Saturday, May 26, 2012

Engaged Christianity


I recently attended a rousing event sponsored by Faith Leaders in Action. Wendell Potter, a former Senior Vice President of Cigna, spoke to a large and energized crowd about the distortions and outright lies promulgated by the insurance industry to define the debate on health care reform and derail any options that would threaten corporate profits. 

Government takeover, socialized medicine, irresponsible folks refusing to purchase insurance~~these were their phrases, their concepts fed to legislators, journalists and the American public.           
            
The truth is that insurance is often not available or affordable to folks who want it. And those who are insured frequently have exorbitant premiums, deductibles and copays, and face the possibility of losing coverage when hit with a serious accident, illness, or family crisis.
            
While there are many reasons we should be concerned by deficits in our current system, Potter and the pastors who spoke that evening focused on the spiritual mandate given by Christ. One particular teaching wove its way through the event.
           
Mark 2:1~12 tells of believers who brought a friend to be healed. Finding the way blocked by crowds, they hoisted their friend atop the home in which Christ was speaking, cut a hole in the roof, and lowered him down to Jesus. While my husband, always the pragmatic smart aleck, saw in this story pushy folks who cut in line and caused a whole lotta repair work, it can be read as a call to an engaged Christianity, one in which the faithful take purposeful and tireless action to enact Christ’s teachings.
            
Potter’s journey from well~paid insurance propagandist to whistle~blower began at a county fairground in Virginia. Curiosity drew him there to witness a free medical event. That curiosity turned to shock as he saw, not tidy booths offering free blood pressure checks and such, but hundreds of people lined up for hours to receive a full range of medical treatment in tents and animal stalls.
            
“It was like being hit with lightning,” Potter reported in a Bill Moyers interview in 2009. “It was...what country am I in?” Soon after, 17~year~old Nataline Sarkisyan died after Cigna denied her liver transplant, and Potter could no longer ignore his Christian calling.
           
“A new commandment I give unto you,” Christ said in John 13:34, “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Christ’s example calls us to love actively, and to take a stand when we see others harmed. Let us unite with Faith Leaders in Action and Wendell Potter in  reminding everyone that profit has no place in health care.
            
We must also begin telling our own health care stories. Mine includes paying $7200 per year in premiums with a $2000 deductible. That's $9,200 that I need to pay each year before my insurance will pay anything! Seems a bit high, doesn't it? A few years back, my husband's insurance refused to pay their full portion of his emergency heart attack treatment because the treating physician's group was not on their preferred provider list, even though they had no providers within 40 miles who could do the relatively routine stent procedure needed. As expensive as our situation is, however, we are among the lucky ones.

I urge you all to share your own stories~~perhaps beginning by adding a comment to this post~~and to listen with open hearts to the experiences of others. Consider, too, joining with others to press for change in your area.

Blessings on us all!

Loanne Marie

* * * * * * * * * *

Lotsa completely optional links for ya! Here are links to: 

...the Bill Moyer's interview with Potter;

...an NPR story on the Virginia medical event that changed Potter; 

...two sources of information about the success of grassroots efforts to bring universal health care coverage to Vermonters, Vermont for Single Payer and a story from Salon;

...a story on activists in Oregon pressing for universal coverage there;

...Project Health Colorado, an organization working to turn things around in that state;

...PICO, a national organization that works for health care reform;


8 comments:

Rockie said...

Hi Loanne, I am sorry your husband got abused by our 'for profit' healthcare system. Our govt should provide a basic healthcare program to at least treat emergency and acute problems.

In Canada the citizens pay $50 per month for a basic program. Yes, it is socialistic, but someone suffering a heart attack and needing life-saving procedures and medicine are treated. A broken bone needing splinting and/or screws and plating or an infection such as pneumonia needing abx therapy are all attended to quickly and cheaply. Yes, there is a waiting list for more 'elective surgeries' such as hip replacement.

I don't see America providing this service anytime soon so my advice would be for people to feed their bodies correctly and get plenty of physical exercise to stay strong. Don't fall for the greasy french fries, hamburgers, white flour and sugar. POISON! Eat your fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Throw in a glass of carrot/beet juice or apple/carrot juice now and then (I advise every day).

Go to a naturopath if you have chronic probs. If you go to a medical doctor with stomach upset, for instance, he will just throw a pill at you. Medical doctors aren't trained in preventative medicine and don't look at what caused the problem in the first place, which is the Standard American Diet (SAD).

A naturopath will look at your diet, activity levels, stressors in your life, etc, and suggest ways to properly treat this human body. The body is like a big, warm fish tank that stays at about 98 degrees; please watch what you throw into this miraculous ecosystem!

I could go on and on, but basically, yes. We are not taught proper health habits, we don't have access to proper healthcare, it is a sin.

Loanne Marie said...

I love the metaphor of the body as a big, warm fish tank! Such a helpful image and keeping it in mind would help us make wiser choices.

And you accurately raise the point that this issue is so much bigger than just health insurance. But I'm not so sure that things won't or can't change soon. When I hear of Vermont passing universal healthcare legislation for that state and the Oregon initiatives~~who knows? I do know the idea that this is just the way it is plays right into the hands of the profiteers.

And regardless, like with so much else, we can only do what we can do, joining with others. But first, we need to talk about the realities of the current situation, cuz ya can't fix a problem if ya don't know what it is. That's why telling our stories is so important.

Thanks for your comments, Rockie!

Anonymous said...

I was all set for a knee replacement - gave my own blood three times. When what to my wondering surprise, the insurance company denied my surgery because it was not a new diagnosis but an excisting one. I quit that company post haste. I was told to fight it but, who has that kind of money? ! Now I wait a year and perhaps my new insurance will cover it. Christ healed all He could, whenever He could without restrictions. The companies are money hungry and I for one have seen it.

Loanne Marie said...

Your story is, of course, quite common. In fact, this was how my husband had gotten such lousy insurance in the first place, since other insurances denied him for pre-existing conditions.

And while there are certainly problems with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (often called Obamacare) this is one of its successes. As of June 2010, insurance companies could no longer exclude children with pre~existing conditions, and by 2014, they cannot exclude adults for this reason either. Seems only fair to me. If insurance companies fight tooth and nail (and using a whole lotta cash) to keep us away from a single payor system, they oughta have to insure all of us, just as that single payor system would. To only insure young, healthy folks leaves the rest of us uninsured or underinsured, and forces the taxpayers to pay for care indirectly, and very inefficiently as well.

Thanks for writing! Sending limber and pain~free thoughts to that knee of yours.

Anonymous said...

Were it not for Medicare, which I receive as a result of being on disability from a work injury, I would likely be among the tens or hundreds of thousands in this great country who are uninsurable or "underinsured" (in terms of limited coverage and ridiculous premiums). "Obamacare" is not a great solution to the overall healthcare crisis in my opinion but it begins to move us in a positive direction by recognizing the inequality of insurance plans that refuse to insure those with pre-existing conditions. It seems obvious to me that the free-market system that supposedly will "fix" the "problem" with healthcare in many people's eyes is a farce. To suppose for even a moment that those with unequal economic advantage would all have the same shot at buying good insurance is ludicrous. "Profiteering" is at the heart of the insurance industry as Potter came to see. There is a difference between making a fair profit and gutting the American public in many different ways to ensure that executives receive outrageous compensation and bonuses, not to mention the many "non-monetary" perks that come along as well. It is we the taxpayers who foot the bill in the end and it is no secret the ratio of income to taxes paid by the citizens of this country. Following the example of compassion shown by Jesus would go a long way in improving the human condition, especially as it relates to the medical needs of all Americans. I am certainly willing to pay a fair price for insurance coverage, but cannot afford to be "gutted" by giant agencies seeking to minimize their expenses to those they insure in the name of the "free market" .

Loanne Marie said...

Great comment! I think you hit the nail~~or many nails!~~right on the head. You are right, there is a difference between "a fair profit" and "gutting the American public"! If the free market worked in this arena, why is it, well, not working? And its current level of "not working" is WITH the government doing its best to fill in the gaps through Medicare, Medicaid and financial support to hospitals. Something is very definitely broken here, and getting even broken~er as I type these words.

Thank you for reading and for sharing your story and your opinion!

Anonymous said...

Loanne:
The US provides a military presence in many countries in the world and this is quite expensive. Those serving and their families in addition to retired military, spouses and children are provided insurance coverage. Are countries in the world who provide socialized medicine also affording large military presence in the world? If any one can comment, it would be appreciated.

Loanne Marie said...

If I'm understanding you correctly, you're suggesting that the expense of our military presence around the globe means that we don't have the resources to provide healthcare to our citizens. I think there are many choices we make about the allocation of resources, and there are also other choices we make about where those resources come from. How we tax and how we spend are complex issues and ones that I think we all need to talk about in a substantive way, which unfortunately is not happening very often, on the national or the personal level. I believe that it is possible to make healthcare available to all of us. Where there's a will...

I also wish it were true that our veterans are afforded appropriate healthcare. One of the travesties of the whole system is that so many go without effective care, as the VA continues to be grossly underfunded.

You asked that others respond. Hopefully some folks will, but as this post is over two months old, that might not happen. How'd you find it after all this time?!! Regardless of your answer, thank you so much for reading and for commenting!

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Blessings!

Leia Marie