Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Carrying your own load

My contribution to a synchroblog on Christian Perspectives on Health Care:

A bit of history—as I remember it and as I understand it—Australia has a public health system which was introduced many many years ago when I was working as a bank officer. At the time I also had private health insurance. In Australia most private health insurance is through private companies and not through one’s employer. The public health system is funded by a tax levy and when it was first introduced the cost of my private health insurance fell by almost the same amount as the tax increase. However very quickly the cost of my private health insurance was back at the pre tax levy amount. The reason being, we suddenly had a lot more sick people. A free public health system had somehow created a lot more sick people. Why is that? Furthermore anytime the government pours money into the public health system to reduce public hospital waiting lists the same thing happens—more sick people and little reduction in waiting lists. So even with a public health system we still have people in chronic pain from relievable health problems.

I wrote about my feelings about helping people generally in my previous post based on 1 Timothy 5. In regard to health issues, although I agree in principle with a public health system, I think the only people who should be entitled to completely free health services are those under 18 and those over 65. All others need to make some financial contribution, because we have to bear some responsibility for our own physical state, even if we did nothing to cause its downfall. I would consider this part of carrying of our load (Galatians 6:5), which I also mention in my previous post.

It would also help if people stopped expecting the medical profession to have a magic pill for every ill and ailment—not sure how you legislate for that! I also don’t know how you legislate for people to eat better, smoke less, exercise more, look after themselves, and not rely on medical science to repair their bad health choices. Pouring money into a public health system isn’t going to solve these problems.

I have included some links from other synchrobloggers and will add more as they become available.

Susan Barnes at Abooklook (that’s me): Carrying Your Own Load
Phil Wyman at Square No More: Clowns to the Left. Jokers to the Right. Stuck in the Middle of the Health Care Debate
Beth Patterson at Virtual Tea House: Baby Steps Toward More Humane Humanity
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules: A Christian Perspective on Health Care Reform
Kathy Escobar at Carnival in My Head: It's Easy to be Against Health Care Reform When You Have Insurance
K.W. Leslie at The Evening of Kent: Christian's Responsibility to Healthcare
Ellen Haroutunain: Christian Perspectives on Health Care
Steve Hayes at Khanya: Self-evident Truths and Moral Turpitude
Kimber Caldwell at Convergence: Is Health Care a Right?
Lainie Petersen at Headspace: Caring for Human Dignity
Jeff Goins at Pilgrimage of the Heart: A Christian Response to Health Care in America

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Ellen Haroutunian said...

Thanks, Susan. I agree that most adults between 18-65 could and should make a contribution. I am not sure that a viable system needs to be free for that age group - just affordable. Most private insurance in the US is very expensive and out of reach for millions. Then it creates classes - some can afford better insurance than others. But fixing the system doesn't mean it doesn't require some contribution as well.

ealusaidghille said...

Why is it that people against health care reform only talk about the negative and never provide a viable option/alternative?

Susan said...

Thanks Ellen for your thoughts.

Hello Ealusaidghille, do you think that I am against health care? I thought I had made it clear that I wasn't (I agree in principle with a public health system.)

The viable alternative is the church; which I mention in my previous post. I know of a church in Australia that funds a medical clinic. Historically churches have founded hospitals.

I see 1 Timothy 5 as a model of how to help people, including medical help, also Galatians 6:2-5.

Hope this clarifies my point of view.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Hi, Susan--I found your blog through a link at Episcopal Cafe.

Do you really see the church as a viable healthcare provider for ALL people? Here in the United States, the Roman Catholic Church runs a number of hospitals--and women (regardless of their marital status) are not offered contraceptives, rape victims are not offered the "morning after" pill to prevent pregnancy, and women are refused medically necessary abortions (by this, I mean ones in which the mother's life is endangered by the pregnancy).

Maybe you agree that those are fair policy positions--but I don't. I don't want my healthcare determined by the theology of the provider. I want it determined by the best medical/scientific knowledge available. And I want to know ALL my options--not the ones decided for me by the hierarchy of the church. I also don't think my options ought to be constrained because the only provider in town happens to be an RCC hospital.

My husband is an Episcopal priest. I cannot even imagine how our church could run a health clinic. We don't have the space or the capital to do so. And how on earth would we care for the 4 parishioners I can think of at the moment who have cancer? Or the little girl who recently had a tumor removed from her spine?

I agree that people need to have some investment in their care---but that is why we pay taxes. Government can do what no other institution can do--provide care to everyone, without theological litmus tests. I can see that the church can encourage good health--we do offer periodic health fairs and wellness courses--but I simply cannot fathom how we could offer REAL healthcare, not only to our parishioners but to the community at large. I'd be interested in your thoughts on how that would work in practice. It's one thing to say "The church should take care of people"--but how do you see us DOING it? And being fair to those who do not share our religious beliefs?


Susan said...

Hello Wormwood's Doxy,
This is obviously a very "hot" topic in the US. However the internet is world wide. Perhaps I should have made it clear, I am not an American and do not understand how health care works (or doesn't work) in your country, which I must say seems incredibly complicated.

My comments were suppose to be taken more generally not specifically. The church in Australia that funds a medical clinic - only funds it. It operates according to the medical standards of the country. Therefore their theology is not involved in a person's treatment. My point is not that the church should take over running all the medical services but rather the church should be more actively helping. My concern is that churches wash their hands of problems and abdicate all responsibilities to government agencies. The governments of our day are not going to be able to solve all our problems.

Nevertheless as I have said twice already: I agree in principle with a public health system.

However churches do have a role to play. Larger churches may be able to fund some medical services while even small churches can pray and offer pastoral care/support.

I am not offering specific solutions but rather trying to look at the situation through a wider lens.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure that people expect FREE health care in general, even if it is a right. I think insurance companies and doctors simply cost way too much and people can't afford to pay 200, 300 and up for their coverage per month plus deductibles of 2500, 5000 or more. I pay out of pocket and actually save money over using health insurance.

Doxy it is interesting that you kind of say that you don't know how you can care for your poor and needy, even though many others are saying it's up to the churches to do so. That puts us in a position of one side saying the government shouldn't do it and the other saying the churches can't do it -- so what's left?

I went to my church for help once and they directed me to the city food bank and to government agencies. And we're talking about the Roman Catholic Church who basically are rich out of their minds (trust me, I saw the treasures of the vatican exhibit with the gold and jewel encrusted chalices etc.).

Able bodied people with sound minds should be encouraged to contribute but maybe on a sliding scale based on what they earn.

Susan said...

Thanks annoymous for dropping by.

As I said I'm looking at this issue through a wide lens - from an Australian perspective.

Our church also directs people to our local food bank but that's because the church finanically supports the food bank.

I've also been to the Vatican and I know what you mean.

The topic is huge and I was just making a couple of observations based on my own limited experience.