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Friday, August 14, 2009

WWJWS?

What would John Wesley say about our present debate about health care (WWJWS)? Our own, Steve Manskar, reminds us on his Facebook page what John Wesley said and did about health care in his own time. If you're on Facebook, you can find his quotes from "A Plain Account of the People Called Methodists" on this subject matter at http://www.facebook.com/n/?note.php&note_id=115822479323&mid=ee6c1bG1ee3e4a1G28f49fcGa.

Suffice it to say, John Wesley spent a good share of his time, personal finances, and Christian commitment in providing health care for the poor in England.

I've heard economists and those knowledgeable about health care remark that there hasn't been enough dialogue about what the changes should be made in health care. The Mayo and Cleveland Clinics have been raised as exemplary places to provide a more wholistic approach to health care; less individual providers with less than 20 minutes to work in their silo of medicine on our complicated and interconnected bodies. Could health care be more wholistic for all of us?

The town hall meetings that we are hearing about in the news with legislators and the President of the United States going out into the country don't exactly sound like a dialogue to me. Why the anger? What are we afraid of?

Why the misinformation? My own mother admits to getting many emails a day (her harddrive crashed so not so many right now!) about "pulling the plug on grandma," etc. Whose fueling that? Could it be the health insurance companies themselves? Could it be those who stand to make a lot of money off of us if we don't make changes?

How's your health insurance working for you now? Even those on Medicare (a government-run health provider). I'm sure it's not perfect, but something must be done in order to reduce costs but also to provide better care.

Do we have to link employment with health insurance? The history of that is that benefits were given instead of salary increases. That appears to be the case again today, at least for clergy! And of course the disaster is that when one is no longer employed, one is also off health insurance. Several members of my own family don't have health insurance right now because they don't have jobs. This isn't about someone else. This is about us and if it's not affecting us directly now, it affects us indirectly. Presently it's causing some local churches to really struggle in providing benefits for clergy. The issue isn't that clergy shouldn't have benefits, but that benefits shouldn't be so exorbitant.

Now you probably think that I'm "playing politics," but let me direct you to the Social Principles in our Book of Discipline which state in part: "Providing the care needed to maintain health, prevent disease, and restore health after injury or illness is a responsibility each person owes others and government owes all, a responsibility government ignores at its peril..health care is best funded through the government's ability to tax each person equitably and directly fund the provider entities...We believe it is a governmental responsiblity to provide all citizens with health care." (Par. 162.V, 2008 Book of Discipline).

So why aren't we more adamant about health care for all as United Methodists? What can we do? WWJWS?

Please feel free to express your opinions but I expect that you will respond differently from "the world," and I hope we can have a conversation based on our faith and not just our politics!

WDYT?

Sally Dyck

26 comments:

Lausten North said...

Why the anger and fear? They go hand in hand. Anger is an easy reaction to fear. Fear comes mostly from the unknown. Unfortunately a lot of people want us to be in the dark. They don't want us to know about people like William McGuire who at one time personally received 1 out of every $700 spent on health care. That's just one person. He no longer works at United Health Care because of a little trouble with the SEC. Educating yourself on what is the source of a rumor like government euthanasia, can be difficult. Spotting immoral behavior is not that hard.

Carol E. said...

Thank you for raising the questions. We need more "real" discussions about what the changes will be and what they will not be. What I'm afraid of is that people are becoming to accept the fact the there are periods of time when we or others can go without insurance. Just as in your family, members of my family have had periods of unemployment when they were not insured. Why do people think this is OK? I do not. I'm sure both Jesus and John Wesley wish we would do a better job of taking care of each other.

Pastor Chris Roberts said...

Bishop,
You wrote, "...I expect that you will respond differently from 'the world'..." What does that mean?

Anonymous said...

When Mr. Wesley helped with healthcare he did so, not because the government compelled him to, but rather because Christ complelled him too. What if the people called Methodist banned together (along with other denominations) and provided the healthcare for those in need? Now I know some will say how would we pay for such a bold proposal, but the government (even if it raises taxes) would have the same problem. What I believe would be a more Christ like response (than Caesar handling healthcare) is for Christians in the healthcare industry to begin tithing their time (I know some do this now). Certianly across all denominations there must be enough doctors, nurses, P.A's, FNPs, pharmisists, lab techs, denists, etc. to handle the crisis we find ourselves in. What if we did this out of love rather than waiting for the government? Why not call this the Matthew 25 project? If the church would just take the lead on this (and not pass it off to the government) then, maybe those who have lost faith in the "church" might find that Christ is indeed alive reigning in the church today.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for discussing health care and even preaching about it. After all, hospitals had their origins under religious auspices. What I fear is that we, as a denomination, as a conference or as a local church, might rush in where angels fear to tread (at least, angels in a democracy with a Church/State boundary)and start telling folk how they should vote on a particular policy issue based upon the bishop's or the pastor's theological orientation.

Let's frame the issue scripturally, historically and theologically, and then let the people draw their own diverse political conclusions. Single or multiple payer(s), public and/or private payer and the like are not within episcopal or pastoral 'say so,' whatever they might believe personally and politically.

We rightfully protest when others do this from the chancery or from the pulpit on other issues. Let's not fall into the same trap.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Methodist Book of Discipline on the Government health care plan. Why are people so afraid of our government when we, the people, ARE THE GOVERNMENT? I am proud of our Government seeing the need we must have better health care and yet we have people fighting it tooth and nail. It is like they are biting off the hand that feeds their face. We must all pray that God will keep his hand on our President, and congress while they make the right decisions on the health care plan for the people that they serve, all the people. Jan

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Book of Discipline. People feel the churches, and the Christians should be taking care of the sick, but I say where do we start? Could we do it without being partial to certain people? Would we be able to control the high cost of operations, doctors, etc. We have trusted the government with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. WE all use those programs so why not trust them to improve on the health care that we know our country needs. People think we have the best health care in the world. That is simply no longer true. We are about 19 down the list on that survey. WE Americans should be ashamed of this.

Loren said...

Just something I wrote for the local newspaper:
I knew a person who as CEO of a hospital often made the point that in the United States we pay 2 ½ times more than people in other developed nations for the 23rd best health care in the world. He also noted that customer satisfaction with American health care was among the lowest of people in developed nations. He wondered why Americans did not take to the streets demanding major health care reform.
Health care reform is center stage as the present administration in Washington promotes changes in the way health care is offered and financed. There are competing plans and philosophies, as there are when any major change is promoted. I certainly do not have the expertise to shed much light on which plan will solve our problems. I do think that as Christians,
representatives of the movement whose care for the sick led to the creation of hospitals and other health care systems, we need to make sure our voices are heard in the debate. I think we must ensure that the debate rests on wisdom and not fear promoted by special interests.
The prophet Micah wrote that God requires that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. Accessibility to health is a justice issue. Some people are afraid that health care reform will lead to rationing of treatment. Some single payer systems in the world have criteria for treatment that can place people on waiting lists, or deny a treatment if it has limited prospects for success. The point has been made that medical treatment is already rationed in this country, but instead of using criteria that might serve the common good, we ration treatment by ability to pay. Reform must address the accessibility issue and offer people care based on need rather than possession of health insurance or ability to pay.
Reform must include an element of kindness and compassion. Medical professionals are deeply caring people. But the system can sometimes be uncaring. One of the problems with our present system is that because it is so expensive, people are sometimes hurried out of care faster than what is beneficial. Because the system is so expensive and so many patients must be seen, medical professionals often do not have the time they would like to spend getting to know patients and their health and wellness issues. Reform must value building relationships that facilitate health. On the other end, sometimes life is prolonged past sensibility simply because disease is being battled and the person who is diseased has been forgotten in the midst of batteries of tests and treatments. Reform must include the human touch and promote wellness and quality of life, and not be oriented to the treatment of disease.
We must approach reform with humility knowing that even the healthiest of us will sometimes need to use the health care system. If we look at the golden rule we know that just as we want a just and compassionate response to our health concern, we should want others to experience a just and compassionate response as well. What we want for ourselves we should want for others.
I do not claim to know the answers, but I think these three principles must be at the foundation of the debate: Justice, kindness, and humility. As you contact your leaders in the coming weeks with your concerns about reform, keep these principles in mind.

Anonymous said...

Enclosed is a copy of petition produced by Sojourners in support of health care reform.

Send this petition to:
Your Congressperson
Your Senators

As one of God's children, I believe that protecting the health of each human being is a profoundly important personal and communal responsibility for people of faith.

I believe God created each person in the divine image to be spiritually and physically healthy. I feel the pain of sickness and disease in our broken world (Genesis 1:27, Romans 8:22).

I believe life and healing are core tenets of the Christian life. Christ's ministry included physical healing, and we are called to participate in God's new creation as instruments of healing and redemption (Matthew 4:23, Luke 9:1-6; Mark 7:32-35, Acts 10:38). Our nation should strive to ensure all people have access to life-giving treatments and care.

I believe, as taught by the Hebrew prophets and Jesus, that the measure of a society is seen in how it treats the most vulnerable. The current discussion about health-care reform is important for the United States to move toward a more just system of providing care to all people (Isaiah 1:16-17, Jeremiah 7:5-7, Matthew 25:31-45).

I believe that all people have a moral obligation to tell the truth. To serve the common good of our entire nation, all parties debating reform should tell the truth and refrain from distorting facts or using fear-based messaging (Leviticus 19:11; Ephesians 4:14-15, 25; Proverbs 6:16-19).

I believe that Christians should seek to bring health and well-being (shalom) to the society into which God has placed us, for a healthy society benefits all members (Jeremiah 29:7).

I believe in a time when all will live long and healthy lives, from infancy to old age (Isaiah 65:20), and "mourning and crying and pain will be no more" (Revelation 21:4). My heart breaks for my brothers and sisters who watch their loved ones suffer, or who suffer themselves, because they cannot afford a trip to the doctor. I stand with them in their suffering.

I believe health-care reform must rest on a foundation of values that affirm each and every life as a sacred gift from the Creator (Genesis 2:7).

Amen.


Signed by:
[Your name]
[Your address]

Anonymous said...

I have some questions. What part of a “health care dollar”, the dollar the employer or employee pays to health insurance, what part of that dollar pays for actual care? There are many layers of cost i.e.:
1. The health insurance company takes a percentage.
2. The hospital has a large staff to handle insurance claims.
3. Malpractice insurance takes a percentage.
Where is the accountant with the chart showing where the dollar goes? (My cynical side suspects less than 50% actually pays for care.) Where is Ross Perot when we need these charts? I suspect people in these non medical layers are the people creating anger and fear because they have the most to lose. There are billions and billions and billions of dollars at stake that don’t pay for actual medical care. Who is following the money? I know it is immensely complicated, but is it impossible? To work for justice we need to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Joel Xavier
Trimont United Methodist

Anonymous said...

Maybe some of us oppose President Obama's plan and HR 3200 because they are unchristian in many respects. A few examples:
1. People will no longer be able to choose whether to buy insurance or use Health Savings Accounts to purchase only catastrophic coverage. If they don't buy one of the policies (with coverages determined for them) mandated by the federal agency in charge, they will be penalized by the IRS. The IRS can garnishee their wages, levy on bank accounts and seize property collect the penalties and interest. How is that Christian? Would the UMC use force to seize property to further the aims of extending insurance to the uninsured? Of course, not. Nor should we accept the use of government force to accomplish our aims.
2. To be a "qualified" plan sold by the government run "exhcanges," the policy must include coverages mandated by a government board. Only a limited number (about 4) kinds of policies will be offered nationwide. How is limiting consumer choice a Christian value? How is forcing people to buy coverages they don't want and will never use consistent with our Christian values?

These are just a few examples of what's wrong with HR3200 and why people of faith should not instinctively support this coercive legislation.

Jim Scarantino, Albuquerque, NM

Marilee Benson said...

My 92 year old mother had triple by-pass surgery last February and I can't begin to tell you what I observed as wrong with health care. I had no idea until we were forced to deal with nursing homes and assisted living situations and Medicare. She had good a health care plan...I'd never want to go through this without anything!

Dave & Carol said...

Please. Let us not confuse Government Entitlement with Charity.

Many in the Faith Community (leaders and lay people) seem to believe that Government Entitlement is Government Charity. Government Charity is an oxymoron. It doesn't exist. It's a term that is non-sensical. You could attempt to say "forced Charity", but even that is non-sensical. Charity is that which is not forced. Otherwise it is not Charity.

The Faith community sometimes seems to believe that they are engaging in Charity Work when they advocate for more Government Entitlements.

Government does not produce anything. It cannot possibly engage in Charity. It can only take (by force of law) from some and give (by entitlement) to someone else. Government is about rights and obligations. Someone's right becomes someone else's obligation. That cannot be called Charity.

Charity cannot be forced--or it ceases to be Charity.

One cannot call Entitlement, Charity and think it makes no difference. It's either one or the other.

The ramification of understanding this difference is extremely important. Why? Because it often determines where the Faith community spends their moral authority. And make no mistake, moral authority is a very powerful thing. Everyone wants to feel and believe that they are doing the right thing, the moral thing. It's built into our humanness. Thank God.

The Faith community knows that transforming people's hearts and minds into more loving, caring, compassionate people is a much more effective way to create The Kingdom of God than any attempt to legislate morality.

They also know that they cannot force people to be more loving, caring and compassionate. They have to convince them that this is a better way. The way that leads to happiness and contentment and joy and peace. The use of force in this endeavor, destroys the endeavor. Why?

Because of this dichotomy: I cannot force someone to be more Charitable without, in the process, making it impossible for them to do so. I can offer them a choice, and they can then choose to be Charitable or not. But if I offer no choice, they cannot choose that which has to be chosen in order to exist. Sort of like Love...God cannot force us to love him without making it impossible for us to do so. Love has to be chosen in order for it be love. Same with Charity.

Yes, we in the Faith Community need to be doing the work of Charity. But advocating for more Government Entitlements is not a part of that effort. In fact, it diminishes that effort because it turns it into something entirely different.

...there were two roads laid before me. One was called Charity Work. The other was called Government Entitlement. I chose the road less travelled, and it made all the difference in the world.

Peace,
Dave Oliver

Dave & Carol said...

One thing you can say about we Americans is that we love choice. You only have to take a peek in any grocery store or clothing store to appreciate this.

Why are we even considering a "one-size-fits-all" Government run healthcare plan?

Yes there are problems with the present healthcare system. But every system has problems, even the Church (gasp). Every system is in a stage of evolving. The present problems of the healthcare system do not justify the takeover of 17% of the Private Sector economy by Government. What's left of the Private Sector healthcare system can be tweaked to solve those problems. It's always changing, being tweaked, as is everything else in our economy.
The Private Sector gets tweaked daily by consumer preferences.

What we as Americans need to decide is whether we want to continue solving most problems through the Private Sector or whether we want to do so through the Government Sector.

That's what this so called national healthcare debate is about. It long ago ceased being about making sure the uninsured had healthcare. Oh, I mean health insurance. We long ago decided not to turn people away from needed heathcare. So we are really talking about health insurance. We could, as a nation do that instantly by requiring everyone to buy health insurance and then giving a subsidy to those in low incomes. We already have those plans in place in the plans called Medicaid, Minnesota Care, Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association (MCHS). We don't need some new national plan to duplicate these.

So again, this debate is not about the uninsured. It's about...let's create a crisis mentality so we have an excuse to take over a large segment of the economy by the Government.

We should be careful what we ask Government to get involved in, because we may not like what we get. We might just get "limited choice" (another loud gasp).

Imagine that, Americans choosing "limited choice".

Dave & Carol said...

Is Government run healthcare a good idea?

Hmmmm....that's a big part of my life that I'm now going to be dependent upon the Government for.

Hmmm...what else could the Government take care of me because I guess I'm too studpid to make the right decisions on my own? Maybe my other needs, like food, and housing too. Well, maybe that's going too far.

Hmmmm...here's one.

I think it would really be beneficial for our country if every American attended a Worship service at least once per week.

Here's a novel idea.

Let's legislate it. Let's have a Federal Government Mandate that everyone has to go to a Worship service each week. And yes, let's for the good of the country let the Federal Government (whoever that is at any given moment in time) decide what that Worship service should entail.

Good times.

God help us in our confusion.

Dave

maria esperanza georgia noel hale said...

I pray every day that we will have a national health care option soon (for other than those who are over 65). My family and I have had to make employment decisions based on whether or not we will have health insurance. Currently we are struggling paying for the insurance we have leaving us with only 2000 a month to live on. I know I am blessed though to at least have the option. Many, many do not in the United States of America, not so much a Nation under God in regards to health care. Peace to you.

Donna Martinson said...

I appreciate Loren's biblical touchstones for decision and the article below for the same.
The Heart of Reform
Five reasons why the church should support health-care reform. An urban pastor's view.
By John Hay Jr., COMMENTARY, on August 27, 2009 http://www.urbanfaith.com/2009/08/sacred-neighborliness.html

Donna Martinson

Carolyn said...

@Joe in Albuquerque,

Your second question has not yet been addressed, regarding consumer choice. I have two questions for you: 1. Since when was consumerism a Christian value? 2. Since when was consumer choice a Christian value?

I seem to remember Jesus telling a rich man to sell his possessions and follow him. I just can't see consumerism of any kind supported in the Bible, nor do I see any one economic model supported (including capitalism). But I do see the actions of a God who cares deeply for the poor and cares that justice be done. I see a God who provides for the bodily health of even the lily and the sparrow... God cares for our bodily health too. And God cares that our society not support the kind of systemic injustice that ends up leaving out those who have darker skin, those who have little money, and those who are elderly.

Christians have historically cared for the widow, the elderly, the poor, the immigrant. Christians broke social and racial boundaries to bring the Gospel of Christ to others. Let's not sacrifice this amazing tradition for "consumer choice."

Joy Johnson said...

Yes, my stand on healthcare reform is based on faith, not just politics. I want healthcare for all. Healthcare should not be a luxury of the rich. It's not about politics, its about PEOPLE!!!It's about the America I/we want to live in. Thousands of people go bankrupt each year due to healthcare. Healthcare is about people not profits!! I favor single-payer so all are covered. With the amount of money spent in Iraq and Afghanistan we could have healthcare for all. I am on medicare and want all to have what I have. I could not be without it. It is a form of socialism and so is the V.A., our Post Offices, etc. Do we want to give these up? Actually, we are more socialistic that some European Countries like Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. I believe I like the Canadian system, they have afew flaws they are going to fix and we, no doubt, will have to do the same. 85% of the people in Canada say they want to strengthen their public health system rather than expand for profit service. All industrialised countries have universal healthcare but not the US which is all about profit and greed. Our healthcare is rated 38 or 39th in the world so it has gone down--we do NOT have the best. Canadians say "Don't get sick in the US".

Joy Johnson said...

Yes, my stand on healthcare reform is based on faith, not just politics. I want healthcare for all. Healthcare should not be a luxury of the rich. It's not about politics, its about PEOPLE!!!It's about the America I/we want to live in. Thousands of people go bankrupt each year due to healthcare. Healthcare is about people not profits!! I favor single-payer so all are covered. With the amount of money spent in Iraq and Afghanistan we could have healthcare for all. I am on medicare and want all to have what I have. I could not be without it. It is a form of socialism and so is the V.A., our Post Offices, etc. Do we want to give these up? Actually, we are more socialistic that some European Countries like Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. I believe I like the Canadian system, they have afew flaws they are going to fix and we, no doubt, will have to do the same. 85% of the people in Canada say they want to strengthen their public health system rather than expand for profit service. All industrialised countries have universal healthcare but not the US which is all about profit and greed. Our healthcare is rated 38 or 39th in the world so it has gone down--we do NOT have the best. Canadians say "Don't get sick in the US".

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