Friday, September 28, 2007

American Health Care

I got sucked into watching Oprah when I saw Michael Moore’s face staring back at me. I confess I am a sucker for his docu-movies. I have enjoyed each one of them, going as far back as Roger and Me. I still cannot get the picture of the lady clubbing the rabbit out of my head. When I say Moore on TV I decided to sit down with my wife and watch. What I say sparked a lot of frustration and concern in me.

The guests on Oprah’s show were discussing health care in the US. Of course much of this was spurred because of Moore’s Sicko. But he wasn’t there to plug the movie, he was there to have a discussion on the desperate need to change the system we live in. Although with Moore there was a healthcare economist and insurance lobbyist who joined the discussion.

In my personal life, our insurance has gone through the roof. The WNCC has upped its insurance cost dramatically this year. Last year a church had to pay $6,060 a year to pay for the clergy’s health insurance. In 2008 they will pay $8,460. That is $2,400 increase. For family health insurance, which some clergy pay and some churches cover (that decision is left to the individual churches) went up by $1,500. It went from $7,500 a year to $9,000. This means that the total paid for a clergy family’s health insurance is $17,460 a year, PER CLERGY FAMILY. Let’s round the number of clergy families to 1,000 in the conference (now I am way under but it is an easy number to work with). That means we, as local churches and clergy, pay over $17,460,000 to Medcost (our provider) for health insurance. And I am low balling the numbers!

While watching Oprah, Moore attempted to quote scripture to back his claim for universal health care. He said that Jesus said we should give food to those who are hungry, give something to drink to those who are thirsty, clothe the naked, and take care of the sick. Something about if you do this to the least of it you do it to me. His point is that we as Christians should be backing this idea because it is Jesus’ healthcare plan. Is he right?

Yes, how much good could the Western North Carolina Conference do with $17 million extra dollars? What could our local churches and clergy families do, for the ministry of Jesus Christ, with $17,460 in their pockets?

What irritated me the most about the Oprah show was when the insurance lobbyist said that health care has to make a profit. Why does making a profit have to be on a doctor’s mind? Why does the almighty dollar have to dictate whether someone gets the help they need or not?

I recently had a small procedure done to remove my toe nail. A very small, non-elective, in the doctor’s office procedure. I asked the questions, before setting up the appointment to remove my toe nail, How much will this cost. The doctor looked at me and said, I’ll ask someone to come in and talk to you. I never got a true price. The lady who came in worked with insurance and said it all depended on the insurance coverage. It could be a simple deductible (mine is simply $1000 by the way, not very simple) or much less. How is it they could not say, the procedure is $350 dollars? Why is it we cannot know the price of health care before we receive it. We asked our hospital for an estimate cost to have our son and we got a wide variety of answers. Now granted a lot can happen in a birth to change the price but why is there not a sheet of paper that lists the cost of the birthing room, an epidural, so forth and so on. It seems the only way we learn how much health care costs is after the insurance company says, we will pay for this part, and this is your part.

There is no doubt that the system has gone array and that 50 million people who don’t have insurance need health care too. I don’t have the answers but someone does. Insurance lobbyists and companies need to step away from the bottom line and make room for people taking care of people. We as a church should back this up because it is what Christ proclaims we should do. This week’s lectionary scripture is the story of the rich man and the poor man Lazarus. The rich man is burning in hell for not opening the door to take care of Lazarus. The rich man saw the need but did nothing and thus is burning because of it. I don’t want that to be the same fate for my insurance company. The system has to be changed.

Oprah asked the question, do you think everyone in America should have access to proper healthcare? My answer is yes. Jesus’ answer is yes. Our answer, the UMC and all Christians, should be YES!

1 comment:

Matthew said...

This is great stuff, we need reform and hope. Health care is going to kill us in ministry. In my fellowship, there is no group, just individuals getting it. Bad