The truism says one should never discuss politics or religion with strangers. Excellent advice; it eliminates many flashpoints of contention before they have a chance to spark. However, sometimes both must be discussed as they are inexorably woven together. Such is the case with the present healthcare debate. The issue’s spiritual side seldom comes up in discussion. This is unfortunate, as understanding this brings much needed light to the matter.
Mention healthcare and certain images come to mind: doctors, hospitals, medicine, therapy; all working together to delay or at least make easier our transitioning toward the inevitable embrace of humanity’s one hundred percent mortality rate. Correspondingly, few things create more anger at God, however one defines Him including the definition of there being no God, than when we enter the unfortunate fellowship of those who have lost one or more loved ones to the grave. It is natural to curse at the vision of a disembodied and apparently disinterested God who exists in some undefined form as a rather uncaring being, and it is a small step from this to conclude there is nothing and no one out there hearing prayers, let alone answering them. It is another to consider Jesus at Golgotha, stripped, beaten, bloodied and dying an agonizing death by hanging on a cross. We often hear about “sharing in His suffering” and wonder, in the midst of our own suffering, what that is all about. It is no less accurate to remember that Jesus shares in our suffering. He was and is the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief.
We don’t need platitudes when the heartache comes and bitter goodbyes are said. We don’t need pie in the sky by and by when you die lollipop dreams in a cotton candy sky. We need someone who is going to be there no matter what. We need someone who will be there when life drops its hammer blows on us. We need someone who will be there when we are burying a loved one. We need someone who will be there when we don’t know where the next meal is coming from or how we are going to pay the bills. We need someone who will be there when door after door is getting slammed in our faces. We need someone who will be there when we are tired, discouraged, beaten-down and broken. We need someone to love us who will not go away; someone who will assure us that it will work out and not be lying when they say so.
Enter Jesus. Not the Jesus of sterilized paintings; not the Jesus of half-heard and even less accurate truths, legends and myths. No, this is the Jesus that stands beside those with a broken heart; with the crushed spirit. This is the Jesus that knows what they are going through, because He went through it Himself on this earth. This is the Jesus who knows what it is like to bury a parent, who knows what it is like to be forced to live on the fickle charity of others and be looked down upon for it. This is the Jesus who was called every name in the book for hanging out with the wrong crowd. This is the Jesus who lives, not in some vague theoretical form, but lives today and communicates with us today through not only the mystical, impossible to accurately define yet quite real and tangible divine intervention when His spirit moves and speaks to us but also when those who are moved by His spirit, no matter how shaky their faith may be, reach out in love to others. This is the Jesus who, when someone says they cannot believe He ever existed let alone exists today, responds with a sad smile and says, “I get that a lot.” This is the Jesus who, when His followers get the same line, tells them to love the people anyway. It’s how He rolls.
If faith means anything; if the call of Jesus to those who believe in Him to do as He instructed them to do means anything, it will permeate all aspects of life including thoughts on politics and political action. Narrowing this down to healthcare, It will make clear that neither the cynical snark of conservatism blaming the unfortunate for their own situation nor bleeding heart, financially irresponsible liberals demanding that the rich take care of the poor by funneling all their funds through the government works. Neither is a reflection of the words and work of Christ. The government is not God, no matter how desperately it plays the role of societal modifier. Lack of compassion for others, no matter how much one protests they give charitably as an individual, is not reflective of Jesus. Proposing and implementing genuine action is. Nothing else is. Nothing.
Our present healthcare system is greatly flawed, yet it need not be discarded in favor of socialized medicine which is Obamacare’s ultimate goal. There are simple, practical fixes available right now if both sides would lay down their rhetoric and embrace solutions fueled by federalism’s light, federalism being the straightforward premise that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and must be correspondingly obeyed.
The government should work with existing health insurance providers as a reinsurer covering costs for catastrophic and/or long term care that is beyond the insurance providers means. Illusions, delusions and outright fantasies about insurance providers sitting on unlimited wealth they could use to pay for all such situations are, quite simply, totally inaccurate. They could no more cover all such situations than property and casualty insurers could cover all property owners in the event of a cataclysmic natural event, such as the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated parts of Japan a few years back. Such situations require federal assistance. Yes, this means tax dollars being spent on healthcare. I’m thinking we are individually and collectively worth it. Tied into this reinsurance would be a mandate that no health insurance provider may cancel a policy, or turn away a potential policyholder, and still be eligible for reinsurance. The only exception to this would be if a physician, supported by a review board consisting entirely of fellow physicians, determines than an individual’s behavior is the root cause of their medical problems, at which time the physicians alone may determine if the individual is eligible for coverage.
Even as the government should work with existing health insurance providers to cover costs at the high end, so to speak, of payouts it should also work with them at the lower end. How? By providing financial assistance for the sole purpose of enabling insurance companies to offer affordable coverage to individuals who fall below a certain income level. Now, I can hear the grumbling about welfare, etc. Again, I’m thinking we are individually and collectively worth it. Also, there should be a carrot or the stick approach, that being if someone at any income level deliberately refuses to buy healthcare insurance they will bear one hundred percent of any and all costs they incur should they require medical attention. Try to weasel out of the bill? Hello, community service or jail time. I have no trouble with the government playing hardball when people try to soak the system, be it public or private.
Physicians alone should make all health care choices, not health insurance companies and certainly not the government. A network of local overview boards, members consisting entirely of either active or retired physicians, should be available for appeal should a patient believe their primary care physician is not properly tending to their needs by not providing a particular service.
An investigative committee, made up of current and retired physicians, health insurance professionals and medical supply professionals plus pharmaceutical professionals should be commissioned to investigate the entire world, head to toe (no pun intended) of healthcare. This committee will make recommendations to the industry on how it can best reduce the cost of healthcare without compromising existing care or thwarting potential future care possibilities.
None of these ideas require two thousand plus page bills, increased government bureaucracy or further infringement on individual rights and liberties. There are simple, common sense solutions. They treat others the way we ourselves wish to be treated, not with contempt or tyranny but with straightforward, practical compassion and assistance where needed. We all need help. We all go through dark valleys. We could all use a hand. Let’s offer one to one another.
Rather like the Man laying a nail-scarred hand on our shoulder as He says, “Yes, I do know what you’re going through. Let Me help.”