“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 Evangelical left, once a substantial contingent of American life, is now seemingly small and powerless compared to its rightwing counterpart.”
Nadia Bolz-Weber, everyone’s favorite tattoo-sporting, grace-spouting priest, is back with a new book, Accidental Saints.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
LALIBELA, Ethiopia -- You know the images you have in your mind of Ethiopia from 27 years ago? The ones from the nightly news reports on TV about the famine in the Horn of Africa as the death toll mounted and horror stories grew more unfathomable by the day.
Scorched, cracked earth. The carcasses of ematiated, dead cattle lying in the baking sun. Hundreds of thousands of stick-thin refugees wandering in the dust, hoping to have enogh strength to make it to a camp that might have water and food. The babies and children with orange hair and distended stomachs -- indications that they were in the advanced stages of malnutrition and starvation.
I am happy to report that the Ethiopia of 2012 is not the Ethiopia of 1985.
Thanks to global efforts (Live Aid, etc., back in the day), foreign aid, and the very real efforts of the Ethiopian government and people themselves, the land I saw earlier this month looks nothing like those old images in my mind. In fact, parts of the country that we traveled through were so verdent and lush -- farmlands rolling out in various shades of green like a St. Patrick's Day quilt -- that if you'd blindfolded me when I got on the plane and taken the blind of when I stepped of the bus in the rural area outside Bahir Dar near the Sudanese border, I might have thought I was in Ireland's County Kerry rather than Ethiopia's Amhara Region.
Ethiopia is beautiful. In every way. It's people. It's resilience. It's ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit. In the way it cares for its land and its people, and the way they care for each other and their visitors. There is a spirit in Ethiopia I've experienced only rarely elsewhere. In a word I'd call it HOPE. But it's a hope not based on daydreams and fairytales. It's a hope based in hard work, smart planning, and forward thinking.
House for All Sinners and Saints, the congregation I serve as Pastor, is a pretty progressive bunch of folks. The culture of the congregation skews liberal – so when a thing like the SCOTUS ruling that the Affordable Care Act was indeed constitutional happens, my Facebook newsfeed lights up with one celebration after the other. Based only on my Facebook newsfeed last Thursday one could easily surmise that all of America was elated about the decision. Except that’s not reality. Reality is that the decision divided America once again and the sides divided turned on each other in vicious and sometimes alarming ways.
CBS reported yesterday:
Illinois hospitals would be required to provide free surgeries and other inpatient care to many uninsured poor people under a bill the Legislature passed Tuesday, a mandate already on the books in eight other states.
Our health care system is not arbitrary. It does not operate by a set of principles that are beyond comprehension. We govern it. We participate in its capitalistic maneuvering and its political favoring. My family has health insurance in part because we have been given advantages due to racial identity, family networking, and being part of the 1 percent. All of these things have worked specifically in my favor to save the life of my dear mother. None of this is fair.
When I praise God for my mother’s enduring health, it is impossible not to think of how many others have indirectly contributed to this success. And to wonder if we have also indirectly contributed to their failures.
Maybe the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and maybe it's not. If it turns out to be constitutional, maybe it's good legislation and maybe it's not. In any case, it's looking increasingly likely that the Supreme Court, come June, will strike down at least the requirement that everyone buy health insurance. And if the mandate goes, two other requirements will most likely go with it: Once again insurers will be able to reject or refuse to renew applicants. And once again Americans with pre-existing conditions will be uninsurable.
Let me tell you four short stories about friends of mine. These are true stories, not hypothetical examples. I have changed nothing but the names of the people involved. I am not arguing on behalf of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. I'm just saying that all of these people had serious problems before it was passed, and some of them are doing much better now because of it.
People lined the steps of the Supreme Court once again today, asking for their voices to be heard on the ongoing healthcare debate. Justices on Monday began their three-day review of President Barack Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act, which would require U.S. citizens to purchase health insurance or face a penalty.
Thousands gathered starting on Friday for a ticket inside for oral arguments and to stand outside the court in protest, both for and against the plan.
On Monday the Dow Jones industrial average fell 634.76 points; the sixth-worst point decline for the Dow in the last 112 years and the worst drop since December 2008. Every stock in the Standard and Poor's 500 index declined.
It is easy to blame bipartisan bickering for the impasse that led to Standard and Poor's downgrading of the American debt, and in turn the vertiginous fall of the Dow. This bickering -- this substitution of ideology for reason, of egotism for compassion and responsibility on the part of lawmakers -- is a national disgrace; but while it failed to fix the problem, we must realize that it did not cause it. The cause -- and potential for a significant renewal -- lies much deeper.
So let's allow ourselves to ask a fundamental question: what's an economy for?