Healthcare reform is on the horizon this week, still struggling in Congress, just out of reach. On the other hand, the need for great sums of money to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to continue to bolster our nuclear weapons arsenal, goes virtually unquestioned by Congress and the press. There are a few voices striving to be heard, that we should completely end these wars, and move at this May’s Non-Proliferation Treaty negotiations, towards making fully practical Obama’s April 2009 call to eliminate all nuclear weapons. 1,2 Yet there is tremendous outcry against any reform of our exorbitantly expensive healthcare system that would make it more accessible to those in need. It seems to be easier to care for our bombs, than to care for our people. We rank national military security high above national health care.
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Martin Luther King, April 4,1967
The military, and health, have both become industries. Huge profits are being made by large private corporations, off of both public needs.
ost of the dollars that we send to health insurance companies do not stay there for our healthcare. They are re-invested--sent to the stock market, and large financial corporations like AIG [the largest recipient of a government bailout in U.S. history], to be wagered for bigger profits. The recent collapse of international financial institutions, has also damaged our nation’s health systems.3 Medicare, and public option plans, do not carry these investment, risk-based, liabilities. Having to make more and more money for corporate shareholders has lead health companies to take greater and greater risks with their pools of our premium dollars. They have been stretching and expanding their investment returns.
Another way they measure success is by medical loss ratio. Defined: cost ratio of total benefits paid out, compared to premium revenues received. As well described by a former top executive of Cigna in a Bill Moyers interview 4, health companies, now dominated by the for-profit model work hard to keep this medical loss ratio as low as possible. Traditionally .95 [95%] of premium dollars eventually spent on actual health service, was felt a good number, 5% retained for administration and profit. In the past 20 years, since the Clintons attempted reform, this 5% has tripled, with .80 or below now the industry objective.
This is an updated version of my letter published in the Michigan Catholic, the Detroit Diocesan newspaper.
November 8, 2009
Dear Michigan Catholic Editor Marylynn Hewitt,
As we see healthcare reform legislation, which has been much discussed in these pages, struggling to make its way through Congress, we need to address manufactured misconceptions.
There is a problem of perspective. The critics of healthcare reform, a chorus of nay-sayers and foot draggers, such as my Representative Candice Miller [who voted against the barely passed House bill this past weekend], all are certain to have adequate healthcare resources themselves. In this richest of countries, they begrudge it for the rest. At this time in the life of our country, it might be well for us all to read and contemplate Matt 25: 31-46. [Last Judgement portrayed: eternal importance of what you did, or didn’t do, for the least of your brethren.]
n important consideration for Right to Life Christians: abortion will not be increased by an “Obamacare” bill, contrary to the claims of many who would obstruct health insurance reform.* It is also good to recognize that most of us already buy private health insurance through our employers, from insurance companies that do pay for abortion as part of their available policies. Policies are purchased for us, from companies that fund abortions. Adding to the irony of mistaken campaigns, most abortions in the U.S. are paid for cash out of pocket anyway, without recourse to government or private insurance. [Despite having coverage many apparently don’t submit claims.**] This issue is one of many smoke screens enflamed to protect the profits of some of the biggest players in our monolithic private health industry.***
I’ve been a Physician Assistant and provided health care for over 30 years, in both public and private funded clinics. Medicare has been consistently respected by doctors and patients in these different clinic models. We should deep-six Medicaid, which discriminates against the poor, by paying medical costs so poorly. Make Medicare, fully funded, the public option, available for all ages and incomes. A nation that can spend hundreds of billions for fancy fighter jets and nuclear weapons, and tolerates a million plus abortions per year, but can’t pay to care for its citizens’ health, is physically sick and spiritually, needs to be put on life support.
As I approach retirement I’m searching for a health insurance company that doesn’t cover abortion. They’re very hard to find. I eagerly await the day when I might be able to buy morally responsible health insurance, as well as the life insurance I have already, from my local Knights of Columbus Council.
Michael McCarthy PA-C,
Member of Blue Water Pax Christi, St. Clair County Right to Life,
Knights of Columbus Council 11756
Port Huron, MI 48060
*For an in depth discussion of the legislative details by a health law expert, please see http://thehill.com/opinion/op-ed/86323-abortion-debate-must-not-stop-healthcare-reform
Guttmacher Institute, while pro-choice, is used by National Right to Life, because of its credible statistics.
***See number 4 below. Referenced interview has an excellent discussion of how health companies are spending great sums on media and politicians, to stop reform.
A personal addendum to this piece is that neither I nor my wife has yet found a good moral health insurance company that offers a “catastrophic” backup to our health savings account at a justifiable price. Almost struck a deal with Golden Rule health insurance [the only health insurance I can find that does not cover abortions] of Indianapolis, IN, but their computers unilaterally raised the monthly premium by $7 each of the three weeks in which we were in negotiations to finalize the policy. Their agents were not able to correct these problems. So much trouble at the point of their trying to sell me insurance, led me to think that getting them to pay out for any future major unexpected health costs, might be even more difficult. Ande could be getting a low budget BCBS policy through her work at VNA.
But as of yet, we remain amongst the “uninsured” self-insured, until 3 to 5 years down the line when we can join with the public option Medicare—or sooner on the slim chance that Obama’s reform passes with a public option included. This is coverage where our relatively good health, will be pooled with those less blessed, and our dollars spent on premiums will go to the health of the community, rather than the profits of a health corporation. Having both worked over 30 years in healthcare, we realize the nature of the system, its plus and minuses, the financial risks and idiosyncrasies. Ande says health insurance equals bankruptcy insurance. It certainly has become in our country, more about money, and less about health.
Health, and long life to you
Land without rent to you
The partner of your heart to you
and when you die, may your bones rest in Ireland!
1. Good resource for ongoing efforts to end the war in Afghanistan http://rethinkafghanistan.com/
2. A Pax Christi campaign to achieve real lasting and complete nuclear disarmament, in the President's upcoming Nuclear Posture Review http://www.paxchristiusa.org/news_events_more.asp?id=1988 And please email Johnny Zokovich [firstname.lastname@example.org] , ask how you might take part.
3. For an eye opening report on the financial status our Michgan health system by Michigan BCBS, in their own words, please go to their annual report: http://www.bcbsm.com/home/bcbsm/annual_report.shtml
Click on “2008 Consolidated Financial Statements,” then on “Discussion of Financial Results.”
4. A very informative video interview from July 2009 of Wendell Potter by Bill Moyers. An insider's look at the heath insurance industry.
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/07102009/watch2.html And for an update return interview-- http://video.pbs.org/video/1433095754/
We are approaching the seventh anniversary of our war of occupation in Iraq. Let us remember the need to declare this March 19th date: Unjust War Remembrance Day. [see Feb 2010 posting]
May the Lord bless and keep you.
May he shine his light upon you,
And be gracious to you,
And give you his peace.
Illuminations created by Kathy Brahney