STAT

slow? or STAT?
slow? or STAT?

I just finished doing my favorite new lunch break activity– shutting the office door and watching the previous night’s Rachel Maddow Show via iTunes, and after wanting to write about health care for a while now, I finally know what I want to write about.

Rachel showed clips of several Republican leaders clearly using what has been an agreed-upon talking point.  Each expressed concern that Democrats are trying to “rush” health care reform, and what we really need to do is slow down.  Quotes taken from the transcript:

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: This is too important to be rushed. We need to take our time and do it right.

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: It is urgent and it is indisputable, but the problem I have with it is the rush that is underway here.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This doesn’t take effect for four years, Matt. We don’t need to pass it in two weeks.

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: The president and some Democrats insist we must rush this plan through.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: But I wish he’d say three things. I wish he’d say, first of all, we’re going to slow down.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: It is pretty clear that they’re going to rush ahead.

Of course, as Rachel pointed out, with video, we’ve actually been trying to achieve health reform for SIXTY ONE YEARS.  Yep.  She had a clip of Harry Truman asking Congress to pass a health plan.  So, this isn’t a “rush.”

But even if it were, it SHOULD be.  Every day that we delay on health reform, the deeper our nation sinks into debt, the more people lose jobs, health insurance, and homes, the more people get sick and even die for lack of health coverage.  We need health reform and we need it STAT.

Here are some reasons:

  • “Nearly 46 million Americans, or 18 percent of the population under the age of 65, were without health insurance in 2007, the latest government data available.” And with unemployment rising so precipitously in the past 2 years, we can assume the total is much much higher, both because of people losing the jobs that provided their insurance or because they lost the job that allowed them to pay for their private insurance.  (NCHC)
  • “The number of uninsured children in 2007 was 8.1 million – or 10.7 percent of all children in the U.S.” (NCHC)
  • “Lack of insurance compromises the health of the uninsured because they receive less preventive care, are diagnosed at more advanced disease stages, and once diagnosed, tend to receive less therapeutic care and have higher mortality rates than insured individuals.” (NCHC)
  • “About 20 percent of the uninsured (vs. three percent of those with coverage) say their usual source of care is the emergency room.” (NCHC) This drives up costs for the rest of us because EDs are NOT money makers for hospitals.  In order to remain profitable, hospitals must collect what they lose in the ED by increasing prices on all other services. Also from the NCHC: “Hospitals provide about $34 billion worth of uncompensated care a year.”
  • “The increasing reliance of the uninsured on the emergency department has serious economic implications, since the cost of treating patients is higher in the emergency department than in other outpatient clinics and medical practices.” (NCHC)
  • According to Elizabeth Edwards on last night’s Rachel Maddow Show, “Sixty-two percent of bankruptcy is being caused by medical costs; 50 percent of home foreclosures.”  And if you don’t think home foreclosures affect YOU, think again.  If the house next to yours is foreclosed, or a house in your neighborhood, it hurts YOUR property values.
  • Health care costs are rising faster than we can even begin to keep up: “In 2008, total national health expenditures were expected to rise 6.9 percent — two times the rate of inflation.” (NCHC)
  • “Although nearly 46 million Americans are uninsured, the United States spends more on health care than other industrialized nations, and those countries provide health insurance to all their citizens.” (NCHC)
  • The rising costs are HURTING our businesses and our economy: “Health insurance expenses are the fastest growing cost component for employers. Unless something changes dramatically, health insurance costs will overtake profits by the end of 2008.” (NCHC) How many companies could be expanding and creating jobs, but can’t, because of the burden of health care?
  • And because this list is already long enough, I’ll just point out that the QUALITY of our healthcare is nowhere near what it should be for the amount we spend.  You can read more here.  I know that fear mongerers love to point out cases of people “dying in Canada” or wherever because of evil socialized health care, but there are people and babies dying right here in the USA thanks to our system.

Hopefully you can now see why this situation is so urgent.  We can’t listen to Republicans telling us to slow down, when really, they are just hoping to kill health reform altogether.  So get educated.  Read about the major provisions of the proposed reform in the House bill.

It seems the biggest point of contention is the public health option, similar to the health insurance provided to federal employees.  Did you read that last part?  It’s a government-run health insurance program.  Anyone who tells you that this is “socialized medicine” is flat out lying.  It’s absolutely the KEY piece of the puzzle in the reform process.  Why?  Because health insurance only works by creating large pools of people to spread risk around and share costs.  The bigger the pool, the lower the premiums, because the risk is spread across many people paying in to the system.  It is very hard for new insurance companies to get into the health insurance business, because they can’t get enough people together to form a large enough pool to make a profit.  Thus, though there is a “free market” the tendency is toward mergers and monopolies, not conducive to the kind of competition that really governs a free market.  Via Talking Points Memo I learned of a report

released by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), [which] uses data compiled by the American Medical Association to show that 94 percent of the country’s insurance markets are defined as “highly concentrated,” according to Justice Department guidelines. Predictably, that’s led to skyrocketing costs for patients, and monster profits for the big health insurers. Premiums have gone up over the past six years by more than 87 percent, on average, while profits at ten of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007.

In other words, people who claim to be concerned about public-private competition will drive private insurers out of business should know that in most places, there’s no such thing as health insurance competition, and competition is necessary to keep costs and premiums down. If you have private insurance now, you can keep it! But the mere existence of the public plan may help drive YOUR costs down.  The only entity big enough to create a pool large enough to inject real competition into the health are industry is the government, period.

Also, the government plan would have to adhere to stricter rules, helping to ensure coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and to prevent people with serious illnesses from being kicked off their coverage due to costs.  In order to compete, private insurers would also have to adopt these standards, which would truly be a victory for everyone.

Finally, the government plan would be large enough to enact real changes in terms of compensation structures to health care providers, helping to encourage preventative care to keep everyone healthier, and to ddrive down costs.  Hopefully doctors and groups like the AMA which represent them will grab a seat at the table to help make sure these changes are equitable and in patients’ and providers’ best interests.

So. I finally wrote a health care post.  It’s by no means comprehensive, and I am by no means an expert.  I’m just the daughter of an ER doc an APN and an RN, and I’m married to a pediatrician.  I’m someone with a healthy interest in health care and a lot of time to read and get informed.  I urge you to read and get informed too, and to get involved in the process.

Image via Flickr user Hermes, under a Creative Commons license.

More Focus on “The Family”

C Street Band

I wasn’t intending to do any blogging today or this week, but I like to watch the video from the most recent Rachel Maddow Show on my lunch break, and when I saw that she was covering The Family again, I knew I had to do a post.  You can see my previous post on the subject here.  You can watch the video clip I’m discussing here (I would embed it but MSNBC isn’t playing nice with WordPress).  All quotes from The Rachel Maddow Show taken from this transcript.

In the wake of the Sanford and Ensign sex scandals, the C Street house/Bible Study/group looms large, as does The Family, the organization behind it.

One of the more interesting bits was clips of sermons from the leader of The Family from original reporting by Andrea Mitchell.  In one of the clips, the leader of The Family, Douglas Coe, says:

DOUGLAS COE, “THE FAMILY” LEADER: I‘ve seen pictures of the young men in the Red Guard. They would bring in this young man‘s mother. He would take an ax and cut her head off. They have to put the purposes of the Red Guard ahead of their father, mother, brother, sister, and their own life. That was a covenant, a pledge. That‘s what Jesus said.
COE: Jesus said, you have to put me before other people. And you have to put me before yourself. Hitler, that was a demand to be in the Nazi party. You have to put the Nazi party and its objectives ahead of your own life and ahead of other people.
COE: One of the things [Jesus] said is “If any man comes to me, and does not hate his father, mother, brother, sister, his own life, he can‘t be a disciple.” So I don‘t care what other qualifications you have, if you don‘t do that, you can‘t be a disciple of Christ.

So basically this guy sees a lot of parallels between following Jesus and being a member of the Red Guard or Nazi Party? I’m already terrified.

During the show, Rachel also interviewed Jeff Sharlet of Harper’s Magazine, who infiltrated The Family and lived at C Street before writing a book on The Family.  Here’s one of the things Sharlet said about The Family:

They believe in something called “biblical capitalism,” and biblical capitalism is the way they‘re going to bring the gospel to the already powerful. Where the money goes they believe God goes.

“Biblical Capitalism? Wonder how they’d square that with this vision of the early church, from the Book of Acts:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:45-47

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Acts 4:32-35

Nevermind their downright unbiblical fetishization of capitalism, according to Sharlet, the group has been involved in shady dealings with brutal dictators:

SHARLET: Well, you know, we heard in that clip, we heard Coe talking about Mao‘s China and so on. And we also hear him again and again using the model of Hitler as an ideal of strength. And I‘ve heard him—this is really boilerplate sermon for Doug Coe.

It‘s not that he‘s a neo Nazi of some sort. It‘s that they fetishize strength. They look for the leader who they believe is chosen by God. Evidence is his power, his wealth, and his willingness to align himself with their version of American power.

The dictator Suharto in Indonesia was one such. They organized meetings for him with American defense contractors, with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the secretary of defense, and most notably, since Indonesia is a major oil producing company with American oil executives, who described their meetings in memos of Congress as great moments of spiritual honesty between themselves and the dictator.

Finally, Maddow asks Sharlet, if, since religion is a private matter in this country (ha! Yeah, the Values Voters and people who are convinced Obama is somehow a secret Muslim, as if that disqualified him from office, really believe in religion as a private matter.), if he believes the members of Congress who are affiliated with C Street and the Family should disclose their involvement in the group. Sharlet responds:

I think when you have—when you have members of Congress who are looking to a particular religious group for a sense of authority, which is explicitly antidemocratic, that explicitly fetishizes strength and dictatorial power, if they want to do that, that it‘s their choice. But I think they owe it to their constituents to say, “Here is why I have chosen to leave the mainstreams of American religion and affiliate myself with this sect that is so unorthodox and so really brutal in its theology.”

I bolded the parts above because, based on everything I know of Jesus, I feel quite confident in saying that the theology of this group is NOT “Christian.” It is extremist, it is unorthodox, and true Christians should point out groups like this and say, THEY DO NOT REPRESENT US, OUR GOSPEL, OR OUR GOD.

Personally, I do think these men, Sens. Ensign and Coburn and Gov. Sanford, should be asked some really hard questions about their involvement with this group, and whether or not they feel its views conform to biblical orthodoxy and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Focus on “The Family”

C Street Band

In the wake of the Sanford “crying in Argentina” affair and Sen. John Ensign’s ongoing saga of sex with a subordinate and payoffs and other favors to the subordinate’s family, much is being made about the secretive C-Street house/Bible study/organization that Sanford, John Ensign, and Sen. Ted Coburn (a major player in the Ensign scandal) belonged to. C-Street supposedly provides accountability, counseling, and Bible studies to powerful men in politics. Of course their credibility is somewhat in question now that it turns out that so many of their members have had such public moral failings, and as Jon said to me last night, “Maybe they need to re-think their mission.”

But what if it turns out that keeping flawed powerful men in power is exactly their mission? Not to help these men lead moral lives, but to help these men wield power? That’s the distinct impression I got watching last night’s Rachel Maddow show. You can see the clip I’m going to discuss here. All quotes are taken from the transcript.

On her show last night, Maddow interviewed Jeff Sharlet of Harper’s magazine, who has written a book on “The Family,” the “Christian” (you’ll understand those quotes in a second) organization behind C-Street, the house/Bible Study group which connects Sen. Ensign, Sen. Coburn, and Mark Sanford. From what Sharlet said of the organization, I’m terrified AND outraged. Sharlet first hand heard the leader of C-Street describing their goals and objectives:

He said it‘s sort of a totalitarian idea of Christianity and he gave his examples of men who he believed, understood the way power should wielded. He actually gave his examples, Hitler, Pol Pot, Osama bin Laden and Lenin.

Maddow summarized the ideas of The Family thusly:

Its role is promoting American power worldwide, unfettered capitalism, no unions, no programs to help poor people—all with this idea that godly, powerful rich men should get at many resources as possible personally and they should just privately help everyone else. That was the impression that I was left with. Was I close?

SHARLET: That‘s dead on the money.

HOW THESE PEOPLE CAN GET THIS FROM JESUS, I HAVE NO IDEA. THIS IS NOT THE JESUS I KNOW AND LOVE, THAT’S FOR SURE. And this “theology” goes back 70 years to the founder of The Family who

believed God came to him one night in April of 1935 and said, what Christianity should really be about is building more power for the already powerful and that these powerful men who are chosen by God can then—if they want to dispense blessings to the rest of us, through a kind of trickle down fundamentalism.

I know I’m quoting a lot here, but really, this is ghastly stuff and you have to read it. Sharlet says he was living with The Family when

one of the leaders in the Family was explaining why King David was important. And he says, it‘s not because he was good man, it‘s because he‘s a bad man. You know, seduced another man‘s wife. He actually had the husband murdered.

And he wants to explain why this was a model—and he says to one of the men in the group, he says, “Suppose I heard you raped three little girls. What would I think of you?” And this guy, being a human being, says, “You would think I was a monster.” Well, the leader of the Family says, “No, not at all, because you‘re chosen. You‘re chosen by God for leadership, and so the normal rules don‘t apply.”

I’d say this certainly makes clear why it seems only Democrats resign when caught in affairs.  And perhaps even why these men are not ashamed by their hypocrisy: these are “family values” guys.  Guys who flaunt their status as Promise Keepers, who called for the impeachment of Bill Clinton, who think that homosexuals are the moral problem of our society, and yet, when they engage in the very activities they condemn in others, they think they are above the consequences.  They think they don’t have to resign.  Because they think they are “chosen.”

This goes against everything I know and love about the gospel.  The idea that Jesus came to save the least and the lost.  The idea that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.  The idea that we are all equal in the eyes of God, both equally culpable for our sins, and equally bestowed with crazy abounding grace.  The idea that one of the worst things you can possibly be is a Pharisee– one who loudly proclaims his righteousness, without having the heart-condition to back it up.  These men make me SICK, not just because of their actions, but because of the damage their witness does to the real, true gospel.