Healthcare

Pope Francis greets a man as he visits a first aid camp set up on the occasion of the World Day of the Poor in front of Saint Peter's square in Rome, Italy November 16, 2017. Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters

Francis did not mention any countries. Healthcare is a big issue in the United States, where President Donald Trump has vowed to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, introduced by his predecessor, Barack Obama, which aimed to make it easier for lower-income households to get health insurance.

10-30-2017

SOUTH ASIAN-AMERICANS, such as Siddhartha Mukherjee and Atul Gawande, have recently made a dent in the white male hegemony that has reigned in medical writing for general audiences. Haider Warraich is following in their path with this new book on death and dying.

With liberal use of anecdotes from a medical residency in Boston, Warraich snaps the reader out of sanitized TV portrayals or even hospital experiences of death to induce a more authentic confrontation, one most would seemingly rather avoid at all costs. (Witness church members who no longer have funerals but “celebrations of life” and “homegoings,” often after enduring dehumanizing and futile end-of-life interventions.)

But is lack of knowledge about the mechanics of “modern death” in a technological society at the core of the problem, as Warraich seems to think? Is his thesis correct that our fear of death is greater than ever? Can social media posts by the dying overcome these problems?

Heidi Thompson 10-24-2017
An abandoned hotel in Warren, Ohio. (Matt Shiffler Photography/Flickr)

An abandoned hotel in Warren, Ohio. (Matt Shiffler Photography/Flickr)

OHIO'S OPIOD EPIDEMIC started a decade ago with the over-prescription of pain medicine and the arrival soon after of entrepreneurial heroin dealers. But in the Mahoning Valley, in Ohio’s northeast corner, you can trace the start of this crisis back even further, to an autumn day 40 years ago.

On Black Monday, Sept. 19, 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, one of the area’s biggest steel mills, announced it was closing. The shutdown wasn’t a total shock; the steel industry had been in trouble for years. More than 4,000 workers lost their jobs that day. The closure started a chain reaction of mill and related business closings, unemployment, neighborhood collapse, and population decline that reverberates even today.

The mill closing, and all the losses that came after, had the effect of dropping an economic bomb on the region, breaking apart families, driving young people out of the area, skyrocketing poverty, and increasing demands on health and safety-net services. Like other Ohio cities with a manufacturing base, Youngstown and Warren, the valley’s largest cities, saw their jobs, businesses, and, finally, residents flee. My hometown of Warren lost a third of its population; Youngstown lost almost half.

The rubble left behind created ideal conditions for heroin’s demons to move in and take over. And they have, with a vengeance.

U.S. President Donald Trump calls on Republican Senators to move forward and vote on a healthcare bill to replace the Affordable Care Act in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Stymied in Congress by the failure of Senate Republicans to pass legislation to dismantle Democratic former President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement, Trump's executive order marks his administration's latest effort to undermine the 2010 law without action by lawmakers.

Image via AP/J. Scott Applewhite.

“We’re saying today it’s time for other clergy to come. It’s time for moral agents to step up. It’s time for us to go down to the house of power and challenge the way power is being used.”

the Web Editors 6-23-2017

President Donald Trump with House Speaker Paul Ryan as he gathers with Congressional Republicans in the Rose Garden after the House approved the American Healthcare Act May 4. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

At The Summit, Sojourners' annual gathering of leaders from across the country, attendees spent Friday morning calling their senators, demanding they vote against the bill — which Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to push through next week, before the July 4 recess. Those gathered are calling on their constituents to do the same.  Here's how.

Liz Theoharis 4-07-2017

Poverty is not inevitable. It is a systemic sin, and all Christians have a responsibility to partner with the poor to end poverty once and for all. “The poor you will always have with you” is actually one of the strongest biblical mandates to end poverty. Matthew 26:11 quotes Deuteronomy 15, one of the most liberating Sabbath prescriptions in the Bible, and an instruction on how to follow God’s commandments to end poverty, forgive debts, and release slaves.

Image via RNS/The White House/Pete Souza

Bishops will examine proposals to amend or replace Obamacare but said that “for now that a repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act ought not be undertaken without the concurrent passage of a replacement plan that ensures access to adequate health care for the millions of people who now rely upon it for their wellbeing.”

10-28-2015
NATALIA61 / Shutterstock

NATALIA61 / Shutterstock

“IT IS A magic moment and we must seize it.” With those words, President Clinton called upon Congress to respond to the “ethical imperative” of “providing universal, comprehensive health care” for all Americans. In the weeks since that speech, Hillary Rodham Clinton has tirelessly explained and defended the technical details of the administration’s Health Security Act. But even in her most technical presentations, she has never failed to remind her audience of the moral dimensions of this cause.

the Web Editors 9-04-2015

1. Can the Evangelical Left Rise Again?

“The Evangelical left, once a substantial contingent of American life, is now seemingly small and powerless compared to its rightwing counterpart.”

2. Why Every Church Needs a Drag Queen

Nadia Bolz-Weber, everyone’s favorite tattoo-sporting, grace-spouting priest, is back with a new book, Accidental Saints.

3. One Novel Way to Bring Healthcare to Poor Neighborhoods

A local neighborhood health center believes it has developed an approach that works for their clients in poverty — partnering with a local grocery story to combine the shopping and medical experience into one outing.

Christian Piatt 10-30-2013
Health care illustration, sheff / Shutterstock.com

Health care illustration, sheff / Shutterstock.com

The theatrics around the Affordable Care Act seem only to be matched by the public’s ignorance about what it actually is. Case in point: when late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel sent a reporter out on the street to ask people their opinions, they felt markedly better about the nuts and bolts of the Affordable Care Act than they did about Obamacare.

Never mind they’re the same thing (sigh).

It seems that a handful of lawmakers have seen to it that our ignorance is sown into full-blown fear, obfuscating the fact that the shutdown – which was largely a fight over the ACA – cost our economy about $25 billion. For those who have been following even on a cursory level, the arguments against the ACA are becoming quite familiar:

· The individual mandate infringes on my freedom not to have insurance.

  • The whole thing costs too much.
  • It’s a slippery slope to a single-payer system.

On this last point, we can only hope the critics are right, particularly since a single-payer health care system is the only model that has offered hard evidence of both covering everyone and reducing total costs. But since we’re not there yet, let’s consider what we do have with this new law.

Richard Wolf 10-04-2013
hoto courtesy U.S. Supreme Court

hoto courtesy U.S. Supreme Court

After two blockbuster terms in which it saved President Obama’s health care law and advanced the cause of same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court appears poised to tack to the right in its upcoming term on a range of social issues, from abortion and contraception to race and prayer.

The justices, whose term begins Monday, could rule against racial minorities in two cases and abortion rights in one or two others. They also could uphold prayers at government meetings, ease restrictions on wealthy political donors, strike down federal environmental regulations, and take a first bite out of Obamacare.

LaVonne Neff 9-26-2013
High cost of prescriptions illustration, bestv / Shutterstock.com

High cost of prescriptions illustration, bestv / Shutterstock.com

I signed up for Medicare last month. In addition to standard Medicare, I added Part D, the prescription drug benefit. My 2013  costs, if they had covered the entire year, would have come to $529 for insurance and $330 for prescription copays.

Today's mail brought the rates for 2014. The insurance premium has increased to $650, or by about 23 percent. Copays have also increased, to $616, or by nearly 87 percent. The total increase — assuming I won't need any additional medications — comes to 47 percent.

I was not happy when President Bush proposed and AARP supported Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit. The idea of insuring seniors' drugs was good. The resulting law, which specifically forbids the federal government from negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies, was insane.

LaVonne Neff 7-01-2013
Baby being delivered by cesarean, Martin Valigursky / Shutterstock.com

Baby being delivered by cesarean, Martin Valigursky / Shutterstock.com

"American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World" 

That's the headline of an article by Elisabeth Rosenthal in yesterday's New York Times. The article includes a chart comparing childbirth costs in seven countries. In the United States, the average amount paid for a conventional delivery in 2012 was $9,775; for a Caesarean section, it was $15,041. Those are the highest prices for childbirth anywhere in the world.

To get an idea of just how high, I made a chart using the figures in the NYT chart. Childbirth costs in the other six countries range from 21 percent to 43 percent of U.S. costs even though American women typically spend far less time in hospital.

South Africa is so dangerous for childbirth that its graph line would not fit on this blog page. For every 1,000 births, there are 56 infant deaths. For every 100,000 births, there are 400 maternal deaths. [Chart by L. Neff; data from WHO]

 
Mark Sandlin 6-12-2013
Jesus at church across from the Alfred P Murrah Memorial by tonystl / Flickr.com

Jesus at church across from the Alfred P Murrah Memorial by tonystl / Flickr.com

In response to my last article, “ 10 Things You Can't Do While Following Jesus,” I was accused multiple times of being political. All I was trying to do was follow Jesus. So, I thought it'd be interesting (and generate tons more hate mail) to show what a list would actually look like if I were being political intentionally. Like the first list, this is not a complete list, but it's a pretty good place to start.

There will be those who comment and send me messages berating me for “making Jesus political.” It's OK. Fire away. Jesus didn't worry much about stepping on political toes, and the Bible insists that governments be just toward the least of these (the books of the prophets alone make this point very clear). Frequently, people who are the most vocal about not making Jesus political are the same people who want prayer in school and laws based on their own religious perspectives. By a happy little circumstance that brings us to my list:

Mark Sandlin 6-10-2013
Footsteps in the sand, hpbdesign / Shutterstock.com

Footsteps in the sand, hpbdesign / Shutterstock.com

Lots of people claim to be “following Jesus” and then they do stuff like this. Sure, people who follow Jesus do these things all the time, but you can't say you are doing them because you are trying to follow Jesus' example.

(Clearly, this is not a complete list but it's a good place to start).

10) Exclude people because they practice another religion.

Jesus was constantly including people, and he did it with a radical disregard for their religion. We do not have a single recorded incident of Jesus asking for a person's religious affiliation before being willing to speak with them or break bread with them. We do have several records of Jesus seeking out those who happen to practice faith differently from him. There was even this one time when he used a hated Samaritan as an example of how we are supposed to take care of each other.

LaVonne Neff 5-31-2013
Cover: Catastrophic Care

Cover: Catastrophic Care

This week the company my husband works for unveiled the health-insurance plans available to us beginning July 1. If we chose the plan closest to our current plan, our premium would nearly double and our office visit co-pays would increase 25-50 percent.

I am so glad we are going on Medicare in August.

Medicare isn't perfect by any means. It isn't even cheap. Just the insurance (Medicare medical, Medicare supplement, prescription) is going to cost us more than $500 a month, and that doesn't include the deductible or the prescription co-pays. And that's for this year. Who knows what it will cost 10 years from now?

I was so ready to read a book that would solve America's health-care crisis.

Besides, David Goldhill's title is irresistible: Catastrophic Care: How American Health Care Killed My Father - And How We Can Fix It.

Ed Spivey Jr. 2-11-2013

You should expect some side effects.

QR Blog Editor 1-02-2013

Since Vatican II American Nuns have  worked to fill in the gaps of the American health care system. A new documentary chronicles how these nuns changed the Catholic Church's social justice movement. CNN reports:

"Vatican II was the spark that showed the church isn't just the hierarchy, it's the people," Fishman said. "Sisters from all over the country were inspired to work directly with those that needed their help. These faith-filled people became the most vibrant part of the church who went on to get people excited and passionate about doing God's work and creating real change."

Read more here.

 

 

Jim Wallis 12-06-2012
Image by Tim Teebken / Getty Images

Image by Tim Teebken / Getty Images

The discussion we are having about “the fiscal cliff” is really a debate about our fiscal soul. What kind of nation do we want to be? We do need a path to fiscal sustainability, but will it include all of us — especially the most vulnerable? It’s a foundational moral choice for the country, and one with dramatic domestic and deadly global implications. It is the most important principle for the faith community in this debate.  

I had a recent conversation with an influential senator on these fiscal issues. I said to him, “You and I know the dozen or so senators, from both sides of the aisle, who could sit at your conference table here and find a path to fiscal sustainability, right?” 

“Yes,” he said, “we could likely name the senators who would be able to do that.” I added, “And they could protect the principle and the policies that defend the poor and vulnerable, couldn’t they?” 

“Yes,” he said, “We could do that too.” “But,” I asked, “Wouldn’t then all the special interests come into this room to each protect their own expenditures; and the end result would be poor people being compromised, right?” 

The senator looked us in the eyes and said, “That is exactly what will likely happen.”

It will happen unless we have bipartisan agreement, at least by some on both political sides, to protect the poor and vulnerable in these fiscal decisions — over the next several weeks leading up to Christmas and the New Year, and then for the longer process ahead in 2013. 

But for that to be viable, the arithmetic must work.

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