Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Real Problem with Obamacare

President Obama started his presidency with an all out bull rush to create a behemoth piece of legislation called the Affordable Care Act (ACA aka Obamacare). I am not here to debate it's merits or faults as far as policy matters are concerned. You can find mountains of information on both sides anywhere you look these days.

President Trump will seemingly start his presidency in a mad rush to repeal the healthcare law. Again, I am not going to write about the pro's and con's of that endeavor.

I have sadly read Facebook posts made by Christians, friends and strangers, both for and against Obamacare, that make me shudder. To make matters worse both sides fling the "You are not a Christian because..." line around casually as if we weren't brothers and sisters of the same Lord. 

So what do I think is the Real Problem with Obamacare? As Christians we should all be concerned that the ACA is a physical and secular band-aid response to a spiritual crisis. To expound on this I am going to rely on some work done by Christina Merhar in her article, 7 Reasons for Rising Health Care Costs. You can read her article either before or after, just please don't read it in lieu of mine. ☺
I have taken her reasons and tried to explain the spiritual illness that leads to health care cost disaster.

Seven Reasons for Rising Health Care Costs

1. We reward medical providers for doing more, rather than being efficient
Doctors are people too (unlike lawyers, 😂) They get tired, feel the pressure of being busy, and also want to get through their day in a path of least resistance. They are not paid to make you healthy, they are paid to provide you services that make you feel good right now or at least make you think that you will get better. This means prescriptions, advanced testing, follow up visits, etc. All of these things get you out the door in a quick way where they don't need to discuss ways for you to actually live healthier lives. 

Christian solution:
Without singling out doctors, we all could take our jobs more seriously as solemn vocations. We are called by God to treat each moment as sacred and work as divinely appointed instead of an a) drudgery to get through or b) solely a means for financial gain.
Time is wasted, effort is not given, and talent is not fully utilized and none of this is likely to change due to Obamacare. The dignity of work is a spiritual crisis.

2. We're older, sicker, and fatter
Nothing is more of a spiritual crisis than obesity. Sloth and gluttony are two of the deadly sins that we all are constantly in danger of committing in this country. While our wealth and living in excess put our immortal souls in danger, they also put our bodies are at risk. 
The more ghastly issue is that a huge chunk of health care costs are spent in the last month of people's lives. In the case of the elderly, there are often extraordinary measures taken to prolong lives for months, weeks, even days.

Christian solution:
Explaining the virtues of fasting, temperance, and moderation for the obesity and health issues and living out our vocations to the fullest for the end of life issue. The first is simple enough in discussion but needs fortitude and perseverance in practice. The second is much more murky. Simply living virtuous and saintly lives does not automatically make one ready to slip away into a sweet sleep with the Lord. I cannot say what I will feel when my last days are upon me (if I even have the luxury of avoiding a tragic death) but I have witnessed elderly loved ones accepting the embrace of death knowing they lived their lives to the fullest and I hope that I will be able to emulate their bittersweet exit.

The spiritual crisis that is already here and will only get worse is that many people are not living lives filled with purpose and meaning. Add a lack of belief in an afterlife and you will only see a staggering growth in how much people will spend in order to take a few more breaths. Even those who lead spiritually fulfilling lives and prepare themselves for Heaven can feel the real desire to remain with their loved ones. Nothing is wrong with that, but I hope you can see what could happen when everyone lives longer and the refusal to let go becomes greater in an increasingly secular society.

3. New drugs, technologies, and procedures are expensive
This is unavoidable, but factor in how many prescribed treatments are due to a spiritual imbalance which leads to physical or mental issues requiring drugs. The number of people who take mood/sleep/anxiety/hypertension drugs is disconcerting and ever growing.
Christian solution: answer pop psychology with real solutions for mental health through prayer, reflection, and spiritual healing.

4. Employer-sponsored health benefits are tax-free, so most consumers don't pay directly for their health care
I have a coworker who puts money in her son's lunch account for school. She is constantly amazed how he blows through his monthly allotment by purchasing additional snacks or desserts. This type of indiscriminate spending occurs in health care as well. Kids got the sniffles? $25 copay at the doctor. Feeling a little blue? $10 for prozac. Those aren't the real costs, but people don't fully understand how frivolous health care spending boosts premiums.
Christian solution: The concept of solidarity is lost in our society. President Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Bernie Sanders ran on, "Ask not what you can do, but what we can do for you." We do not speak about living for each other or making sacrifice, but we need to. We need to be good stewards of our health care spending just like our wages.

5. We (consumers) don't have enough information to make fully informed decisions about medical care, and it's cost
Virtually everyone has access to more knowledge on the internet than ever before in history, but most people use the internet to superficially socialize or worse. There is something very Christian about learning and reason despite what the atheist prophets proclaim. We just seem to be going along with the flow.
Christian solution: There needs to be more of an attention to scholarship in our community. More reading, less tv. More study, less empty social media. Why do less people know about the faith when more access is there to learn about it?
6. Hospitals and other providers are increasingly gaining market share and are better able to demand higher prices
The Christian solution to this is far down the road. When nuns and brothers ran hospitals fully staffed by religious costs where minuscule. The poor had access to quality and caring service. We allowed society to squeeze out the religious life.  No one speaks of it. I make it a point to tell my kids that the celibate life is still a choice. How many people do?
7. Fear of malpractice lawsuits drives spending
Christian solution: Forgiveness, easy to say hard to practice.

You will hear a lot about Obamacare for some time, but who will truly lead us to a better future in terms of our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Obama didn't and I don't expect Trump to do it either. Let me know if you find someone who really gets it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment