People at various points in the ideological spectrum have pointed out it’s a little odd to see conservatives objecting to the idea of the government deciding what medical procedures ought not to be covered, when they’re apparently okay with insurance companies deciding what procedures ought not be covered, or with people not being able to afford procedures because they lack good insurance. However, it strikes me this difference may actually make a fair amount of sense, both for some pragmatic reasons and some emotional/ideological ones.
As Catholics, and other Americans, continue the debate over national solutions to help the uninsured, Our Lady of Hope Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin is helping treat the uninsured one person at a time. Long time reader Steve Karlen is the development director for the clinic, which opened in April of this year. OLHC has a unique model, based on Dr. Kloess and Dr. Johnson’s desire to provide outstanding primary care through a structure designed in accordance with Catholic principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.
Like the increasingly popular private practice or closed practice model, OLHC accepts up to a set number of patients, which due to OLHC’s non profit model are called benefactors. The limit is set at 600, which has not yet been met, so the clinic is still accepting memberships. Benefactors receive unlimitted primary care through the clinic with no additional charges or co-pays beyond the annual benefactor fee — which is set at a 1200 dollars with various discounts which can apply for couples, children, or younger patients. (This pricing is comparable to other closed practice/concierge-style doctor’s offices.) Like a closed practice, benefactors can make same day appointments any time and have direct access to their doctors via phone and email. They are expected to carry insurance for specialist, prescription and hospital care — however benefactors can often save money overall on health care by switching to a high deductible plan for care not covered by the clinic.
It is one of the interesting contradictions of politics that political factions sometimes rely on the problems they seek to eliminate for their existence. For instance, it has been widely noted that while it is generally part of the Democratic set of ideals to reduce economic disparity, while Republicans tend to be accepting of it, Democrats are most successfully elected in areas with high economic disparity and Republicans are most successfully elected in areas with economic homogeneity. One might imagine that this is because those who actually experience inequality see the folly of their actions and switch to become Democratic voters, and perhaps there’s some level of truth to this, but still it seems odd that the Democratic hold on a region strengthens as its inequality increases. In other words, they do better if their goal of creating a more egalitarian economy fails.
I was reminded of this reading an article this morning about a group of newly elected Democrats in the House who are from some of the nation’s wealthiest congressional districts. (Democrats now control 14 out of the 25 richest congressional districts in the country.) These congressmen are worried about a provision in the pending health care legislation which would fund much of the new spending with a tax increase of 1-5.4% on income groups making $350k/yr or more.
I don’t have an objection in principle to taxes that hit the rich harder than the poor. As was observed about the reasonableness of robbing banks (if one is going to be a robber): That’s where the money is. Continue reading
MSNBC recently did an interesting piece on the shortage of primary care practitioners, which has become particularly acute in rural and low-income areas. As a result, many older doctors feel that they cannot retire because there is no one to take their place:
There are not enough general care doctors to meet current needs, let alone the demands of some 46 million uninsured, who threaten to swamp the system.
It has become an oft repeated trope of Catholics who are on the left or the self-consciously-unclassifiable portions of the American political spectrum that the pro-life movement has suffered a catastrophic loss of credibility because of its association with the Republican Party, and thence with the Iraq War and the use of torture on Al Qaeda detainees. Until the pro-life movement distances itself from the Republican Party and all of the pro-life leadership who have defended the Iraq War and/or the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on detainees, the argument goes, the pro-life movement will have no moral authority and will be the laughing stock of enlightened Catholics everywhere.
Regardless of what one thinks about the Iraq War and torture (myself, I continue to support the former but oppose the latter) I’m not sure that this claim works very well. Further, I think that those who make it often fail to recognize the extent to which it cuts both ways.
Part I. A Catholic Vision of Health Care
by Eric Brown & DarwinCatholic
The rich body of Catholic social teaching provides the faithful with moral principles to guide their thoughts and actions in political life. All too often, however, discussion of the Church’s social teaching is hijacked by a partisan political agenda — with the elements that seem to agree with one’s own party emphasized and all else ignored in order to give the stamp of Church approval to one’s party of choice. This deprives American Catholics of a meaningful analysis and reflection over the wisdom of the Church. This could not be more true on any subject than on health care.
The American bishops in Faithful Citizenship remind Catholics that “affordable and accessible health care is an essential safeguard of human life and a fundamental human right. With an estimated 47 million Americans lacking health care coverage, it is also an urgent national priority. Reform of the nation’s health care system needs to be rooted in values that respect human dignity, protect human life, and meet the needs of the poor and uninsured, especially born and unborn children, pregnant women, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations.” The Bishops also state that “religious groups should be able to provide health care without compromising their religious convictions.”
I’ve always found libertarianism to be an attractive political philospohy. But…the libertarian perspective has a couple of traps. The trap Barnett describes is a particularly tough one to get out of: once seduced by a libertarian idea, like “goods and services are produced & distributed more effectively when markets are not interefered with by coercive agents like government”, its apparently obvious correctness turns it into a sort of semantic stop sign.
I went through a phase where if, say, education or healthcare policy came up in conversation, I’d say “Markets! Markets markets markets! MARKETS!” I found these conversations astonishingly unproductive, but I didn’t think to blame myself.
Eric wrote what I think is a very good and heartfelt post about Catholic Social Teaching and Health Care Reform. Because this is exactly the sort of substantive discussion that American Catholic was intended to foster, I’d like to see if I can pick up some of the themes which he brought up and explore them specifically from a small government conservative and free market angle.
To start with, I’d like to make a distinction between levels of care, though such things are always slippery because medical science advances so rapidly in our modern world. First, there is basic health care. This includes most of the healthcare which goes on most of the time in the US — unless you’re well outside the norm it’s probably all that you’ve needed within the last year.
In Matthew 25, Jesus paints an image of His return in glory. On the Day of Judgment, Christ will separate His sheep from the goats. The sheep are those that cared for “the least” of Jesus’ brothers: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, those sick, and those in prison. The goats didn’t remember “the least” among them and as Christ foretold, “in all truth,” they have “received their reward,” in this life and will not in the next. Jesus’ teaching is unavoidable.
This message is especially relevant to the injustice of the American healthcare system. To call American healthcare—as a system—immoral makes no judgment on healthcare professionals or hospitals, but rather on the design itself. Many have advocated for universal healthcare in our country and have been rejected for proposing so-called “socialized medicine.” I am personally a proponent of a universal healthcare system. We have the medical care, the financial resources, but we seem to lack the moral will to acknowledge that we are our brother’s keeper.