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Isn’t Health Care Worth 3 More Nickels for Your Pizza?

This article is about more than the Affordable Care Act; it is about making room for kindness and compassion in the public square.
First, John Metz is not an executive with Denny’s food corporation. He owns Denny’s restaurants, but he does not speak for or represent the Denny’s brand. But he received national attention when he said:

“If I leave the prices the same, but say on the menu that there is a 5 percent surcharge for Obamacare, customers have two choices. They can either pay it and tip 15 or 20 percent, or if they really feel so inclined, they can reduce the amount of tip they give to the server, who is the primary beneficiary of Obamacare.”

I don’t eat at Denny’s but a quick drive to our local Denny’s provided me the opportunity to review the menu and create an imaginary bill for two: water, tea ($2, speaking of injustice), French toast breakfast ($6) and the cheeseburger ($6).

After tax, it looks like $15.55. Then there’s the tip ($3) and we are out the door for $18.55.

Metz is proposing a 5 percent surcharge. I’ll assume this is on the meal before tax, so add 70 cents. So our imaginary meal will go from $18.55 to $19.25.

Providing insurance for a small company is complicated, of course. Acting kindly is simple, but difficult.

Many small companies, businesses and franchisees I know of are privately working behind the scenes to do what is best and kind for their business and employees. They care for their employees.

As a consumer, I realize the added cost will be passed on to me. So the question is not about Metz or any business owner.

I know what business is going to do, and I don’t blame business (except for Metz’s insensitive remark to reduce the tip).

The question, to me, is: Will I let 5 percent or 70 cents for every $15 spent turn me away from a Denny’s cheeseburger?

If I am too tight to pay the extra 70 cents so a mother can take her child to a doctor instead of the emergency room, then my license to preach needs to be revoked because I am clearly not reading the Bible.

The argument of whether the government should require such – well that’s another column – but for now it is about my willingness to practice kindness to people who work, get sick and need a doctor.

I also hear the price of pizza will be going up. According to “Papa” John Schnatter, the cost of providing health insurance for all of his pizza chain’s uninsured, full-time employees comes out to about 14 cents on a large pizza. That’s less than adding another topping.

Papa John’s lamented this on its Facebook page. This was the reaction from one of their customers: “I’d gladly pay 20 cents for a child to go to a doctor when they’ve got a cold, rather than have them show up at the ER.”

I confess: For a nation of consumers always looking to save a few pennies, our fellow citizens sound downright kind.

Clearly the cumulative effect of this is the real fear: 70 cents here, 14 cents there, 50 cents at the ballpark, 10 cents at the dry cleaner. It’s not unreasonable to think an adult’s daily consumption expenses could increase a dollar or more a day.

I know the cost for healthcare is built into the cost of doing business. When I pay my power bill or pay college tuition, I expect part of this compensation is to cover the health insurance for the engineers, professors and other employees.

I’ve never complained about this. Of course, the power company doesn’t have a line item listed “surcharge so the man climbing the power pole has insurance.”

Now it appears we are going to build the insurance cost into our pizza and French toast.

Shame on me for thinking the waitress and cook were less deserving of medical treatment than the UPS deliveryman. Illness does not discriminate.

The guy driving the delivery truck can come down with an infection just as easy as the engineer.

Health insurance is not one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Kindness, however, is. One of the signs of my development as a person of faith is to open my hand in kindness toward others.

When we remove the politics and consider the human element involved, are we really so unkind as to balk at paying $10.13 for a pizza instead of $9.99?

I think the lesson is that consumers will pay a little more if they know it is going to help the people who serve food, price groceries and rotate tires. We are not nearly as tight-fisted as “Papa John” thinks.

Of course, if we find out he’s pocketing the money and has bought another house while David at store #2903 gets his hours cut, then I’ll be deleting my Papa John’s delivery app.

John Roy is pastor of Pelham Road Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C.