RSS

Tag Archives: health care

Making My Case For Life

by Povidence Crowder

I thank God that my mother was pro-life!  I am the oldest of four children and I was born a year after Roe v. Wade was the law of the land.  Had my mother not valued life, I may have never been and my story would never have been known.  She could have legally killed me in the year of my birth; she fit perfectly the profile of the modern day baby killer—a poor, uneducated, black woman living in the inner-city.  My mother and father separated before I was four, so I have a scant recollection of them being together.  What I do recall is my mother struggling to make ends meet.  I remember us being on welfare, and getting food stamps and government cheese . . . oh how delicious those grilled government cheese sandwiches were, mmmm! 

I remember occasionally looking into a bare refrigerator; I remember some winter nights sleeping in a cold house after the gas man shut off the heat for non-payment; I remember enduring the shame of going to the corner store with food stamps and trying to exit before any of my friends saw me—kids in those days cruelly mocked those on welfare—welfare was a dirty word.  We had very little material wealth, we were poor and broke . . . but my siblings and I knew we were loved.   We didn’t have much cash, so my mother got creative in order to get other items she wanted but couldn’t afford.  I recall going to the corner store at various times throughout the day to break one dollar food stamps by purchasing penny and nickel candy until my mother had enough change to buy her Newport 100 cigarettes.  If you’ve ever been on welfare, you’d understand.  I was taught at a young age that with some effort, the government system could be manipulated.  

Thankfully, it was too much effort for my mother!  She found it difficult to support a smoking habit on welfare and she found it even more difficult to support a family—those were the days before welfare became a competitive sport.  I am grateful that welfare was so uncomfortable and unpleasant, and degrading, that my mother was extremely discontent in her impoverished condition.  As well, she believed that God was not pleased that she had strayed from her Christian faith.  Resultantly, she rededicated her life to Christ and went back to school.  Through hard work and by God’s grace, she escaped the poverty trap—and she eventually quit smoking! 

I watched in amazement as my mother persevered.  She attained her GED and went on from there to complete her college degree.  After a few bumps in the road, she landed a pretty good job and has not looked back since.  Only in America could such a narrative be achievable.  My mother told me that caring for my siblings and I gave her a reason to press on when she felt like giving up on life.  Knowing that she had a responsibility to love, feed, and care for us, she says saved her life.  She was poor, but she never considered aborting us as an option.  Her belief in God gave her the conviction that abortion was wrong; it went against God’s very law, “you shall not commit murder.”  My mother instilled her Christian values and strong work ethic in us, her children.  Her story is the story of many men and women in this country who have struggled to raise children in poverty rather than see their posterity destroyed for mere convenience.    

Why then, if poverty is not the end all, do abortion proponents make poverty a central argument to support their position?  They use fear tactics to coerce women into committing unimaginable acts.  It is this trumped up fear that often drives a women to make the decision to abort her child—a daunting fear—fear  of the unknown, fear of their children growing up in poverty, fear of a lifelong responsibility, and many other fears.  As a Christian, I have a responsibility to tell these women the truth!  I have an obligation to stand against the sin of abortion and I do not deny the political ramifications of my stance.  I recognize that Christianity is a political power as much as it is a religious rite[1] because “Democracy is not served by silence.”[2] 

How in America, did we reach such a moral regression that the mass murder of unborn children does not even raise an eyebrow but on the contrary is celebrated as “choice.”  Bad law, the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade is what essentially denied unborn children personhood, making them the property of the mother, and led to the “legal” murdering of millions of unborn children in the past quarter century.  Pope John Paul II spoke out against abortion.  He basically said that the new cultural climate had made crimes against unborn children exempt from punishment because these crimes had become State sanctioned legal rights of individuals.  Even more shocking, these crimes would be committed with the assistance of health-care professionals and health-care systems.  He rightly asserted that the Church should not be silent concerning their opposition to abortion laws.

So what Roe v. Wade did in denying unborn children personhood, it denied them basic civil rights and protection under the law from violence and murder from their mother and her doctor should the mother determine that for socioeconomic or health reasons, her child was unwanted.  The same exact thing happened with bad law, 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford, which denied blacks their citizenship and claimed that they were property of the slaveowner, and that blacks had no rights that the courts had to respect.  Wow!  In denying blacks their personhood, they had no basic civil rights and protection under the law from violence and murder from their slaveowners if their slaveowner determined that for socioeconomic or other reasons, the slave was no longer wanted or needed.  Sounds similar?

Just as the unborn are now, blacks in America and Jews in Nazi Germany were once denied the right to life.  What group will be next?  We should all be concerned when mere men can determine which groups of people have the right to live and which do not.  As a Christian, I have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in society, the defenseless—namely the unborn and others—from those who do not value their life but will change definitions and terms and make even the possibility of poverty, which all humans face, a reason for the termination of their life.  God places a value on our life; it’s a dangerous thing when we try and play God.  

The notion that the unborn is a human being is not a religious assertion but a biological fact.  They are no different than you and I except for size and development.  By design, God chose the woman’s body as the vehicle in which all humans should enter this world.  The “fetus” growing inside of the woman is not an extension of the woman’s body so that she could argue: it’s my body to do what I please.  The baby is a separate and new life with its own body and soul—a body that is properly nourished for growth and prepared for independent living through the care of the mother.  Yet some reckon that because the mother provides the shelter, she can at any time decide terminate her child and have her child violently ripped from her womb—the mother’s womb use to be the safest place on earth.  But the child’s father has no such right.  If a father killed his unborn child, all agree that he is a murderer. America cannot be looked upon as a free and civilized nation when we do not recognize and value the basic right to life of every individual. 

Scott Klusendorf, in his book, the Case for Life, raises the most pointed arguments for abortion.  He asserts that some people claim that we shouldn’t force our views on others.  Would we say such a thing if someone wanted the right to choose to kill toddlers?  Some argue their right to privacy.  If I had a two year old toddler, may I kill him as long as I do it in the privacy of the bedroom?  Some argue that poor woman cannot afford to raise children.  When human beings get expensive, may we kill them?  Or some argue that when a woman is raped, the baby is a painful reminder of the worst kind of violence against her.  True indeed, and with compassion we should care for the victim.  But how should a civil society treat innocent human beings who remind us of painful events.  Should we kill them so we can feel better? 

If the unborn are part of the human family, like toddlers, we should not kill them to make us feel better.  It’s better to suffer evil then inflict it.  Sometimes the right thing to do is not the easy thing to do.  Some say that government shouldn’t get involved in our personal decisions.  Can you imagine, even for a moment, suggesting such a thing in the instance of child abuse?  If the unborn are in fact human, then abortion is the worst kind of child abuse imaginable.  Some say that women would be forced to get dangerous back-alley abortions if abortion was restricted or made illegal.  If the unborn are human then you are arguing that some people will die while attempting to kill others so the state should make it safe and legal for them to do so. 

I pose a final question for pro-choice advocates.  In the words of Klusendorf, “Why does the high number of abortions trouble you?  After all, if abortions do not take the lives of defenseless human beings, why worry about reducing the number?  If the unborn are not human, killing them through elective abortion requires no more justification than having your tooth pulled or tonsils removed, or removing an unwanted wart.  However, if the unborn is a human being, killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong.  I support a woman’s right to choose a variety of things.  But some choices are wrong, like killing innocent human beings simply because they are in the way and cannot defend themselves. “   This is my case for life.


[1] John Henry Newman, The Triple Function of the Church, 3rd ed. (National Institute for Newman Studies, 2007), under “Preface to the Third Edition,” chap. 4, The Newman Reader (accessed November 15, 2011).

 [2] “Living the Gospel Life: Challenge to American Catholics a Statement by the Catholic Bishops of the United States,” National Right to Life, http://www.nrlc.org/news/1998/NRL12.98/Gospel.html (accessed November 16, 2011).

Add to DeliciousAdd to DiggAdd to FaceBookAdd to Google BookmarkAdd to RedditAdd to StumbleUponAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Twitter

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The Healthcare Question—America’s Mixed Bag

by Providence Crowder

What is Healthcare?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this healthcare question. And if I am honest with myself, I’d say that there is no easy fix. People on both sides of the debate, the right and the left, oversimplify the problem by debating whether or not healthcare is a “right.” Healthcare has been defined as the diagnosis, treatment, preservation and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in humans through services offered by the health profession (www.thefreedictionary.com). Good health is a desired physical and mental state; every person wants good health. But, through the passing time, lifestyle choices, accidents, heredity, and other factors, good health throughout life is not guaranteed. Even in receiving healthcare services, good health is not guaranteed.

In America, our liberty to make bad choices concerning our health has been costly. Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other ailments are symptomatic of a free nation that is enslaved to its deadly habits (smoking, drinking, promiscuity, overeating, etc.). Yet, we Americans demand comprehensive AND low-cost healthcare services to aid us in regaining and maintaining good health when our lifestyles or other factors cause our health to fail us.

Identifying the Problem

Talks of rights are somewhat unproductive. When it comes down to it, everyone has a right to almost everything except to infringe upon the rights of others. So naturally, some will tout their right to healthcare services because “Everyone has a right to life and human dignity!” Others will say, “You absolutely have the freedom and the right to obtain healthcare services if you so choose, but not with MY money! You do not have the right to force me to pay for your healthcare services.” We must look beyond this talk of rights and look at the real issue: everyone wants good health and a quality of life. When a person’s health fails, no one, regardless of class or ability to pay, deserves opportunities for improved health over and above another. So here lies the problem: How do we in America help the most citizens obtain access to quality healthcare services regardless of class or ability to pay?

Looking at what we have already done, we have used free market, government control, and charity/volunteer based solutions within our current healthcare system. All have benefited some group of Americans in some way because each has some attractive quality about it. That is why all three have found their way into the current system. Yet, the system is broken and is in need of reform.

Finding a Solution

Among those who identify themselves as liberals, moderates, and conservatives, reforms have generally been sought using one of two solutions— greater government control or increased free market solutions. Besides these two, I suggest allowing volunteer agencies, such as charities and faith based initiatives, to play a greater role in the reform debates. They have not been excluded from the talks, but by and large, the other two have dominated the talks. Volunteer and faith based agencies were the leading healthcare services providers in this nation in times past, before talks of Medicaid and Medicare. They have advocated on behalf of the poor and those with no ability to pay from the beginning. They have ensured that the “least” in society have had access to quality care during a time when the government’s job was to govern. With greater support from local communities and government at all levels, we can encourage volunteer activity and contributions through a variety of means, including educational and tax incentives for volunteers, medical professionals, medical supply companies, etc. Faith-based and volunteer agencies can once again take a leading role in healthcare services in America.

Brief History of Public Health

The emergence and ideas of public health and health services are not new; they were birthed out of necessity. Without going into the whole history of public health, I will mention that epidemics such as the bubonic plague, influenza, smallpox, malaria, yellow fever and syphilis, were catastrophic events that helped move communities all around the world towards public health solutions. Governments, communities, and health boards struggled to find remedies for treatment, containment, and prevention. As well, great industrialization and an overall increase in urban living (largely due to the industrial revolution) have caused problems with the spread of germs and disease, and have caused great unsanitary conditions for people living in overcrowded areas. Again, communities and health boards responded by developing hygiene and environmental regulatory systems and public health laws. Because health maintenance is so wide-ranging, the health profession has become one of the largest and fasted growing professions in modern times.

Blessed are those who live in nations where healthcare professionals are abundant, because the people in these nations have greater access to treatment and medication that is often lifesaving. Poor nations struggle to give their citizens the safety net of services that are provided by wealthier nations. Because good health is so important, and the risk of accident, illness, or disease is high for all, healthcare insurance has become a viable solution for citizens in many nations to supplement the costs of receiving treatment and medication, should it be needed.

Market-Based Health Insurance: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

In capitalist societies, citizens have a variety of health insurance companies to choose from among those in the marketplace and these insurance companies offer a range of services. Because in the free market, competition drives down costs, citizens can often find low-cost coverage plans that are tailored to their individual or family needs.

Some argue that the capitalist model leaves too many people uninsured and unfairly reduces access to quality healthcare for the poor. They maintain that access to quality healthcare should not depend upon class or income status. For the uninsured, a trip to the hospital may push some into bankruptcy. For these individuals, trips to the emergency rooms ultimately drive up healthcare premiums after hospitals redistribute the costs of providing services to them (in America, federal law prohibits hospitals that participate in the Medicaid program from denying urgent care to the uninsured).

Additionally, greedy insurance companies take advantage of some citizens by denying coverage to some elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. Opponents argue that Insurance companies should not be allowed to decide who lives and who dies.

Government-Run Health Insurance: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

In some socialist and communist societies, the government either provides a government run-option or is sole provider for healthcare services. Some argue that the socialist model ultimately leads to less access and poorer health services than in the capitalist model. Wayne Grudem has stated that “Government is never an efficient provider of economic goods because it does not have to face the competitive incentives of the free market . . . Federal government control of health care will inevitably mean a steep increase in costs, a decline in quality, a decline in freedom of choice, and a decline in the availability of certain kinds of medical care.” Additionally, “If a nation’s government controls health care, then some rationing system will be necessary to decide who gets treatments and who does not; and there will be widespread instances of denial of care; for a government simply cannot provide an infinite supply of care for everyone who asks for it.”

The current government-run healthcare systems in America, (Medicare and Medicaid) are expensive and highly problematic. According to a 2009 study done by National Center for Policy Analysis:

The 2009 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports show the combined unfunded liability of these two programs (Social Security and Medicare) has reached nearly $107 trillion in today’s dollars! That is about seven times the size of the U.S. economy and 10 times the size of the outstanding national debt. The unfunded liability is the difference between the benefits that have been promised to current and future retirees and what will be collected in dedicated taxes and Medicare premiums. Last year alone, this debt rose by $5 trillion. If no other reform is enacted, this funding gap can only be closed in future years by substantial tax increases, large benefit cuts or both . . . Medicare’s total unfunded liability is more than five times larger than that of Social Security. In fact, the new Medicare prescription drug benefit enacted in 2006 (Part D) alone adds some $17 trillion to the projected Medicare shortfall – an amount greater than all of Social Security’s unfunded obligations . . . More than one-third of the wages workers earn in 2054 will need to be committed to pay benefits promised under current law. That is before any bridges or highways are built and before any teachers’ or police officers’ salaries are paid.

Those figures are catastrophic! America simply cannot afford another government-run health care program; the costs to run the current programs are unsustainable. Doctors and healthcare professionals have already felt the pinch every time the government has reduced their reimbursement payments for services. Expanding government control of the healthcare industry is sure to make doctors, healthcare practitioners, individuals with chronic illnesses, high risk employment, and the elderly among the biggest losers. Opponents argue that the government should not be allowed to decide who lives and who dies.

Furthermore, the American government has not yet figured out how to provide a means for each citizen to receive basic needs such as adequate food, shelter, and clothing, so they lack credibility in promising the poor yet another entitlement that they cannot deliver on. With the billions of dollars spent each year fighting the War on Poverty, and with “free” money, housing allowances, and medical insurance provided for the poor, why has poverty worsened? Kenneth Blackwell has noted that “The Democrats War on Poverty has failed.” He then quoted a 1998 State of the Union address from Ronald Reagan:

My friends, some years ago, the Federal Government declared war on poverty, and poverty won . . . Today the Federal Government has 59 major welfare programs and spends more than $100 billion a year on them. What has all this money done? Well, too often it has only made poverty harder to escape. Federal welfare programs have created a massive social problem. With the best of intentions, government created a poverty trap that wreaks havoc on the very support system the poor need most to lift themselves out of poverty: the family. Dependency has become the one enduring heirloom, passed from one generation to the next, of too many fragmented families.

Again, government is never an efficient provider for goods and services as evidenced with government-run healthcare and other government-run programs.

Volunteer-Based Solutions: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Many nations have felt the moral obligation to care for its poor and sick. America is no different. American citizens by and large have agreed to have their earnings taxed for the purpose of providing some state and federally funded insurance for its poor and elderly (Medicare and Medicaid), but many warn that the government has overreached its constitutional authority in forcing some citizens to pay for the healthcare premiums of others.

Throughout most of America’s history, citizens of good conscience volunteered their time, money, and skills to build and work in hospitals and care centers for the purpose of caring for its sick, poor and elderly. They were the founding and leading providers of healthcare services in America! Christians in this nation built schools and hospitals and cared for men, women, and children of all races, classes, and cultural backgrounds. This was in response to the Christian call to “heal the sick” and “care for the poor.” The role of Christians in responding to a variety of human needs, especially those of the poor, has been marginalized in recent times by the broadening role of the American government. As noted in a recent article by Evangelical and Catholic Christians, “It is increasingly the case that wherever government goes religion must retreat, and government increasingly goes almost everywhere.”

Like government welfare, charity (another means of welfare) too has had some adverse effects. For those with no ethics of responsibility to self and community, charity alone may have the unintended consequences of removing the incentive for these individuals or families to save for instances of illness and make healthier lifestyle choices. It has had the effect of creating an entitlement mentality that cannot soon be reversed. Benjamin Franklin, on The Price of Corn and Management of the Poor, November 1766, noted:

I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.

There is no country in the world where so many provisions are established for them; so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick or lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many alms-houses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor. Under all these obligations, are our poor modest, humble, and thankful; and do they use their best endeavors to maintain themselves, and lighten our shoulders of this burden? On the contrary, I affirm that there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken, and insolent.

The day you passed that act, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, by giving them a dependence on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health, for support in age or sickness. In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder that it has had its effect in the increase of poverty. Repeal that law, and you will soon see a change in their manners.

President Franklin observed that too many provisions for the poor has had the adverse effect of creating dependent and irresponsible citizens.

Americans Will Decide

The wisdom of America is that the American people decide how they want to be governed. The healthcare safety net in America provided through the free market insurance companies, the abundance of hospitals and healthcare professionals, the volunteer agencies and free clinics, and the government subsidies for the poor and elderly make the United States healthcare system a mixed bag. Everyone agrees that reforms to the current system are needed. Ultimately, the American people will decide whether those reforms lead America towards more government control or towards a freer market; added with that choice, Americans would be wise to re-visit the reasoning and power behind volunteer and faith based initiatives to alleviate the debacle caused by the healthcare dilemma.

 

Tags: , , , ,

They’re Insurance Companies, Not Healthcare Companies, by Drexel Kleber

Posted 9/5/2009 11:45 AM EDT on democratandchronicle.com

I wonder what insurance companies are thinking about healthcare reform. It seems to me there is a fundamental shift occurring for them and I have to imagine they don’t like it.

What is the purpose of an insurance company? Insurance companies are for-profit businesses whose modus operandi is to get us to give them our money so that they can invest it in a variety of vehicles which provide profits for the company. They entice consumers to give them their money based on the agreement that if a policy holder gets sick or injured the company will pay for their medical needs. As such, if I have minimal medical needs the insurance company will pay out less money to me and, thus, have more money at their disposal from which they can earn investment profits. If, however, I am prone to illness or injury, the insurance company must pay out more money for my care, even to the point where they pay out more than they earn from me in premiums and interest. For the company, these are losses. (It’s interesting to note that few individuals invoke the same language when we are healthy. If I don’t get sick or injured or go to the doctor, then I have essentially paid more money IN than I have received back: rightfully, I should view these as losses. Of course, my ability to recoup my investment requires injury or sickness– situations which most folks would rather avoid.)

From the insurance point of view, this entire arrangement is a wager. The bottom line is they are making an informed investment decision: they evaluate my medical history and current health and venture a guess regarding the capital outlay required to attend to my health care needs. They then charge a premium sufficient to cover those expenses and still return a profit to their shareholders.

Insurance companies and individuals enter into a binding agreement. Specific items will be paid for, specific items will be excluded. Caps are provided in order to protect the insurance company from catastrophic losses, and which underscore the basis of their decision and support the assumptions they made in establishing a premium. When I read my insurance policy, I know what is covered and what is not and I sign the document agreeing to its terms.

Insurance companies are NOT healthcare companies. They take no Hippocratic Oath. They are closer to lawyers—enforcing contracts—than medical professionals—healing the wounded and infirm. I have no illusion that they will show benevolence or compassion. They exist to make money for their shareholders. I can’t imagine that I will ever hear in a hushed whisper from an insurance company representative, “Mr. Kleber, as you know you haven’t been paying for coverage that includes FREE prescriptions, but your story of job loss and misfortune has touched my heart so, just between you and me (and, please, don’t tell my supervisor) I’m going to approve those benefits.”

The other side of this coin is equally relevant, however. I expect the company to provide nothing less than to what it’s contractually obligated. I understand that their goal is to minimize capital expenditures and doing so requires a certain amount of belligerence to ensure that abuses aren’t taking place. But we’ve got a deal—we both signed. If there’s a covered benefit, well, they lost the bet. Tough.

Yet the healthcare debate in Washington these days seems to be taking place with the notion that insurance companies are “healthcare” companies, whose primary purpose is to provide access to healthcare. How can an insurance company make money for its share holders if it can’t cap certain expenses? If there is no way to control costs, they would, theoretically, have to charge exorbitant premiums to allow for such possibilities. Personally, I’m not prepared to pay the premiums required to make that math work. I take a certain measure of responsibility on my end of the arrangement–I pay a limited premium for limited coverage. I eat right and exercise to limit the chances of uncovered health needs.

I’m surprised that I haven’t heard more outrage from the insurance companies; even to the point of threatening to go out of business. I don’t understand how they will be able to run their business given the proposals that are being bandied about in the name of healthcare reform. escaladeIt would be as if Congress suddenly told GMAC that even though their customers are only making payments on Chevy Cobalt, GMAC had to provide them with a Cadillac Escalade to drive.

We ought to proceed cautiously where healthcare reform reaches beyond healthcare companies. Insurance is but one means of PAYING for healthcare, but it is a limited contract arrangement. Expecting more from insurance companies would fundamentally change their mission. Smart people may decide that there is still money to be made in a new system, but it’s wrong of us to assume that companies will continue to operate in a new system with outdated methods.

There are many unknowns in the healthcare debate. One thing we do know is that companies will find a way to make a profit or they will go out of business. Assumptions about the future and who might facilitate implementation must include a realistic assessment of the players involved and their motives.

 

Tags: ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.