwed by Madoff. People in thier 60's looking for work because Madoff destroyed thier retirement. I guess they were lazy too.

      November 14, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
      • Jim

        They were GREEDY and LAZY! Too greedy and lazy to realize the returns he promised were too good to be true!!! THEY'RE OWN FAULT! I PITY NONE OF THEM!!

        November 15, 2013 at 6:41 am |
        • Ken Margo

          Jim not everybody is a financial wizard. Lots of good honest people are scammed every day.

          November 15, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • FrmrMrine

      But Jeffy – You didn't whine when Shrub passed a law requiring every American to buy private health insurance, did you? What? When did that happen? When Bush Bush (II) passed the Medicare Part D law that requires every American who reaches age 65 to purchase Part D health insurance from a private health insurer. And that law provided penalties for those who failed to comply. And those penalties rose with every year that the person failed to comply.

      Sound familiar? It should. That's exactly what Obamacare does. Romney did it first in Massachusetts, the Shrub followed suit at the federal level. But you had no problem with that, right Jeffy?

      Seems you're mighty selective when it comes to that "socialist" label, doesn't it?

      November 14, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • darth cheney

      There is no guise (it's spelled with an s) and there is no stealing. We live in a representative democracy and you don't get to dictate where your tax money goes, and you can't rightfully call it stealing when it goes somewhere you don't agree with – like providing health care for the poor (what a horrible thing!). I, for example, think we should cut defense spending by 50% and I don't like my paycheck going to fund war and occupation halfway around the world that only serves to make more people hate us. But I'm not going to call it stealing – I just vote for people whose values are closer to mine.

      November 15, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.