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Posts Tagged ‘healthcare’

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 »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Economics, Government and Politics, Health Care | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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 »