Note from CM: We are going to close comments. I want to thank everyone who contributed today to a good discussion. Thanks for keeping things civil. Each of you have given the rest of us something to think about. We aren’t going to solve anything today, but discussions like this are essential. I encourage and challenge you to take whatever you are learning on this subject and write your congressional representative with your opinions about what he/she should do.
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My vocation is in health care. Though I was in congregational ministry for years, even then I had an interest in the complementary “ministries” of spiritual/pastoral care and health care. The summaries of Jesus’ own ministry in the Gospels are wholistic as well:
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23)
My wife is a nurse. I’ve always enjoyed visiting people in hospital and health care settings and when they were laid up or shut in at home for health reasons. I found joy in talking with doctors and health care professionals, feeling that we were partners in the work of providing care for people so that they might find healing and health in any number of ways.
When we began taking mission trips in the 1990’s, they were medical mission trips. Doctors and nurses joined our teams and while some of us focused on singing, testifying, and preaching, they held clinics and worked with local health care professionals in the towns and villages we visited.
I am passionate about health care. I am fortunate to work for an organization with a CEO who understands that this work is about serving our community to enhance health and well being and not to make huge profits for shareholders. The doctors who have served my family and me with our health needs have had this same spirit of public and personal service. We chose them largely for that very reason, and when we had to change doctors, it was often because they stepped away from doctoring because they either felt couldn’t function with integrity in the system or because they had family concerns of their own that required their compassionate presence and attention.
It is from this sacred, vocational, public service perspective that I view health care. If I had been more gifted and understood more when I was younger, I might have pursued a path of missionary medicine or service with an organization like Doctors without Borders.
As you might imagine, I have strong feelings about what is happening in Washington these days.
However, to me, the current debate is only part of a much bigger problem of not recognizing health care in the terms I have outlined above.
Instead we have invested it with all kinds of political buzzwords and concepts such as “freedom,” “the free market,” and an intrinsic distrust of “the government” and “socialism.”
As a result, we have one of the most expensive, wasteful, inefficient, and ineffective health care systems in the world. Tens of millions of people remain uninsured and without proper access to good health care. Administrative costs are outrageously high. The system is hopelessly complex and notoriously bad at what it’s supposed to do. Study after study shows U.S. health outcomes to be mediocre at best and in some cases, appalling bad.
As a Christian whose vocation is in the field of health care, this situation is intolerable to me.
See this 2014 study, for example, which found that the U.S. spends more than ten other industrialized countries but comes in dead last with regard to health outcomes.
What would I, as someone whose vocation is in health care and who is passionate about health care, want in an ideal health care system?
- Universal health care, with fair access for all people, including free choice of doctor and hospital for all, not as a privilege for the few
- Simplified, efficient, and cost-effective administration
- Private doctors, hospitals, and health care professionals continue to provide care.
In my perspective, the only answer that makes any sense going forward is one that provides universal health care with a single-payer system, sometimes called Medicare for all.
Here is the description of such a system by Physicians for a National Health Program:
Single-payer national health insurance, also known as “Medicare for all,” is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health care financing, but the delivery of care remains largely in private hands. Under a single-payer system, all residents of the U.S. would be covered for all medically necessary services, including doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs.
The program would be funded by the savings obtained from replacing today’s inefficient, profit-oriented, multiple insurance payers with a single streamlined, nonprofit, public payer, and by modest new taxes based on ability to pay. Premiums would disappear; 95 percent of all households would save money. Patients would no longer face financial barriers to care such as co-pays and deductibles, and would regain free choice of doctor and hospital. Doctors would regain autonomy over patient care.
Here’s a link to bill HR 676, the single-payer bill that is in Congress today.
One thing I’ve never understood is why economic conservatives aren’t out there leading the charge for this kind of system. Single-payer universal health care would be the greatest boon to business this country has ever seen. Can you imagine what businesses, large and small, could do with the extra money they would have by not having to provide health benefits for their employees? How many people would consider starting up new businesses if they didn’t have to negotiate the huge hurdle of providing health benefits to prospective workers?
This is why Warren Buffet once called health care “the tapeworm of the American economy.” It sucks life and vitality out of the business sector.
At any rate, there are literally hundreds of angles to this discussion.
As we do, please remember what this site is all about. I am not primarily interested in marking off my political territory here and demonizing anyone who disagrees. In the realm of civic engagement there is always room for people of goodwill to come at things from a variety of angles and perspectives and to have vigorous discussions. As long as we are all committed to the common good, I have no problem with that.
And I am most interested, as a Christian, in trying to understand how something like the way we seek the health and well being of our families, our neighbors, and our communities grows out of a Jesus-shaped perspective on life.
So please listen well and seek wisdom in what you say. Don’t start calling people names or treating them with disdain. If that starts happening, comments will be deleted without explanation or apology.