Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Health Care in America

I have been a bit of a slacker when it comes to posting new blogs. The one real question I have been facing is, "How do small churches identify and develop new leaders within the church?" I will come back to that question later this week.

This is my article for the October edition of "The Messenger", the newsletter of Peace United Church and Grey Eagle UMC.


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The big debate that has raged throughout the summer and now into the fall is the issue of health care for all people. According to the US Census Bureau, almost 46 million people under the age of 65, or 18% of the US population under the age of 65, were without health insurance in 2007. The economic downturn we experienced in 2008 may have added another 7 million to that number. That translates to 1 in 5 people under the age of 65.

Those of us who do have health insurance are finding it to be much more expensive. Small employers cannot afford to cover their employees. Large employers are finding their costs are rising significantly prompting many to cancel any coverage they may have. Only young, single adults without any preexisting health problems can find affordable coverage. Anyone else looking to buy an individual policy is nearly priced out of the market.

We also need a change of terminology. “Health insurance” is not a true insurance such as a home-owner’s policy, or car insurance, or life insurance. These types of insurance cover only catastrophic events but not the usual maintenance. Hit a deer and your auto policy will cover it with a 10 or 20% deductible. Need new tires or an oil change and you will pay for it out of your own pocket.

With health insurance, we want everything to be covered except for the co-pays and deductibles. If it were a true insurance, then only the catastrophic events, such as cancer, stroke, or heart attacks, would be covered while we would be responsible for maintenance and checkups. If you need a drug to keep your cholesterol low, you would be responsible. As with a car or a home, the better you maintain it the longer it will last. If a catastrophe happens the insurance kicks in. So, instead of calling it insurance, we should simply call it something like “Health-care System” or “Health-care Coverage”.

Whom should the United States Healthcare System cover? Simply: everyone. Why? Because that is what Jesus did. I won’t regurgitate everything he said, but conservative Christian pollster George Barna wrote an article this week calling on Christians to be active in healing the sick. He examined the stories of Jesus’ healings and concluded that we should follow Jesus’ example. You can find the complete article here. Here is a summary paragraph:

"In short, Jesus Christ showed us that anyone who follows Him is expected to address the most pressing needs of others. You can describe Jesus’ health care strategy in four words: whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever. Whoever needed to be healed received His healing touch. Whatever affliction they suffered from, He addressed it. Whenever the opportunity to heal arose, He seized it. Wherever they happened to be, He took care of it."

George Barna did not endorse any governmental plan for universal health-care (there are many models around the world; read TR Reid’s latest book The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care). I take this conclusion from his article: if we are unable or unwilling to help those without health-care coverage ourselves as Jesus calls us to do, then we need to find and fund a way for someone else to do it. That just may turn out to be the federal government. Let’s get this done, America. It is the right thing to do.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Gary

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