August 12, 2009

Heal the Sick

I've been on vacation the last week, which partially explains why I haven't written here lately. I was in the American heartland, in an area where the majority of people seem to think our president is a Muslim terrorist. Despite that prevailing worldview, I enjoyed my vacation, but there was an unspoken agreement between me and those I'd gone to visit: We would not broach the subject of politics. In the past, doing so had only lead to rancour between us.

Yet, I suppose the temptation was too great and the topic did come up once when I was asked if I was still glad that I'd voted for President Obama. My answer lead to two follow-up questions, both of which were asked with utmost incredulity:
  • Even with respect to cap and trade?
  • Even with respect to healthcare?
There was a lot I could have said about both topics, but I didn't. I knew a response would lead to no good and I'd promised myself that I wouldn't be goaded into any arguments. So I walked away.

But my inquisitors don't read my blog--just like I don't read their emails speculating about where the president might really have been born--so let me offer a couple of observations. Regarding the first follow-up question, as I've mentioned elsewhere in this blog, though I don't believe the Bible to be the final arbiter on the subject, I can highly recommend its commandment to replenish the earth. While the history of civilization suggests we're more inclined to rape and pillage the world we live in, the least we can do is to put limits on our actions and minimize their effects. Apparently, however, there are a great number of people in the world who don't believe global warming is caused by our rampant consumption of natural resources.

If anything, I'm even more emotional about the second follow-up question--so emotional, in fact, that I'm willing to offer this bitter pill and risk offending others: Anyone who is working to derail our chance at making healthcare available to all, cannot in good conscience call him or herself Christian. I base this assertion on the following claim Jesus made:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

Isn't it clear that Christ would have us minister to all the sick? But even if I didn't believe in His gospel, I would still be an ardent supporter of any reasoned attempt to make heathcare available to all. Why? Because: 1) I have empathy for people and 2) I know that despite the best of intentions and plans, human beings--through no fault of their own--occasionally find themselves in the most precarious of circumstances. Here is how it can happen.
  • Despite the messages of their schmaltzy commercials, the objective of most insurers is to make money, not to help people. They will rescind policies any time it makes economic sense to do so. The possibility of losing public trust is all that stands in the way of capricious behavior on the part of insurers. When they get in trouble, policy rescission becomes an integral part of their business strategies. And it happens at the worst possible time--when a health condition has been diagnosed and the policy is most needed.
  • Insurers occasionally go bankrupt, in which case policyholders with pre-existing conditions are left with few--if any--options.
  • For young people just starting out, health insurance premiums can be prohibitively expensive. My son, Matthew, can't get his wife covered by his graduate school's insurance policy due to university budget cuts. The cost of private insurance is over half his take-home pay.
  • Coverage can change or be eliminated with a boardroom decision made by an insurer or a group policy sponsor. If you're diabetic (or suffer from any range of chronic ailments) and you lose coverage, where do you go today for healthcare?
  • And at this time in which an unprecedented number of people are unemployed, how can anyone say they're safe from a loss of coverage? Of course, there is COBRA, but in the event that coverage was curtailed due to job loss, who can afford to pay COBRA premiums (not to mention mortgage payments) without a job?
  • During any temporary loss of insurance, the development of pre-existing conditions can limit people's insurance options and even render them uninsurable. Chances are by the time a typical child becomes an adult, he or she has undergone a surgical procedure or drug regimen that can be indicative of a pre-existing condition. Someone I care about dearly was recently denied coverage because of a drug regimen prescribed to her that might have indicated the occurence of OCD.

At the very least, we should be engaged in a thoughtful conversation about healthcare and avoid screaming epithets and clever sound bites at each other. Before derailing the effort, let's put a face to the problem and think of what we might do if one of our own children were sick and uninsured. But as a final word, I'm going to repeat my earlier assertion: Anyone who is working against the effort to bring healthcare to the least of these, cannot in my mind be called a Christian.


Joe Huster said...


I agree with you about health care reform, but it was your comments about political discussion, or the impossibility of having such discussions, that interested me.

Perhaps the best hope for meaningful discussion between people who disagree is written discussion. Written discussion requires careful formulation of thoughts and arguments, and exposes the lack thereof - even to the write himself. Verbal discussions go off the rails to easily - such as when you friend asked you "Even with Cap and Trade? Even with Health care." Those are provactive, assumption layden statements. But they are much easier to respond to in writing - where you can calmly ask, "what was your objection to Cap-and Trade?" and force them to resort to BS or make a persuasive argument.

Invite your friends/relatives to an email discussion.

CaKaC said...

Respectfully, to Joe Huster: I think I must have just returned from the same vacation as Alan.

Written discussions with the people/family members who do not agree with your politics could be damaging to those emotional family ties. E-mails can be misinterpreted and then imagine the fury the next time he visits. I, personally, upset someone on my last night home when I asked if we could just stop the political discussion for one night. Half of my family does and the other half doesn't. Half of the family sits enraptured while the other half rolls their eyes. Even if you think they have resorted to BS , they think that they are finally showing you the light!


Anonymous said...

Right on, Alan! But you're in the minority, aren't you? Given that, maybe you're not a Christian.

Eh? Well, someone might just define you out.

Adding to your observation about written discussion, I've often thought about learning along the lines you've observed having enjoyed in the 90s on one of the early vibrant internet communities the following observation:

Learning first happens experientially. At a higher emergent level, tacit learning, we learn sufficiently to recognize something when we encounter it, but not sufficiently to give it words. At yet a higher level, explicit learning, which itself involves creativity and emergence, we are able to give an expression words. At yet a higher level, sapient learning (involving wisdom) is learning emergence that integrates with the whole.

This learning model resonates with me, as does your observation about the potential value of writing, which involves explicit learning. Here's to the promise of homo sapiens -- and sapient learning.

"To learn is to create." At de Lange