Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Health Care and the Episcopal Church

Among the many "other" resolutions adopted at General Convention comes this extremely-relevant gem:

* FINAL VERSION - Concurred Resolution: D048
Title: Adoption of a "Single Payer" Universal Health Care Program
Topic:Health Care Committee: 09 - National and International Concerns
House of Initial Action: Deputies
Proposer: The Rev. Gary Commins

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th Convention of the Episcopal Church urge passage of federal legislation establishing a "single payer" universal health care program which would provide health care coverage for all of the people of the United States; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention direct the Office of Government Relations to assess, negotiate, and deliberate the range of proposed federal health care policy options in the effort to reach the goal of universal health care coverage, and to pursue short-term, incremental, innovative, and creative approaches to universal health care until a "single payer" universal health care program is established; and be it further

Resolved, That the Episcopal Church shall work with other people of good will to finally and concretely realize the goal of universal health care coverage; and be it further

Resolved, That church members and the Office of Government Relations communicate the position of the Episcopal Church on this issue to the President and Members of Congress, and advocate passage of legislation consistent with this resolution.

In a word: YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I realize that those of you out there with the good fortune of having private insurance or access to an HMO might find universal health care coverage to be the beginning of us all wearing Nehru jackets and carrying little red books with pictures of Mao, or Stalin, or Castro. Is this a form of socialism? Yes. But is it right? You betcha!

Why? Well, consider some of the facts as the Episcopal Church considered them when adopting this resolution.

  • More than 47 million people in the U. S. are currently without health insurance, more than 75 million went without for some length of time within the last two years, and millions more have inadequate coverage or are at risk of losing coverage.
  • People of color, immigrants and women are denied care at disproportionate rates, while the elderly and many others must choose between necessities and life sustaining drugs and care. Unorganized workers have either no or inadequate coverage.
  • The Institute of Medicine has found that each year more than 18,000 in the U. S. die because they had no health insurance.While we in the United States spend more than twice as much of our gross domestic product as other developed nations on health care ($7,129 per capita), we remain the only industrialized country without universal coverage, and the United States performs poorly in comparison on major health indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality and immunization rates.
  • Almost one-third (31 percent) of the money spent on health care in the United States goes to administrative costs.
  • The potential savings on paperwork, more than $350 billion per year, are enough to provide comprehensive coverage to everyone without paying any more than we already do.
I have heard people screaming that patients would not be able to see the doctor of their choice, and wouldn't be able to get necessary treatment quickly. Again, I say, how is this different than our current system where doctors, specialists, therapists have to be "in network" or a member of that "HMO group" in order for you to see them and have your health insurance cover the cost.

Under a universal health care plan, everyone would get paid: the hospital, the doctor, the specialist. The difference is that payment would be made on a fee-for-service that is negotiated to cover the cost of the care. For the practitioner, this is similar to what we're being paid right now by the 'lovely' insurance companies that will only cover 60-percent of what we've charged. That other 40-percent goes toward the private companies "operating costs" (read: their pockets). Why must they withhold 40-percent, when the patient is already paying money to the company... to the tune of $250-$600 a month... to have health insurance to begin with?!
If everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, could have access to health care so we can begin to prevent preventable diseases and care for people... I'm willing to take a fee-for-service negotiated rate.

Under universal health care, there would be a global budget for hospital operating expenses. Regional health planning boards would manage and approve expensive equipment purchases.

Who loses in this plan? Private insurance companies. They would go bye-bye because nobody would be making a profit on other people's pain.

Who wins? Everybody... especially those everybody's who currently face a significantly- shortened life span because they can not afford to seek medical treatment.

What does this have to do with the Church: Everything!

The call to us from God always and everywhere is to see God's presence in the world. And where there is a need... as there is so clearly one in the instance of health care... it is our mission to remove stumbling blocks, support the weak, help the sick. Instead of always asking, "What would Jesus do?"... we need to go about the business of doing it!


frdougal said...

As a Brit, I heartily concur with the principle of Universal Health care and think it worth pointing out (just to reasurre those who think this is the end of civilisation as you have known it) that Private health insurance will not cease to exist even if you USAnians go for a tax funded universal system. There will always be a place for those who want to pay more to get seen more quickly, the hip operation done next week rather than in 18 months etc. But what this ought to ensure is that poor sick people get treated, there are less poor dead people and poverty is reduced by improved health, and ability to participate in employment and education.

SCG said...

Well said, frdougal!
The irony in our country is those with the private insurance think that means they move to the head of the line for surgeries or visits to specialists. And it may be true in some cases. But for most, the wait to see a dermatologist who specializes in skin cancer, for example, can be six to seven months... even with insurance which will then only start paying once the patient has paid "x" amount out of pocket, while the company continues to collect a monthly payment from the patient. So much for that cracker jack U.S. health care system.

Anonymous said...

I have the best Health Insurance in the world, besides Medicare and I don't mind if that is changed. I am under TRI-CARE 4 Life and many of the Veterans and their spouses have the same. I think it should be available for everyone.