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Church, Not State: The Christian Approach to Health Care

Posted by Tony Listi on December 1, 2009

St. Luke, the physician

Christians cannot and should not try to separate their religious beliefs from their political beliefs. Faith must inform our morals, and morality must inform our politics. So what does the Christian faith have to say about health care? Quite a bit actually.

Christianity is fully embodied in Catholicism, and Catholicism uniquely reveres, embraces, and is founded upon the authoritative traditions of the early Church. So the answer to “What does the Christian faith have to say about health care” is another question: how did the early Church traditionally approach health care? (Scripturally, some important information on early Christian charitable work in general can be found in the Book of Acts and some of St. Paul’s letters but very little specific to health care aside from miraculous healings and the institution of the Sacrament of the Sick through the letter of St. James, 5:14-15.)

The history of institutionalized health care is so intimately intertwined with the history of Christianity, especially Catholic Christianity, that it is no exaggeration to say that the latter gave rise to the former.

But for the purposes of the current American health care debate, two main questions stand out: Did the early Church relinquish all responsibility for care of the sick to the state (the Roman Empire)? Did it demand the state tax the rich heavily to pay for health care for everyone?

On both counts, no, it didn’t. And it is so frustrating that the leadership of Christian churches, but especially that of the Catholic Church, as well as many lay Christians have ignored the history of the Church with regard to this issue.

Even before the persecution of Christianity stopped, the early Church assumed full responsibility for the sick (including their pagan persecutors) and financed their hospitals through private charity.

According to a Christianity Today article, reviewing the book Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity:

As early as A.D. 251, according to letters from the time, the church in Rome cared for 1,500 widows and those who were distressed. A hundred years later, Antioch supported 3,000 widows, virgins, sick, poor, and travelers. This care was organized by the church and delivered through deacons and volunteer societies…. When the plague of Cyprian struck in 250 and lasted for years, this volunteer corps became the only organization in Roman cities that cared for the dying and buried the dead. Ironically, as the church dramatically increased its care, the Roman government began persecuting the church more heavily.

Outside their close family and perhaps friends, most pagans cared nothing for their fellow human beings, whom they did not consider to be brothers made in the image and likeness of God, as Christians did. We should expect nothing less with health care under the neo-pagan political left in America today. Ideas have consequences; indeed they have already occurred in de-Christianized Europe. Just as the pagans before them, leftists are willing and even eager to kill the weakest among us, i.e. the unborn (or even born) child, the elderly, and the mentally or physically disabled.

According to sociologist Alvin J. Schmidt in How Christianity Changed the World:

Charity hospitals for the poor and indigent public did not exist until Christianity introduced them…. [T]he first ecumenical council of the Christian church at Nicaea in 325 directed bishops to establish a hospice in every city that had a cathedral…. The first hospital was built by St. Basil in Caesarea in Cappadocia about A.D. 369…. After St. Basil’s hospital was built in the East and another in Edessa in 375, Fabiola, a wealthy widow and an associate of St. Jerome, built the first hospital in the West, a nosocomium, in the city of Rome in about 390. According to Jerome, Fabiola donated all of her wealth (which was considerable) to construct this hospital, to which she brought the sick from off the streets in Rome….

The building of hospitals continued. St. Chrysostom (d. 407), the patriarch of the Eastern church, had hospitals built in Constantinople in the late fourth and early fifth centuries, and St. Augustine (354-430), bishop of Hippo in northern Africa, was instrumental in adding hospitals in the West. By the sixth century, hospitals also had become a common part of monasteries. Hence, by the middle of the sixth century in most of Christendom, in the East and the West, ‘hospitals were securely established.’ Also in the sixth century, hospitals received an additional boost when the Council of Orleans (France) passed canons assuring their protection, and in the last quarter of the same century, Pope Gregory the Great did much to advance the importance of hospitals….

By 750 the growth of Christian hospitals, either as separate units or attached to monasteries, had spread from Continental Europe to England…. And by the mid-1500s there were 37,000 Benedictine monasteries that cared for the sick….

The Crusaders also founded healthcare orders, providing health care to all, Christian and Muslim alike. The Order of Hospitallers recruited women for nursing the sick. The Hospitallers of St. Lazarus, founded in the East in the twelfth century, devoted themselves primarily to nursing. This order spread to Europe, where it founded many more hospitals and treated people with various diseases. The Knights of the Order of Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem (Knights of Malta) not only operated and maintained hospitals, but also admitted the insane. They founded a Christian insane asylum in 1409 in Valencia, Spain.

According to historian Gary Ferngren in Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity:

The experience gained by the congregation-centered care of the sick over several centuries gave early Christians the ability to create rapidly in the late fourth century a network of efficiently functioning institutions that offered charitable medical care, first in monastic infirmaries and later in the hospital.

The Protestant Revolution, the Endarkenment, the French Revolution, and its intellectual descendants have brought abrupt and sometimes violent disruptions, if not a complete end, to this vast charitable network in many places. Yes, “evil” religion and “papism” had to be smashed and replaced by the “humanitarian” Animal Farm of the Leviathan state. Ha, how “compassionate.” But I digress….

Now, am I suggesting that the U.S. return to the exact health care system of the early Church? Of course not! This straw man entirely misses the point that I’m trying to communicate here. I’m not suggesting a structure and system in itself but rather an approach and a set of principles that need to be incorporated into the American health care system. And the Christian churches, esp. the Catholic Church, need to recommit themselves to their obligation to care for the indigent sick and need to take an active role in articulating and promoting these Christian principles to everyone.

What are those principles?

  1. Generally and most importantly, care for the physical needs of human beings do NOT override Christian moral imperatives not to steal and commit violence, even from and against the rich. Spiritual needs override any physical needs.
  2. The health of the poor in one’s local community must be a pressing concern of all Christians.
  3. Care for the sick is an essential duty of local churches that should not be relinquished to the nation-state.
  4. In general, care for the sick is not to be financed by state-coerced wealth redistribution but by the patients themselves or charity.
  5. However, to whom much is given, much is expected. The rich are morally obligated to voluntarily direct their wealth to the health care of the poor, starting in their local communities.
  6. If the state is to assist in financing health care in any way (which I doubt is necessary), it should be done as locally as possible, according to the Catholic moral principle of subsidiarity.

Medicine today is vastly more accurate, comprehensive, sophisticated, technological, and effective. That also means that, aside from higher costs caused by government interference in the industry,  health care is naturally more expensive now because it is so much more valuable than it was centuries ago. But none of these facts change or undermine the Christian principles I’ve laid out above. Politics itself has shown that more than enough money can be raised through a well-organized solicitation of voluntary donations.

The fact that modern medicine can treat so many maladies naturally and psychologically creates more pressure to assure every sick person receives treatment. But again, that pressure should not tempt us to stifle charity through state-enforced plunder. That pressure belongs on us as individuals, esp.  the rich, who must care for modern-day Lazarus or face an eternal punishment.

It is an inverse relationship and a zero sum game between government control and Christian charity. The former stifles the latter. Even if socialized medicine did work better (it never does), it would do no good for us to gain all the bodily health in the world yet become mortally and spiritually sick in the process.

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Posted in Catholicism, Christianity and Politics, Church History, Government and Politics, Health Care, Moral Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology, Science and Religion, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

The Tragic Triumph of the Welfare State over the Church

Posted by Tony Listi on December 29, 2008

church1By Will Herberg

ALONG with this overwhelming impact of the technological spirit on our culture, and therefore on our religion, we must take account of the effects of the Welfare State, of our Welfare Society, on religious attitudes in this country. Through the past century, the welfare services that ordinarily support human life in society have more and more passed over to the modern State, operating as a huge, centralized, bureaucratic, omnicompetent welfare agency. This has come as the culmination of the relentless secularization of life in the past four hundred years. In earlier days, through antiquity and the middle ages, into the sixteenth century, most of the welfare services that sustain life—taking care of orphans, jobless, old people, sick and incapacitated —were regularly rendered by family and friends within the scope and function of the Church, which was thus bound to the people by a thou- sand threads of everyday welfare interest. For the Amish people, this is still a reality today. In April 1965, wind and flood did wide damage in the midwest and destroyed many an Amish community. Groups of Amish people from the outside came to help their brothers rebuild their communities and their lives. On a TV news broadcast, a commentator noted: These days, when people are in trouble, there is one direction in which they look—to the federal government in Washington. But the Amish people don’t look to the federal government in Washington for help. They look to each other in their church.

That’s how it still is with the Amish people, but that’s how it was once all over in Christendom. I bring this forward not to encourage us to try to restore conditions long gone—that is a human impossibility—but to illustrate the profound changes that have taken place in recent centuries in our relation to religion and the Church.

With the deep and thoroughgoing secularization of Western society, the hopes and expectations of the masses of people have steadily been turning from Church to State, from religion to politics. This is a fact that no one, whatever his opinion or ideology, can deny, or has, in fact, denied. Consider how far this has gone in our own mass society, and our American society is only beginning to take its first steps in the direction of the Welfare State ; if you want to see a Welfare State in its full development, look at Sweden. But already in our own society people have been so stripped of their human bonds in Church and community that they are driven to look to the State for the most ordinary human associations and services. The State has not only become Big Father and Big Brother. It is actually brought to the point of having to supply to the forlorn members of the “lonely crowd” a State-appointed Good Friend. For, what is the modern social worker but a State- appointed Good Friend to the friendless denizens of mass society?

The modern State, in fact, becomes a divinized Welfare-Bringer. In the ancient world, the Hellenistic monarchs, and later the Roman emperors, prided themselves on being Welfare-Bringers (Euergetes, Benefactor), passing on the gifts of the gods to their subjects. They depicted themselves on their coins—the primary vehicle of State propaganda in those days which were without journalistic mass media, radio, or TV—as divinized figures holding a cornucopia, a horn of plenty, from which everything good is shown flowing to the grateful people. This is the modern Welfare State ; even some of the ancient symbols are being revived in cartoons and pictures. The omnicompetent Welfare State thus becomes the modern substitute for God and the Church, “from whom all blessings flow.”

Seen in this perspective, it is not difficult to understand why the Church as a religious institution has become more and more marginal in the everyday life of the people. The broad scope of its interests has become drastically narrowed by the galloping secularization of life. What does the Church do, what can it do, when the State takes over everything and comes to engage our deepest loyalties and emotions? Our religious feelings and religious interests have been more and more diverted from the attenuating Church to the expanding State. Is it any wonder that people are losing their interest in religion? They identify themselves religiously, belong to churches, and attend religious services, but for very different reasons (I have discussed this elsewhere) than once bound them to religion and the Church.

http://www.mmisi.org/ir/06_01_02/herberg.pdf

Posted in American Culture, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Health Care, Intellectual History, Liberalism, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Poverty, Social Security, Socialism, Welfare State | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

High Healthcare Insurance Costs Caused by Government

Posted by Tony Listi on January 12, 2008

http://www.heritage.org/Press/Commentary/ed111705a.cfm

http://www.fee.org/publications/the-freeman/article.asp?aid=1679

http://www.businessweek.com/debateroom/archives/2007/06/universal_healt.html

http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/12/are_health_care_costs_too_high.html

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/gratzer200310060938.asp

By Michael J. New

It’s a problem that vexes policymakers in both parties: reducing the large number of Americans who lack health insurance. At any given time, the Census Bureau estimates, about 15 percent of the total population lacks health coverage.

Many argue for greater government intervention in health care. How ironic, since government policy, particularly excessive regulatory intervention, prices many Americans out of coverage and thus contributes to the high numbers of uninsured.

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British Patients Face Humiliating Treatment

Posted by Tony Listi on December 5, 2007

So, who still wants universal health care? 

—- 

By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor
12/05/2007

Hospitals are still failing to treat people with dignity and respect as complaints reveal patients left unwashed, in soiled bedding and in humiliating open-backed gowns, the Healthcare Commission has said.

A third of complaints about the NHS relate to dignity, respect and nutrition in hospitals, the commission’s 2007 “state of healthcare” report found.

Mixed-sex wards are still a major problem, despite Labour’s manifesto pledges in 1997 and 2001 to abolish them.

advertisementThe report also said that one in five patients who wanted help with eating did not get it, and others complained that food or drink was placed out of reach.

Examples of complaints over dignity included a lack of regular baths or showers, gowns that failed to protect patients’ modesty and curtains being opened while a patient is receiving intimate care.

The 136-page report also called for improvements in care for children, action on hospital superbugs, better service planning and promotion of patient safety.

The report said one in 10 hospitals in England did not meet standards on patient privacy and confidentiality.

Half of patients in mental health wards and almost three in five with learning disabilities were treated in mixed-sex accommodation.

A third of patients admitted to hospital as an emergency were sleeping in mixed-sex areas and 30 per cent of in-patients had to share bathroom or shower areas with the opposite sex.

Patients were also frustrated that staff often did not have access to their notes, meaning they had to describe their condition repeatedly to different doctors.

A fifth of patients had been assaulted on mental health wards. There was variation in treatment for cancer patients and hidden waiting times in areas that are not subject to targets, such as two-year waits for psychological therapies and hearing aids.

Opposition MPs said the report provided a “damning indictment” of the NHS after more than a decade of Labour government, which has seen huge increases in investment.

Funding has increased from £55 billion in 2002-3 to almost £90 billion in 2007-8, and the workforce has increased by 29 per cent.

The commission warned private hospitals failing on standards that they could be banned from providing care in the future.

Eleven NHS hospitals were named as performing badly in patient satisfaction surveys for the second year.

The report, presented to Parliament, made recommendations to improve waiting times in areas not covered by targets, promote a culture of safety, raise standards of care for children and inform patients better.

Sir Ian Kennedy, the chairman of the commission, said: “Let’s be clear that health care has improved. But there is still some way to go before everyone gets world-class care.

“People are getting healthier, but there is serious disparity in both general health and in the care available to the haves and the have-nots.”

The Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “As an NHS report card, the conclusion is could and must do a lot better. It is a damning indictment that 10 years into a Labour government, health inequalities are still shockingly wide.”

The Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, said: “We welcome this report and its recognition of continued ‘dramatic’ improvement. It shows that our health service is performing well for patients, who are waiting less time, getting faster diagnosis and better treatment.”

The hospitals rated worst by patients

Trust 2006 2007
The Hillingdon Hospital NHS Trust Below average Below average
The Lewisham Hospital NHS Trust Below average Below average
West Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust Below average Below average
Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS Trust Below average Below average
Queen Elizabeth Hospital Trust Below average Below average
Luton & Dunstable Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Below average Below average
Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust Below average Below average
Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust Poor Below average
Queen Mary‘s Sidcup NHS Trust Poor Below average
Ealing Hospital NHS Trust Poor Poor
North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust Poor Poor
Newham University Hospital NHS Trust Poor Poor

Posted in Government and Politics, Health Care | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

English ‘pull own teeth’ as dental service decays

Posted by Tony Listi on October 16, 2007

LOL. The jokes all makes sense now! This is why the British have such bad teeth! Behold the absurdity of socialism! How many examples do liberals need before they finally see the truth that socialism makes problems worse? When will they finally realize that their good intentions are no substitute for free market-oriented policies?

Interesting how the article does not care to speculate on the cause of the scarcity of government dentists. The cause is simple economics: the government does not pay dentists as well as the free market or offer them flexibility (regulations, work load, etc.). So they stop taking government patients.

Beware America, health care under the Democrats (Hillary) will be like dental care under the British. See also https://conservativecolloquium.wordpress.com/2007/10/02/uks-national-socialized-health-care-spends-more-gets-less/ 

LONDON (AFP) – Falling numbers of state dentists in England has led to some people taking extreme measures, including extracting their own teeth, according to a new study released Monday.

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Is There a Trial Lawyer in the House?

Posted by Tony Listi on October 9, 2007

http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=22484 

By Ann Coulter

9/19/2007 

The only “crisis” in health care in this country is that doctors are paid too little. (Also they’ve come up with nothing to help that poor Dennis Kucinich.)

But the Democratic Party treats doctors like they’re Klan members. They wail about how much doctors are paid and celebrate the trial lawyers who do absolutely nothing to make society better, but swoop in and steal from the most valuable members of society.

Maybe doctors could get the Democrats to like them if they started suing their patients.

It’s only a matter of time before the best and brightest students forget about medical school and go to law school instead. How long can a society based on suing the productive last?

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Posted in Government and Politics, Health Care | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

UK’s National Socialized Health Care Spends More, Gets Less

Posted by Tony Listi on October 2, 2007

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=15083 

Britain’s National Health Service remains a “mediocre” provider of health care, performing worse than almost all of its peers in Western Europe, according to a survey by Health Consumer Powerhouse.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Government and Politics, Health Care | 1 Comment »

The Facts on the Uninsured in America

Posted by Tony Listi on September 28, 2007

http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba/ba595/

Despite claims that there is a health insurance crisis in the United States, the proportion of Americans without health coverage has changed little in the past decade. The increase in the number of uninsured is largely due to immigration and population growth – and to individual choice.

How Big Is the Problem? In 2006, according to Census Bureau data:
• More than 84 percent (250.4 million) of U.S. residents were privately insured or enrolled in a government health program, such as Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Programs (S-CHIP).
• Up to 14 million uninsured adults and children qualified for government programs in 2004 but had not enrolled, according to the BlueCross BlueShield Association.
• Nearly 18 million of the uninsured live in households with annual incomes above $50,000 and could likely afford health insurance.

In theory, therefore, about 32 million people, or 68 percent of the uninsured, could easily obtain coverage but have chosen to forgo insurance. That means that about 94 percent of United States residents either have health coverage or access to it. The remaining 6 percent live in households that earn less than $50,000 annually. This group does not qualify for Medicaid and (arguably) earns too little to easily afford expensive family plans costing more than $12,000 per year. However, they could afford the limited benefit plans that are gaining in popularity (see below).

How Serious Is the Problem? According to the Census Bureau, the proportion of people without health insurance was slightly lower in 2006 (15.8 percent) than a decade earlier (16.2 percent in 1997). During the past 10 years the number of people with health coverage rose nearly 25 million, while the number without health coverage only increased about 3.5 million. Both increases are largely due to population growth. Typically, those who lack insurance are uninsured for only a short period of time. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 21 million to 31 million people had been uninsured for a year or more in 2002 – far short of the 47 million figure cited by proponents of universal health care. Of all the people who are uninsured today, less than half will still be uninsured 12 months from now.

Who Are the Uninsured? It is often assumed that the uninsured are all low-income families. But among households earning less than $25,000, the number of uninsured actually fell by about 24 percent over the past 10 years. [See the figure.] The uninsured include diverse groups, each uninsured for a different reason:

Immigrants. About 12.6 million foreign-born residents lack health coverage -accounting for 27 percent of the uninsured. In 2006, 83.6 percent of naturalized citizens had coverage – close to the rate of native-born residents (87.8 percent). In contrast, 45 percent of foreign-born noncitizen residents were uninsured. These 10 million uninsured immigrants were more than 20 percent of the total number of uninsured U.S. residents. Income may be a factor – but not the only one. A partial explanation for this disparity is that many immigrants come from cultures without a strong history of paying premiums for private health insurance. In addition, immigrants do not qualify for public coverage until they have been legal residents for more than five years.

The Young and Healthy. About 19 million 18-to-34-year olds are uninsured. Most of them are healthy and know they can pay incidental expenses out of pocket. Using hard-earned dollars to pay for health care they don’t expect to need is a low priority for them.

Higher-Income Workers. As the figure shows, the fastest-growing segment of the uninsured population over the past 10 years has been middle- and upper-income families. From 1997 to 2006, the number of uninsured among households earning more than $50,000 annually actually increased by more than seven million. The ranks of the uninsured in households earning $50,000 to $75,000 increased 49 percent, while the number of uninsured households earning above $75,000 increased 90 percent.

Why the Poor Are Uninsured: The “Free Care” Alternative. Many people do not enroll in government health insurance programs because they know that free health care is available once they get sick. Federal law forbids hospital emergency rooms from turning away critical care patients regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay. Estimates of spending on free care range from $1,049 to $1,548 for each individual who is uninsured for an entire year. This does not include the more than $300 billion the federal and state governments spend annually on such “free” public health insurance as Medicaid and S-CHIP. Furthermore, there is little incentive to enroll in public programs because families can always sign up when the need arises.

Why the Nonpoor Are Uninsured: State Mandates . Government policies that drive up the cost of private health insurance may partly explain why millions of people forgo coverage. Many states try to make it easy for a person to obtain insurance after becoming sick by requiring insurance companies to offer immediate coverage for pre-existing conditions with no waiting period. Thus, when people are healthy they have little incentive to participate and tend to avoid paying for coverage until they need care.
Some states also impose “community rating,” which forces insurers to charge the same premium to all, no matter how sick or healthy they are when they purchase insurance. This mandate drives up the cost of insurance for the healthy. Because their premiums are far higher than their anticipated medical needs, healthy people are often priced out of the market.

How to Reduce the Number of Uninsured: Limited Benefit Plans. Some of the uninsured would purchase insurance if policies were more to their liking. The state of Tennessee recently conducted focus groups with blue-collar workers and discovered that what people want is very different from what health policy experts think they should have. For example, there was very little interest in insurance for catastrophic events. Instead, people wanted insurance benefits that pay for primary care visits or prescription drugs. Limited benefit plans designed to meet these patients’ demands are the cornerstone of TennCare, the state program to cover low-income families in Tennessee . And these types of plans are gaining in popularity. Insurers say more than a million people already have limited health plans. Employers also are establishing their own plans, especially for part-time workers.

How to Increase the Number of Uninsured: Mandatory Insurance. If millions of people have access to coverage but choose not to enroll, should they be forced to? The logic is simple: If people won’t buy health insurance voluntarily, pass a law mandating that they buy it anyway. This is a requirement of the Massachusetts health reform law and many of the other universal coverage proposals. This is also how auto insurance works in 47 states. The problem is: It doesn’t work! Recent research by Greg Scandlen, published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, found that the rate of uninsured motorists is very similar to the proportion of people lacking health insurance.

Conclusion . Despite claims that the United States is experiencing a health insurance crisis, the proportion of people without insurance coverage has changed little in recent years. Even so, much can be done to reduce the number of uninsured. This could include deregulating insurance markets to allow affordable plans that are attractive to the young and healthy. It could also include subsidizing the purchase of private insurance using the free-care money taxpayers are already providing. Finally, the use of limited benefit plans could be expanded to make insurance coverage more affordable to low-income families.

Devon Herrick is a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Posted in Government and Politics, Health Care | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »