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Confronting the
Crisis in Health Care
in 2009-10
For earlier posts on health-care concerns >>

Stand Up for Health Care!   [6-24-11]

This Action Alert, dated June 22, 2011, comes to us from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness

Everyone deserves access to quality, affordable health care. For over 50 years, Medicare and Medicaid have provided coverage for millions of elderly, poor, and disabled persons in our country. Today, nearly 1 in 3 Americans depends on these public health insurance programs to meet their basic health needs. 

In the current debate over the federal budget, some members of Congress have proposed making drastic cuts to both Medicare and Medicaid. If successful, these cuts would result in both decreases in enrollment and reductions in coverage. Millions of Americans would not receive the health services they desperately need. 

Recognizing the importance of these programs for our country’s well-being, we cannot afford to let Congress cut health care for vulnerable populations. Click here to contact your members of Congress today and tell them not to cut Medicare and Medicaid! 

As Reformed Christians, we believe that God desires shalom – wholeness and healing – for every person, not just for those who can afford it. Jesus’ command to love our neighbor requires persons with plentiful resources both to comprehend the condition of those persons without basic health care and to share the means to health. 

This summer, as Congress debates various budget proposals, the Office of Public Witness urges you to contact your members of Congress and urge them not to cut Medicare and Medicaid. Cuts to these programs would only shift financial costs to older adults and poor people who depend on these programs for their survival. 

General Assembly Guidance:

The 214th (2002) General Assembly directed the Presbyterian Washington Office (PWO) to encourage members of the Congress to recognize the importance of universal health care – that is, equal, accessible, affordable, and high-quality health care for all persons residing in our nation.

The 217th (2006) General Assembly approved actions to call on the president and Congress to provide adequate funding for the preservation of the Medicare and Medicaid programs as the health-care safety-net programs for elderly, poor, and disabled populations.

More Malarkey About Health Care

The legislative debate is over, but the false and exaggerated claims just keep on coming.    [4-19-10]

Summary of a longer report from Factcheck.org

We’ve seldom seen a piece of legislation so widely misrepresented, and misunderstood, as the new health care law. We stopped counting the number of articles and items we turned out on the subject after the total reached 100.

Some of that is understandable. The debate went on for more than a year, while the different House and Senate bills changed their shape constantly. The final law was the product of an awkward two-step legislative dance that first enacted the Senate’s version, then quickly amended it with a reconciliation "fix." No wonder people are confused.

And even now the misrepresentations continue. The new law is no longer a moving target, but some opponents persist in making false or exaggerated claims about it. Our inboxes are filled with messages asking about assertions that the new law:

* Requires patients to be implanted with microchips. (No, it doesn’t.)

* Cuts benefits for military families and retirees. (No. The TRICARE program isn’t affected.)

* Exempts Muslims from the requirement to obtain coverage. (Not specifically. It does have a religious exemption, but that is intended for Old Order Amish.)

* Allows insurance companies to continue denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions. (Insurance companies have agreed not to exploit a loophole that might have allowed this.)

* Will require 16,500 armed IRS agents to enforce. (No. Criminal penalties are waived.)

* Gives President Obama a Nazi-like "private army." (No. It provides a reserve corps of doctors and other health workers for emergencies.)

* "Exempts" House and Senate members. (No. Their coverage may not be as good as before, in fact.)

* Covers erectile-dysfunction drugs for sex offenders. (Just as it was before the new law, those no longer in jail can buy any insurance plan they choose.)

* Provides federal funding for abortions. (Not directly. But neither side in the abortion debate is happy with the law.)

For details on these claims about the new law, please read our Analysis section.

For desktop Users >>         For mobile Users >>

What Did John Witherspoon Mean by "Property"?

Would he defend property rights against health care reform?
[4-17-10]

With all the discussion these days (or maybe “ranting and raving” would be more appropriate) about individual property rights standing against the authority of government to limit them for the common welfare (as in requiring some people to obtain health insurance, for instance) Gene TeSelle reminds us of John Witherspoon’s famous statement in 1776 that if people give up their right to “property,” they will “at the same time deliver the conscience to bondage.” It sounds like a great argument for the Tea Party folks, but TeSelle shows that Witherspoon’s intention was quite different.

Thousands of faith leaders send letter, run full-page ad for health reform

PC(USA) stated clerk, Washington Office join summit-eve appeal

by Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service   [2-24-10]
 

WASHINGTON — On the eve of the Bi-Partisan Health Care Summit in Washington, D.C., Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons and the Presbyterian Washington Office have joined thousands of faith community leaders and organizations urging the Obama administration and Congress to “complete the task at hand on behalf of the millions who are left out and left behind in our current health care system.”

In addition to the Feb. 24 letter to the President and Congress — under the umbrella groups Faithful Reform in Health Care and the Washington Interreligious Staff Community — the religious leaders are running a full-page print advertisement in The Hill and an additional online ad at The Hill's Web site, showcasing the letter and its signers.

The letter concludes: “As people of faith, we envision a society where every person is afforded health, wholeness and human dignity. Martin Luther King, Jr., famously wrote in his ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’ Less well known is his admonition that ‘of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.’ Let us not delay health care justice any longer. This is your moment for political courage, vision, leadership and faith. We urge you to take heart and move meaningful health care reform forward.”

The letter was signed by more than 4,000 people of faith, 58 national religious organizations, more than 80 regional and state faith organizations, and 26 national faith leaders.

The full text of the Feb. 24 letter:

Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress:

We are communities of faith who have supported comprehensive health care reform for decades.

We have also offered vocal support — and occasional constructive criticism — of the health care reform effort over the last year. We write to you at this critical juncture to urge you to complete the task at hand on behalf of the millions who are left out and left behind in our current health care system.

Opportunities to comprehensively address our broken health care system are rare. Decades of failed attempts at reform testify to the difficulty of this task, and we know that the current effort has not been easy. However, we now stand closer than ever before to historic health care reform.

Turning back now could mean justice delayed for another generation and an unprecedented opportunity lost.

We know that no comprehensive health care reform bill will be perfect. (Indeed, if any piece of legislation ever fulfills our full vision, our vision is far too small.) However, we also know — as providers and consumers of services and care — that inaction at this critical moment is no way forward:

bulletWithout reform, tens of thousands will continue to die needlessly each year for lack of access to care.
bulletWithout reform, tens of millions will remain uninsured and without adequate access to a full range of services.
bulletWithout reform, health costs will continue to grow much faster than wages.
bulletWithout reform, many millions of hard-working people and their children will join the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured.
bulletWithout reform, businesses, staggered by increasing employee health costs, will either drop coverage or will be unable to make needed investments.
bulletWithout reform, the nation’s economy – and its ability to create jobs – will suffer.

As people of faith, we envision a society where every person is afforded health, wholeness and human dignity. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously wrote in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” Less well known is his admonition that “of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Let us not delay health care justice any longer. This is your moment for political courage, vision, leadership and faith. We urge you to take heart and move meaningful health care reform forward.

http://www.pcusa.org/pcnews/2010/10173.htm

See the horrors of Britain’s “socialized medicine” through the experience of two American Presbyterian pastors in Glasgow
The Revs. John Mann and Lindsay Biddle have both been serving Church of Scotland parishes in Glasgow. Part of their Christmas letter reports their modest (and comforting!) experience of Scotland’s health care system.      [12-28-09]

British people are used to standing in line. They queue up for almost everything, particularly at one o’clock in the afternoon, when whole communities of schoolchildren and working adults stop what they’re doing and go wait in single file outside the local fish-and-chip shop, sandwich bar, or bakery counter to purchase some chips (French fries), a tuna-and-sweetcorn sandwich (just that – tuna and corn), or some kind of meat pie. About every week Lindsay gets in line at the neighborhood Italian deli to buy delicacies like Kentucky ham (from Holland). And for this letter’s stamp she stood in line at the post office, along with folks waiting to pay bills, exchange currency, or get their annual car tax disc (a round decal displayed in the car window; ours cost £145 ($240), and it requires a clean bill of health from a mechanic which can cost anything depending on the repairs. By the way, gasoline is currently £1 per liter ($6.25 per gallon)).

One thing we don’t have to wait in line for is to see a doctor. When we moved to Glasgow six years ago, we both went to the local ‘surgery’ where we were each examined and registered by a General Practitioner. Whenever we need medical attention, that’s who we call, and if we call in the morning we’re scheduled to go to the doctor’s office that day. If we call in the afternoon, we’ll get an appointment for the next day because the doctor is out making house calls in the afternoon. When we arrive at the Westfield Health Centre, we give our name to the receptionist and at the appointed time Dr. Hardie comes out to the waiting area and calls us into his office where he deals with whatever ails us. So far we’ve only had to go for check-ups and bad colds. But apart from the ease of treatment, the amazing thing to us is that we don’t have to bring our checkbook or credit card.

That’s because we pay National Insurance for national healthcare – socialized medicine, a communist plot, call it what you like. £237 ($390) is deducted each month from John’s paycheck, less than 10% of his gross pay, and it is matched by the Church of Scotland. Lindsay’s is only 6% of her part-time paycheck, less than £45 ($75) a month. This provides all our dental care, eye exams, and medical care, including hospitalization which John needed when he suffered kidney stones. We do pay £6 ($10) for each prescription, and we choose to get annual flu shots which we pay for. (Swine flu shots will be available soon, free-of-charge.) But that’s it. No medical bills, no insurance forms, no co-pays.


Rev. Lindsay Louise Biddle (PCUSA)
Rev. Dr. John W. Mann (Church of Scotland)
Glasgow

lindsaybiddle@hotmail.com

Scary, huh??
If you have comments on these observations,
or on the health care issue in general,
please send a note, to be shared here.

UCC ARGUES FOR HEALTH CARE REFORM     [12-28-09]

Last September the United Church of Christ launched a major advocacy campaign to gather 100,000 messages to Congress, in support of health care reform.

Some of the major points in their message are worth repeating as the debate continues:

Our faith teaches us that health care is not only a basic human right – but a human need. Offering comfort to the broken, sick and injured was foundational to Jesus’ ministry and is central to our serving the least among us.

The United Church of Christ has a long history of providing care through health and human service ministries, parish nursing programs, and health care plans for clergy and church workers. Hundreds of caring medical institutions were founded and supported by – and are related to – the UCC.

As an extension of our longstanding commitment to healing ministries, we believe it is a moral imperative to transform health care so that it is inclusive, accessible, affordable and accountable. Just consider:  

•          Over 47 million people (one in six) and over 9 million children are without health coverage and 25 million more are under-insured.

•          Every year, 18,000 people in the United States die from a lack of health insurance. That’s two people every hour.

•          More than 60 percent of all bankruptcies are linked to medical expenses. About 1.5 million families lose their homes to foreclosure every year due to unaffordable medical costs.

United Church of Christ 

The Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President-Elect

From “Everything is Connected,” a regular e-mail newsletter by John Jackson.

Reflections on the incivility of the health care reform debate

by Bill Peach    [12-28-09]

Comity and Collegiality

I heard a story on television about two elderly Senators leaving the Senate Chambers, helping each other through doors and up and down stairs. The two were Jesse Helms (R-NC), five terms from 1973 to 2003, and his arch-rival Claiborne Pell (D-RI), six terms from 1961 to 1997. The story was told to illustrate the mood of the Senate in former times. Whether it is fact or fiction, history would have us believe that in spite of the vicious oratory on the Senate floor, the senators had great respect for each other.

I spent too many hours watching the Health Care Reform Act debate on C-SPAN. One senator cited examples of the treachery of Judas Iscariot and the beating of Rodney King to portray the character of fellow senators. Another senator suggested that the nation should pray that the Democrats would not all be present for the early morning vote. Some believed there was a subtle inference to Senator Byrd and the hazards of the blizzard and icy streets.

We look to the Senate for greatness in “acts of statesmanship transcending party and State lines.” The House of Representatives is composed of men and women who are elected by friends and neighbors in several counties to be their voice in Washington. The Senate in contrast gave us the likes of Webster, Calhoun, and Clay. Senators bring to the floor,” leadership in national thought and constitutional interpretation as well as legislation.”

The rest of this essay >>

The author: Bill Peach lives in Franklin, Tennessee, where he has been in the men’s clothing business for most of his working life. But he also describes himself as a politician, preacher, and philosopher, who received his Bachelor’s degree at the age of 51. He has authored a number of books, including Politics, Preaching & Philosophy, published in 2009 by Westview, Inc.

A Puritan's advice ... on health care reform    [12-19-09]

Hear these wise words, and challenging, written by the Puritan, Gov. John Winthrop, in his sermon, “A Model of Christian Charity,” said to have been addressed to the ship-load of fellow Puritans in the “Arbella” on their way across the Atlantic Ocean to settle the Massachusetts Bay Colony:

We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.

What have our conservative friends done to the American Christian heritage? And when will progressives claim their authentic heritage?

For the full text of Winthrop's sermon >>

Scared turtles

By Berry Craig
[12-14-09]

It is the great unmentionable in the health care debate.

It is an attitude apparently shared by many voters. The Democrats keep quiet about it because they don’t want to make voters mad.

The same attitude is helping the Republicans thwart reform. But they won't acknowledge it publicly for fear of looking bad.

B. Smith isn't scared to talk about it on his Internet blogsite, Radical Love. It is greed and selfishness, which he says are "hateful" aspects "of humanity that this debate has brought out" in much of the body politic.

Smith identifies himself as a Methodist pastor from Pulaski, Tenn. He doesn't pull punches.

Smith says, flat out, that some folks oppose reform because they think it will diminish the quality of their health care in favor of “undeserving” poor people and immigrants. “It is in times of economic downturn when people recede into their shells like a scared turtle and refuse to help anyone but themselves and their immediate families,” the parson added.

This union-card carrying Hubert Humphrey Democrat and Bluegrass State Presbyterian will add an “amen” to Rev. Smith’s cyber-sermonette.

Tennessee and my native Kentucky are two of the church-goingest states in the church-goingest nation in Christendom. But when it comes to backing government help for people who need help – people without health insurance, for instance – a lot of Tennesseans, Kentuckians and other Americans have never been all that big on the biblical brother’s keeper thing.

Per capita, the U.S. trails all of its NATO allies in social welfare spending, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

We’re the only NATO country without some form of comprehensive national health insurance. Whatever health reform Congress approves – if anything – will be small potatoes compared to government health care programs in other countries.

True, Americans are bigger on charitable giving than anybody else. But most of the money they donate goes to their churches and to educational institutions, including their alma maters, not to charities that directly aid the poor.

Anyway, many Americans probably would agree with a Georgia woman who told the Associated Press why she’s not a fan of government health care. "Well, for one, I know nobody wants to pay taxes for anybody else to go to the doctor – I don't,” she was quoted in an AP wire story about an AP health care poll. “I don't want to pay for somebody to use my money that I could be using for myself."

The story said the woman is 20. I wonder if she has grandparents on Medicare.

No matter, Republicans love people like the Georgian. Though they might not be so candid with a reporter, more than a few Americans agree with her.

Democrats are hesitant to call them out for their I've-got-mine-and-to-heck-with-you outlook. Republicans welcome them as allies in their holy war against health care form.

The Republicans are battling reform with their stock “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem” con job. It’s Social Darwinism, straight from the Gilded Age: If you’re poor (and don’t have health insurance), it’s your fault and not my responsibility.

Governments in other Western democracies believe good health care is a fundamental human right, not a privilege for those who can afford it. Some of us stateside do, too. (Go ahead and call us “socialists.”)

I’m blessed. I have a steady job and good health insurance. But growing up Presbyterian, I learned we were supposed to be our brothers’ – and sisters’ – keepers. The same principle guides our union movement.

So count me in with my union brothers and sisters who support a single-payer health care system that covers all Americans. And I'm somebody who wouldn't mind Uncle Sam raising my taxes to help pay for it.


Berry Craig is a professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah. He and his wife, Melinda, are members of the Witherspoon Society.

Three more looks at health care reform
[12-12-09]

You may have been hearing and reading more than you want about the tortuous process of cobbling together some kind of reform of the U.S. health care system. But the issue is important enough to merit all the information and wisdom we can muster. Here are three recent articles that offer three different perspectives:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

No master plan, but lots of support for innovations that may help greatly over time

Atul Gawande is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. His new book, The Checklist Manifesto, will be published in January.

In a New Yorker article, he argues that the mammoth bills, which Republicans have complained about so loudly, contain a wide assortment of small pilot projects to be supported over the next few years. This is just the approach that reformed U.S. agriculture in the early 20th century, raising productivity so sharply that American families, which had spent more than 40% of their income for food in 1900, spent just 24% for food in 1930. The change came through many small, local projects to improve farming through new cultivation techniques, use of fertilizer and pesticides and new seeds, and much more.

And it was government programs – and government people (bureaucrats!!) such as extension agents – that made those changes possible.

His closing paragraph sums it up:

Getting our medical communities, town by town, to improve care and control costs isn’t a task that we’ve asked government to take on before. But we have no choice. At this point, we can’t afford any illusions: the system won’t fix itself, and there’s no piece of legislation that will have all the answers, either. The task will require dedicated and talented people in government agencies and in communities who recognize that the country’s future depends on their sidestepping the ideological battles, encouraging local change, and following the results. But if we’re willing to accept an arduous, messy, and continuous process we can come to grips with a problem even of this immensity. We’ve done it before.

The full article >>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Health Care Reform: Sifting Through the Suboptimal Solutions

Arianna Huffington, of HuffingtonPost, opens her critique of the current proposals:

If the fight over health care reform has proven anything, it's just how broken our system has become – from the crippling influence of money on our politics to the way the modern misuse of the filibuster has taken away the power of the duly elected majority and handed it to a handful of bought-and-paid-for senators (yes, I'm talking about you Joe Lieberman).

This disturbing and destructive state of affairs has created a country that is, in the words of Tom Friedman, "only able to produce 'suboptimal' responses to its biggest problems."

And that's where we find ourselves on health care as we head towards the legislative end game. The big optimal solutions have all been gutted – and we are left to pick through the patchwork of suboptimal ones.

She then finds a few points still worth supporting, including:

•          the proposed expansion of Medicare to cover those 55 to 64 years old;

•          expansion of access to insurance to a percentage, at least, of the 46 million uninsured Americans;

•          some way of providing choice for those seeking insurance coverage, perhaps through Sen. Ron Wyden's Free Choice Act, which would give employees the ability to choose their own insurance plans within the insurance exchange, instead of having to accept the plan chosen by their employer.

She concludes:

If the final bill contains all these elements, it will be a suboptimal solution worth supporting.  Then we can move on to the business of fixing our broken system, so we can get back to being a country able to produce optimal responses to our biggest problems.

Her full article >>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How a Few Private Health Insurers Are on the Way to Controlling Health Care 

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor and Professor at U.C. Berkeley, takes a much bleaker view of the prospects of any real reform, because private health insurers will continue to consolidate their control of the health care market.

His concluding paragraph sums it up:

From the start, opponents of the public option have wanted to portray it as big government preying upon the market, and private insurers as the embodiment of the market. But it's just the reverse. Private insurers are exempt from competition. As a result, they are becoming ever more powerful. And it's not just their economic power that's worrying. It's also their political power, as we've learned over the last ten months. Economic and political power is a potent combination. Without some mechanism forcing private insurers to compete, we're going to end up with a national health care system that's controlled by a handful of very large corporations accountable neither to American voters nor to the market.

For his complete, brief article >>

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Calls for Just Health Care Reform

Questions and Answers

[11-23-09]

This very helpful statement was posted recently by the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (USA), at http://www.pcusa.org/washington/healthpolicy.htm It is also in PDF format at http://www.pcusa.org/washington/health-policy-qanda.pdf

What does the PC(USA) support?

•            For over 60 years, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assemblies have been calling for reform of the U.S. health system, urging the establishment of a national medical plan that will ensure health coverage for all persons residing in the United States.

 •            The most recent General Assembly (2008) “endorse[d] in principle the provision of single-payer universal health care reform in which health care services are privately provided and publicly financed… as the program that best responds to the moral imperative of the gospel.” [Minutes, 2008, p. 1133]

 •            Any reform plan should be guided by these values:

      o          Universal Accessibility: We believe that all people possess inherent worth as children of God, and that God’s promise extends to all. Health coverage must be available to all persons living in the United States, regardless of income, race or ethnicity, geography, age, gender, employment status or health status [Minutes, 1994, p. 574; Minutes, 2002, p. 634]

      o          Equity: Because the right to acquire adequate health care springs out of our worth as living human beings, rather than out of any particular merit or achievement belonging to some but not to others, adequate health care should be defined equally for all people. [Minutes, 1976, pp. 203-207]

      o          Responsible Financing: Since society has an interest in the health of its people, those individuals and organizations who can pay should help to finance the care for those individuals and families who cannot pay [Minutes, 1991, p. 817]. While concerns for the costs of health care are appropriate, these concerns must continually be balanced against the objectives of access to adequate, quality care for all. The sacrifice of access and quality at the shrine of cost containment is too high a price to pay and should not be tolerated [Minutes, 1988, p. 525].

Does the church support socialized medicine?

No, the church supports health reform that is privately provided and publically funded. Socialized medicine generally refers to health care systems that are run by government, in which medical facilities are owned by government and health care providers are employed by government. PC(USA) General Assemblies have not commented on such a system, nor is the U.S. Congress considering such a proposal.

Why does the church support single-payer?

The single-payer health coverage envisioned by the 218th General Assembly is a system in which health insurance is publically financed, while medical care is provided by private practitioners. One example of a single-payer health care system would be a “Medicare for all” approach, though single-payer requires only that financing come from a single source, rather than the multiple sources that currently provide U.S. health coverage (employers, government, individuals, etc.). The 218th General Assembly (2008) adopted an overture supporting the principle of single-payer health care. The overture outlined the serious crisis in the U.S. health system, highlighting the rapidly swelling ranks of the uninsured, the increasing occurrence of medically-caused bankruptcies, and efficiency of government-run Medicare and Medicaid programs, when compared to private insurance companies.

On what authority is the church speaking on this issue?

In keeping with our polity, public witness by the National Offices on the topic of health care reform is based entirely on General Assembly policy. The Stated Clerk’s recent statement (Aug. 2009), which can be viewed at http://www.pcusa.org/oga/newsstories/clerk-healthcare_aug09.htm , draws almost exclusively on the Rationale of the 218th General Assembly (2008) overture on single-payer health reform, the entirety of which can be found at http://www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=1833 .

What is the role of government and why should it be involved?

The 1988 General Assembly summarized John Calvin’s explanation: “civil government is ordained by God to order and serve the human community and therefore to be held in respect and honor. Service in the public order is the highest vocation for Christians. The civil state by its own definition and tradition is to serve the causes of justice, the common well being. We believe that the church must not only call upon the political order to serve the causes of justice but actively participate in efforts to shape public policies and institutions so that they serve human needs effectively and equitably.” (Minutes, 1988, p. 47)

Why does the church care?

Presbyterians believe that God desires shalom – wholeness and healing –for every person, not just for those who can afford it. Health is much more than the absence of a physical or mental malady or the pursuit of physical or mental perfection. Jesus’ command to love our neighbor requires persons with plentiful resources both to comprehend the condition of those persons without basic health care and to share the means to health. [Minutes, 1999, pp. 341-342]

What is the PC(USA) doing now?

The PC(USA), through its Washington Office, is engaged in public witness at the federal level. On health care, the Washington Office is following closely the legislative process and evaluating health reform proposals in light of General Assembly social witness policy statements.

Further, the Washington Office is engaged with ecumenical and interfaith partners to lift up the voices of people of faith. Through Washington Office organizing and publications, Presbyterians are invited to get involved in the public policy process.

The ministry of the Washington Office is to communicate General Assembly policy to decision-makers and to provide resources to Presbyterians, so that they might be engaged in public debate and witness.

How do I get in touch with the Washington Office?

You can reach the Washington Office by calling (202) 543-1126 or by emailing ga_washington_office@pcusa.org.
 

Religious leaders condemn Stupak amendment to health care reform bill   [11-10-09]


Joint Statement of Religious Leaders on Stupak Amendment

Catholics for Choice, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Clergy Network, the Religious Coalition on Reproductive Choice, and the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing represent more than ten thousand religious leaders and tens of thousands of people of faith who believe that abortion must be safe, legal, and accessible. We come together to condemn the passage of the Stupak amendment, which if passed by the Senate will effectively deny coverage for abortion services to women covered by the new federal health care plan. We are appalled that religious leaders intervened to impose their specific religious doctrine into health care reform, not recognizing that women must have the right to apply or reject the principles of their own faith in making the decision as to whether or not abortion is appropriate in their specific circumstances. Further, we decry those who sought to use abortion as a way to scuttle much needed health care reform. We call on the President and the United States Senate to ensure that the final bill that passes does not include any specific prohibition on the use of federal funds for reproductive health care services. We pray for a renewed commitment to relational and reproductive justice for all.

Signed:

The Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera
National Chaplain
Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Jon O'Brien
President
Catholics for Choice

The Reverend Debra W. Haffner
Executive Director
Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing

The Reverend Carlton W. Veazey
President
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

Two dissents (from the Left!) from the House-passed health care bill     [11-9-09]

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), after voting against H.R. 3962, issued a sharp statement of his reasons for voting against the bill. He begins:

We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care. We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are. But we can fault legislation in which the government incentivizes the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry, the very source of the problem. When health insurance companies deny care or raise premiums, co-pays and deductibles they are simply trying to make a profit. That is our system.

Clearly, the insurance companies are the problem, not the solution. They are driving up the cost of health care. Because their massive bureaucracy avoids paying bills so effectively, they force hospitals and doctors to hire their own bureaucracy to fight the insurance companies to avoid getting stuck with an unfair share of the bills. The result is that since 1970, the number of physicians has increased by less than 200% while the number of administrators has increased by 3000%. It is no wonder that 31 cents of every health care dollar goes to administrative costs, not toward providing care. Even those with insurance are at risk. The single biggest cause of bankruptcies in the U.S. is health insurance policies that do not cover you when you get sick.

But instead of working toward the elimination of for-profit insurance, H.R. 3962 would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care. ...

The rest of his statement >>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Marcia Angell, M.D., a physician, author, and Senior Lecturer at Harvard Medical School, asks “Is the House Health Care Bill Better than Nothing?”

Her answer, in short, is No. She explains:

Conservative rhetoric notwithstanding, the House bill is not a "government takeover." I wish it were. Instead, it enshrines and subsidizes the "takeover" by the investor-owned insurance industry that occurred after the failure of the Clinton reform effort in 1994. To be sure, the bill has a few good provisions (expansion of Medicaid, for example), but they are marginal. It also provides for some regulation of the industry (no denial of coverage because of pre-existing conditions, for example), but since it doesn't regulate premiums, the industry can respond to any regulation that threatens its profits by simply raising its rates. The bill also does very little to curb the perverse incentives that lead doctors to over-treat the well-insured. And quite apart from its content, the bill is so complicated and convoluted that it would take a staggering apparatus to administer it and try to enforce its regulations.

What does the insurance industry get out of it? Tens of millions of new customers, courtesy of the mandate and taxpayer subsidies. And not just any kind of customer, but the youngest, healthiest customers – those least likely to use their insurance. The bill permits insurers to charge twice as much for older people as for younger ones. So older under-65's will be more likely to go without insurance, even if they have to pay fines. That's OK with the industry, since these would be among their sickest customers. (Shouldn't age be considered a pre-existing condition?)

The rest of her essay >>

From the Center for American Progress:

Progressive People of Faith Call for Health Reform     [11-5-09]

Health reform

Communities of faith have been essential to the movement for health care reform. Faith groups have provided dramatic stories that illustrate the human pain and suffering that result from inadequate health care or lack of it. They have run clinics in poor and underserved neighborhoods, and they have cut through complex economic arguments to frame the moral heart of the matter.

Learn more about how mainline denominations, Jewish organizations, Muslim-American organizations and others have been working on behalf of health care reform.

From the Presbyterian Washington Office:

Support Health Care Reform - Contact Congress Today
Urge House Members to Support Health Care Reform
[11-4-09]  

Take Action!

H.R. 3962 - "The Affordable Health Care for America Act"

For over 60 years, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assemblies have called for reform of the U.S. health system, urging the establishment of a national medical plan that will ensure health coverage for all persons residing in the United States.

The most recent General Assembly (2008) "endorse[d] in principle the provision of single-payer universal health care reform in which health care services are privately provided and publicly financed... as the program that best responds to the moral imperative of the gospel." [Minutes, 2008, p. 1133]

The U.S. House of Representatives is winding up its health care deliberations. "The Affordable Health Care for America Act" [H.R. 3962] blends and updates the three versions of previous bills passed this summer by the House Ways and Means; Energy and Commerce; and Education and Labor Committees. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on H.R. 3962 on Saturday, November 7th.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) believes that any reform plan should be guided by these values:

•          Universal Accessibility: We believe that all people possess inherent worth as children of God, and that God's promise extends to all. Health coverage must be available to all persons living in the United States, regardless of income, race or ethnicity, geography, age, gender, employment status or health status [Minutes, 1994, p. 574; Minutes, 2002, p. 634]

•          Equity: Because the right to acquire adequate health care springs out of our worth as living human beings, rather than out of any particular merit or achievement belonging to some but not to others, adequate health care should be defined equally for all people. [Minutes, 1976, pp. 203-207]

•          Responsible Financing: Since society has an interest in the health of its people, those individuals and organizations who can pay should help to finance the care for those individuals and families who cannot pay [Minutes, 1991, p. 817]. While concerns for the costs of health care are appropriate, these concerns must continually be balanced against the objectives of access to adequate, quality care for all. The sacrifice of access and quality at the shrine of cost containment is too high a price to pay and should not be tolerated [Minutes, 1988, p. 525].


"The Affordable Health Care for America Act" [H.R. 3962] reflects these values and will move the U.S. health care system a step in the right direction to provide access to quality, affordable health care for all. Most of the bill's provisions would go into effect in 2013.

This bill will:

•          Increase the number of legal U.S. residents with health insurance by 36 million by 2019.

•          Expand Medicaid to include all individuals under age 65 (children, pregnant women, parents, and adults without dependent children) with incomes up to 150% of the poverty level (FPL).

•          Provide subsidies to help lower income individuals and families purchase insurance and to lower their cost sharing obligations.

•          Require individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a tax of 2.5% of their adjusted gross income above the income tax filing threshold up to the cost of an average insurance policy.

•          Require employers with payrolls exceeding $500,000 per year to provide health insurance to their employees or pay a penalty (86% of American businesses would be exempt from this requirement, though most employees would be covered).

•          Prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions.

•          Eliminate underwriting based on health status, gender or occupation.

•          Limit out-of-pocket expenses.

•          Remove lifetime or annual coverage caps.

•          Define "essential" benefits that must be covered by insurance plans.

•          Create a National Health Insurance Exchange through which individual and employers can purchase qualified insurance, including from private health plans and the public health insurance option.

•          Create a public health insurance option to be offered through the National Health Insurance Exchange that must meet the same requirements as private plans regarding benefit levels, provider networks, consumer protections, and cost-sharing.

Action:

Contact your member of Congress before Saturday, November 7th, and urge him/her to support H.R. 3962 - "The Affordable Health Care for America Act." 

U.S. Capitol Switchboard - (202) 224-3121

Take Action!

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) calls for just health care reform -
Q & A
[9-16-09]

Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow has passed along this very helpful short summary prepared by the Washington Office of the PC(USA), regarding our church’s long-standing commitment to the idea of health care for all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Health Care Reform | Questions and Answers
From the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

 

What does the PC(USA) support?

bulletFor over 60 years, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assemblies have been calling for reform of the U.S. health system, urging the establishment of a national medical plan that will ensure health coverage for all persons residing in the United States. 
bulletThe most recent General Assembly (2008) “endorse[d] in principle the provision of single-payer universal health care reform in which health care services are privately provided and publicly financed… as the program that best responds to the moral imperative of the gospel.” [Minutes, 2008, p. 1133]
bulletAny reform plan should be guided by these values:
  1. Universal Accessibility:  We believe that all people possess inherent worth as children of God, and that God’s promise extends to all.  Health coverage must be available to all persons living in the United States, regardless of income, race or ethnicity, geography, age, gender, employment status or health status [Minutes, 1994, p. 574; Minutes, 2002, p. 634]
  2. Equity: Because the right to acquire adequate health care springs out of our worth as living human beings, rather than out of any particular merit or achievement belonging to some but not to others, adequate health care should be defined equally for all people. [Minutes, 1976, pp. 203-207]
  3. Responsible Financing:  Since society has an interest in the health of its people, those individuals and organizations who can pay should help to finance the care for those individuals and families who cannot pay [Minutes, 1991, p. 817]. While concerns for the costs of health care are appropriate, these concerns must continually be balanced against the objectives of access to adequate, quality care for all.  The sacrifice of access and quality at the shrine of cost containment is too high a price to pay and should not be tolerated [Minutes, 1988, p. 525].

Does the church support socialized medicine?

No, the church supports health reform that is privately provided and publically funded.  Socialized medicine generally refers to health care systems that are run by government, in which medical facilities are owned by government and health care providers are employed by government.  PC(USA) General Assemblies have not commented on such a system, nor is the U.S. Congress considering such a proposal.

Why does the church support single-payer?

The single-payer health coverage envisioned by the 218th General Assembly is a system in which health insurance is publicly financed, while medical care is provided by private practitioners.  One example of a single-payer health care system would be a “Medicare for all” approach, though single-payer requires only that financing come from a single source, rather than the multiple sources that currently provide U.S. health coverage (employers, government, individuals, etc.).  The 218th General Assembly (2008) adopted an overture supporting the principle of single-payer health care.  The overture outlined the serious crisis in the U.S. health system, highlighting the rapidly swelling ranks of the uninsured, the increasing occurrence of medically-caused bankruptcies, and efficiency of government-run Medicare and Medicaid programs, when compared to private insurance companies.

On what authority is the church speaking on this issue?

In keeping with our polity, public witness by the National Offices on the topic of health care reform is based entirely on General Assembly policy. The Stated Clerk’s recent statement (Aug. 2009) draws almost exclusively on the Rationale of the 218th General Assembly (2008) overture on single-payer health reform, the entirety of which can be found at http://www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=1833.

What is the role of government and why should it be involved?

The 1988 General Assembly summarized John Calvin’s explanation: “civil government is ordained by God to order and serve the human community and therefore to be held in respect and honor. Service in the public order is the highest vocation for Christians. The civil state by its own definition and tradition is to serve the causes of justice, the common well being. We believe that the church must not only call upon the political order to serve the causes of justice but actively participate in efforts to shape public policies and institutions so that they serve human needs effectively and equitably.” (Minutes, 1988, p. 47)

Why does the church care?

Presbyterians believe that God desires shalom – wholeness and healing –for every person, not just for those who can afford it.  Health is much more than the absence of a physical or mental malady or the pursuit of physical or mental perfection.  Jesus’ command to love our neighbor requires persons with plentiful resources both to comprehend the condition of those persons without basic health care and to share the means to health. [Minutes, 1999, pp. 341-342]

What is the PC(USA) doing now?

The PC(USA), through its Washington Office, is engaged in public witness at the federal level.  On health care, the Washington Office is following closely the legislative process and evaluating health reform proposals in light of General Assembly social witness policy statements.

Further, the Washington Office is engaged with ecumenical and interfaith partners to lift up the voices of people of faith.  Through Washington Office organizing and publications, Presbyterians are invited to get involved in the public policy process.

The ministry of the Washington Office is to communicate General Assembly policy to decision-makers and to provide resources to Presbyterians, so that they might be engaged in public debate and witness.

How do I get in touch with the Washington Office?

You can reach the Washington Office by eMail or phone (202) 543-1126.

 

Health Care for All is a Moral Imperative - quotations

Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' But conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right. 
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.
Jane Addams

The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Nothing is politically right which is morally wrong. 
Daniel O'Connell

Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice. 
Alexander Solzhenitsyn
 

The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience. 
Harper Lee

Conscience is the chamber of justice. Origen

We appeal as human beings to human beings. Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.  
Albert Einstein

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government. 
Thomas Jefferson

Click here for more quotations

Thanks to Phyllis Stenersen, who is creating the interesting websites WiseThoughts.com and ProgressiveValues.org

140,000 participate in historic faith call on health reform, with President Obama     [8-22-09]

Conference call on health reform co-sponsored by PC(USA)

Presbyterian News Service reports:

An estimated 140,000 people of faith gathered on an historic national conference call with President Barack Obama Aug. 19 to discuss health care reform.

The 90-minute conference call was sponsored by more than 30 churches and other religious groups, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). One purpose of the call was to help launch a campaign — “40 Days for Health Reform” — to mobilize people of faith to press Congress to finish work on health care reform when it returns after the Labor Day recess.

A recording of the call is available at Faith for Health or the Blog Talk Radio site.

The rest of the report >>

Stated Clerk issues statement on current health care debate

"Reforming our health care system cannot wait"
[8-14-09]

From Witness in Washington Weekly, published by the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), August 14, 2009

LOUISVILLE - The Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, has issued the following statement in light of the national attention on health care reform: 

The current public debate about health care has led several people to ask what the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has said about this issue. 

The 218th General Assembly (2008) directed the Stated Clerk to send the following resolution to appropriate committee chairs in the United States Congress: 

Jesus Christ, who has reconciled us to God, healed all kinds of sickness (Mt. 4:23, par) as a sign of God's rule. Isaiah speaks God's word to say "No more shall there be ... an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime" (Isa. 65:20a). We, as Reformed Christians, bear witness to Jesus Christ in word, but also in deed. As followers of our Great Physician Jesus, we have a moral imperative to work to assure that everyone has full access to health care. 

Our nation is in a crisis in health care, which presents an unprecedented opportunity for our nation to provide health care affordable for all. In this country there is a baby born every fifty-one seconds to a family with no health insurance. In this, the wealthiest nation in the world, our infant mortality rate is second highest in the industrialized world. Forty-seven million Americans are uninsured (50 percent employed; 25 percent children; 20 percent out of labor force as students, disabled, et al.; 5 percent unemployed). The U.S. spends nearly twice as much per capita than any other country on health care, but we rank poorly in the thirty-seven categories of health status measured by the World Health Organization. The rise in childhood obesity, asthma, diabetes, and other chronic diseases indicates that the overall health status of people of this country is declining. 

We are warned by the prophets not to heal the wounds of God's people lightly; yet in 2006 the aggregate profits of the health insurance companies in the United States were $68 billion. During that same year more than 15,000 families were forced into bankruptcy because of medical expenses. Our business employers operate at a competitive disadvantage internationally because health care costs are assumed by the governments of other industrialized nations. The General Assemblies of the PC(USA) and its predecessors since 1971 have called for reform of health delivery systems in the United States to make them accessible to the entire population. Our federal government already operates efficiently and with low overhead the health delivery programs of Medicare and Medicaid; and yet at the same time insurance companies spend nearly one-third of every premium dollar on marketing and other administrative costs and in fact, several such companies spend less than 60 percent of premium dollars they receive on health care services. 

The American College of Physicians, the nation's second largest physician group, has endorsed a single-payer healthcare system. Only a single-payer system of national health care coverage (privately provided; publicly financed; not socialized medicine) can save what is estimated to be $350 billion wasted annually on medical bureaucracy and redirect those funds to expanded coverage.

Since the publication of this resolution, the nation has been engaged in an escalating polarization on the issue. Consensus seems far off and the details of how to reach the goal of comprehensive health care continue to confound our country. Yet, consensus as a nation is imperative because reforming our health care system cannot wait. The General Assembly has been clear that Congress must enact comprehensive health care reform that will provide all persons with access to health care services. 

I am mindful of a portion of a prayer Peter Marshall prayed in 1947 when he was chaplain of the Senate. "We know deep down in our hearts that without Thy guidance we can do nothing, but with Thee we can do all things. Let us not be frightened by the problems that confront us, but rather give Thee thanks that Thou hast matched us with this hour. May we resolve, God helping us, to be part of the answer, and not part of the problem; for Jesus' sake. Amen."

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

President Obama to join conference call with people of faith

President Barack Obama has accepted an invitation to join the faith community on a conference call on Wednesday, August 19, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern / 4:00 p.m. Central / 3:00 p.m. Mountain / 2:00 p.m. Pacific. The goal of the call is to connect and energize the millions of people of faith across the country who are concerned about health care and who want to be part of the solution.

Because thousands of participants are expected, you are urged to RSVP to help facilitate planning and to guarantee your place on the call. You may also submit a question for the President when you register. In addition, you are invited to tell your family, friends, and colleagues; spread the word through your email networks; and invite others to listen to the call with you.

RSVP at http://faithforhealth.org/join-the-call to receive your call-in information and to submit a question.

  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

General Assembly Guidance:

In 2002, the General Assembly approved "Advocacy on Behalf of the Uninsured," in which it:

bulletReaffirm[ed] the church's commitment to advocacy for a national medical plan.
bulletEncourage[d] presbyteries, sessions, and the members of congregations to be advocates for universal health care and to support advocacy efforts in their local communities to bring public and private entities together in this effort.
bulletUrge[d] presbyteries and sessions to provide educational programs and advocacy efforts on behalf of persons, especially those with low incomes and fixed incomes, without medical insurance.
Seven Falsehoods About Health Care

Big myths about the current debate    [8-14-09]

From Factcheck.org

So much for a slow news month. August feels like campaign season, with claims on health care coming at us daily. Does the House bill call for mandatory counseling on how to end seniors’ lives sooner? Absolutely not. Will the government be dictating to doctors how to treat their patients? No. Do the bills propose cutting Medicare benefit levels? No on that one, too.

But on the other hand, has Congress figured out how to pay for this overhaul? Not yet. Or will it really save families $2,500 a year as the president keeps claiming? Good luck on that one, too.

In this article we offer a run-down of seven falsehoods we’ve taken on recently, with some additional updating and research thrown in.

They list these “seven falsehoods” – and provide detailed corrections, with citations for each:
bulletFalse: Government Will Decide What Care I Get (a.k.a. they won’t give grandma a hip replacement)
bulletFalse: The Bill Is Paid For
bulletFalse: Private Insurance Will Be Illegal
bulletFalse: The House Bill Requires Suicide Counseling
bulletFalse: Families Will Save $2,500
bulletFalse: Medicare Benefits Will Be Slashed
bulletFalse: Illegal Immigrants Will Be Covered

Get the full story >>

Health Care Reform: The Voice of Faith

Among the many voices being raised in the debate over health care reform, this message from Interfaith Worker Justice seems to say some important things, to offer suggestions for action, and to provide some good resources through the links at the end of the note.   [8-12-09]

Everyone in this country knows that our health care system is broken. Doctors and hospitals, as well as patients and communities, deal with the crisis every day. But there is no consensus yet on what reforms are needed. Legislation may pass this fall because the President, members of Congress, and health care activists are committed to reforming health care in America.

Interfaith Worker Justice, recognizing the fundamental dignity of all human beings as children of God, believes that everybody deserves affordable, quality health care. The person who mows your lawn or cares for your elderly mother should receive the same quality of care as Bill Gates.

As people of faith, our voices must be heard now in the debate over what health care reform will look like. Call your two Senators and your Congressperson today and ask to speak to their legislative staffer for health care. Tell them that, as a person of faith, you support universal, affordable, quality health care for all. Call the Capitol switchboard for your Representative's phone number. The numbers are 202-224-3121 for your two Senators, and 202-225-3121 for your Congressperson. Please e-mail Ted Smukler, to let us know you have made this important call.

Please see IWJ's resources on health care justice -- or you can download these pdfs directly: 

bullet Health Care For All (pdf)
bulleta rabbinical student's reflection, D'Var Torah: Labor Day and the Cause of Health Care (pdf)
bullet Denominational Health Care Justice Quotes (pdf)

Another great religious resource on the issue is Faithful Reform in Healthcare. Their website is www.faithfulreform.org.

In peace, justice and health,

Ted Smukler
Public Policy Director, Interfaith Worker Justice

If you have thoughts to share
-- or resources to recommend --
please send a note, to be shared here!

Faithful America urges:
Reform, not Fear
[8-8-09]

In the past 10 years, health insurance premiums have doubled, and millions of Americans still struggle to afford health care.

The health reform proposals currently before the Senate will ease the burden on us all, from those most in need to middle class families. There’s a lot on the line in the health care debate, yet special interests, even those who claim to be speaking for people of faith, are trying to block reform with distortions and distractions.

Faithful America – a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization – is encouraging people to sign on to this brief letter to U. S. Senators:

Senators:

Our families, congregations and communities feel the impact of our broken health care system every day. Too much is at stake to get sidetracked by distortions and distractions.

We in the faith community call on you to focus on facts, not fear, in your deliberations and to pass meaningful health care reform that makes quality, affordable health care available to all.

This new package should include, at a minimum, reforms such as stopping insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, a cap on out-of-pocket health care expenses and a strong affordability standard that makes families up to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level able to afford coverage.

Click here to add your name to the letter >>

What's Happening with Health Care?
[8-8-09]

From “Witness in Washington Weekly,” published by the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on August 6, 2009: 

Congress has made significant progress on health reform in the last two weeks. On the House side, all three committees have approved a bill (which vary slightly from each other) and the compromise awaits consideration by the full House when they return after the August recess. On the Senate side, one of two committees has approved a bill, and the other is expected to release their version of the health insurance overhaul in early September. Though neither chamber has taken a full vote yet, the process is underway.

The proposals look somewhat promising -- both the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) proposal (the one that has been approved by its committee) and the joint (tri-committee) House proposal would make the health insurance market more accountable to patients by significantly reforming the private insurance market and including a public health insurance option. Though none of the proposals on the table include a single-payer system like the one for which the 218th General Assembly (2008) expressed support, the expansion in coverage that these bills would bring would reach tens of millions of people who do not currently have access to health coverage, and therefore, care. Congress is not taking the approach the PC(USA) has called for, but is moving in the right direction. 

Health care reform is very close to becoming a reality, but the remaining hurdle is the question of money. Congress needs to agree on how to finance this reform effort. Your members of Congress need to hear your voice this August recess. As you can imagine, opponents of change are well organized and financed. We have heard that calls to members' offices run 3 to 1 against health care reform. If people want improvements in the health care system, controls over private insurance, and a major step toward a single payer plan, members need to hear about it - now.

Your Senators will be in your state August 8-31, while and your Representative is probably already home, the House having adjourned last week. Call your Members' district offices right away to schedule a meeting. Your members of Congress may also be holding local town hall meetings on health care (information should be posted on their websites). Let your members of Congress know that you want everyone in the United States to have access to equal, accessible, affordable, high-quality health care. 

bulletThroughout August, the WWW will provide updates on the content of the various health proposals in light of General Assembly policy on access to health care.

General Assembly Guidance: 

In 2002, the General Assembly approved "Advocacy on Behalf of the Uninsured," in which it:

bulletReaffirm[ed] the church's commitment to advocacy for a national medical plan.
bulletEncourage[d] presbyteries, sessions, and the members of congregations to be advocates for universal health care and to support advocacy efforts in their local communities to bring public and private entities together in this effort.
bulletEncourage[d] members of Congress to recognize the importance of universal health care - that is, equal, accessible, affordable, and high-quality health care for all persons residing in our nation.

In 2008, the 218th General Assembly:
 
bulletEndorse[d] in principle the provision of single-payer universal health care reform in which health care services are privately provided and publicly financed.
bulletDirect[ed] the General Assembly Council, through appropriate offices including the National Health Ministries, the Washington Office, and the Presbyterian Health, Education, and Welfare Association (PHEWA), to advocate for, educate about, and otherwise pursue the goal of obtaining legislation that enacts single-payer, universal national health insurance as the program that best responds to the moral imperative of the gospel; monitoring progress toward this goal and reporting back to the next two General Assemblies (2010 and 2012).
To Hell with Health Care Reform: Religious Right leaders attack Obama, spout GOP dogma about “socialism” while fanning flames on abortion
[8-4-09]

from People for the American Way

Religious Right leaders have enthusiastically joined Republican-led opposition to health care reform efforts.

Much of the Religious Right’s organizing energy has been devoted to incendiary and false claims about the administration’s alleged stealth plan to force every health plan to cover - and force all doctors to provide - abortion services. None of these approaches are actually included in the plans working their way through Congress. In fact, anti-choice members of Congress are using health reform to institute a new nationwide abortion ban in private insurance plans taking away coverage women already have.

In addition, Religious Right leaders have joined the parade of talking heads spouting bogus right-wing talking points about health care plans moving in Congress, falsely claiming that reform constitutes a socialist government takeover of the entire health care industry.

Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, on a recent conference call for anti-choice activists, sounded both those charges, calling reform legislation a “huge abortion industry bailout” as well as a “health care power grab by the federal government.” Operation Rescue similarly conflates the anti-choice and anti-government arguments, urging activists “to act now to stop Obama's radical, socialistic abortion agenda…” The Christian Broadcasting Network has provided a major platform for anti-reform activists.   The full article >>

On health care reform:

Have you heard about the six senators who are out to kill health care reform?
[7-30-09]

This message comes from Credo Action,
part of the WorkingAssets program

Of course, that's not how they'd phrase it. Sens. Baucus, Bingaman, Conrad, Enzi, Grassley and Snowe say they're striving for "bi-partisan compromise." But what they're actually doing is working to make sure reform won't include a public option or mandatory employer-based insurance - two key policies needed for effective reform.

There are 100 members of the Senate, but these six, inexplicably, seem to be holding all the cards when it comes to health care.

So you probably won't be surprised to learn that all six have taken a huge amount of money from the health insurance industry and pharma. Take a look:

Senator Lifetime contributions from Insurance/Pharma

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

 $1,203,205

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) $206,297
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) $442,165
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) $342,228
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) $702,595
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)       $161,706
TOTAL:   $3,058,256


These six senators -- who, by the way, represent only 2.74% of Americans between them -- are writing bad policy, and they're doing it while they take money from the very companies who stand to benefit the most.

You may want to sign a petition to tell Sens. Baucus, Bingaman, Conrad, Enzi, Grassley and Snowe: Give back every dime you've ever received from health insurance companies and big pharma. More >>

Facing the health care crisis in 2009

We have posted numerous items on the health care crisis over the past few years -- first a long analysis of  "Medicaid and the 2006 Budget," published by the Presbyterian Washington Office in 2005.  A newer page carries a variety of good material from 2006 up to earlier in 2009.

But it's clear that the situation has shifted from hand-wringing to proposals for action.  Here are some that we think you may find helpful.

bulletThe Rev. Bruce Gillette points us toward very helpful resources for preachers -- especially since the Lectionary gospel lesson for June 28th is Mark 5:25-34, the story of Jesus healing two women.
bullet Gillette also encourages people to call their local Walgreens for their refusal (in Delaware and some other states) to serve the poor and sick on Medicaid.
 
bulletRepublicans support public health insurance, too!
Well, not all of them, but still ...!
The Rev. Ralph Clingan offers this thought on the surprising support for public health insurance, even among Republicans.
Christian Century features three pieces
on health-care reform     [6-30--09]

For the first time in 15 years, Congress and the White House are having a go at significant health-care reform. Our July 14 issue's
editorial discusses the controversy over the "public option"--the plan for a public insurer to compete with private ones. Social ethicist and single-payer advocate Gary Dorrien supports the public option but stresses that it will improve things only if its details have some teeth. Robert Francis, domestic policy director for the ELCA, explains how he and others balance the demands of representing denominational policy and participating in the larger debate.
The Bible Speaks Today: Sunday’s Gospel and Public Health Care

by the Rev. Bruce Gillette, Co-Pastor of Limestone Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, Delaware
[6-25-09]

Twenty-year-old General Assembly studies are not often seen as helpful sources for lectionary preachers, but those working on their sermons for June 28th might be surprised what they find on the Office of the General Assembly web site.

The PCUSA - Revised Common Lectionary’s gospel lesson for June 28th is Mark 5:25-34, the story of Jesus healing two women. Mark 5:25-34 is used for a five-session study (see pages 75-82). found in the downloadable PDF file at the OGA web site: Life Abundant: Values, Choices and Health Care - The Responsibility and Role of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

A more recent resource is the 2008 book, Preaching the Gospel of Mark: Proclaiming the Power of God by Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm published by PCUSA’s Westminster/John Knox Press. This seminary professor of preaching has three points (pages 99-100) on how this Mark 5:25-34 relates to “Poverty and Public Health Care Crisis

“The story of the woman who suffered for twelve years from chronic hemorrhaging highlights her impoverishment and disease, opening a way for us to preach and teach about poverty and the public health care crisis. Jesus interrupts his journey to the home of a wealthy and respected leader of the synagogue in order to attend to someone without material wealth or social status. Yet he also attends to the young girl. His actions do not outline a clear and simple health care plan for ours or any nation, but they do suggest several points to consider as we debate the availability of adequate health care for all people.

“First, by interrupting his journey to Jairus’ home, Jesus demonstrates the divine priority given to persons who are suffering, marginalized, and poor. With more than nine million children under the age of nineteen in the United States without health insurance (and nearly 90 percent of them from working families), preachers and teachers of the gospel have every reason to speak of the need for comprehensive health care coverage for those who are most vulnerable and least protected by our society. Like the woman who suffered from the “care” of inadequate and exploitative medical practitioners, there are many among us who suffer silently for want of adequate and affordable health care.

“Second, Jesus’ care for both women demonstrates that the power of God’s healing is not reserved for a few but intended for all; it is not a “zero sum” equation that results in some people being blessed while others are ignored. Rather, there is a generous and comprehensive spirit to Jesus’ actions that encourages us to seek ways of extending health care coverage to all who need medical attention.

“Finally, Jesus affords the unnamed woman an opportunity to speak publicly about what has happened to her. He directs our attention to those who have no public voice and are relegated to the margins of social concern. In calling for her testimony, Jesus encourages us to hear the testimonies of other persons who experience injustice. In this way we may draw into the center of our conversations persons who have been pushed to the margins of social concern.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Reformed Call for Health Reform is good reading that can be found in the May/June 2009 issue of the Washington Report for Presbyterians.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Help Medicaid with a Phone Call to Walgreens

The largest drug chain in the USA has announced that it will no longer serve the poor and sick on Medicaid in Delaware starting on July 6th; this means one in five people in the state may have difficulty getting needed medications. Other drug chains (Riteaid, Walmart, Pathmark, etc.) and small, independent stores have agreed to the Delaware’s Medicaid reimbursement policy, but Walgreens is now suing the state to change its policy. The June 25th issue of the state-wide News Journal reports, “As a show of solidarity with those residents, members of the Amputee Support Group of Delaware in New Castle and Sussex counties recently voted to boycott Walgreens. While many of our members are not on Medicare or Medicaid, we feel a sense of solidarity with the people who are in need," communications director Rick Hofmann said. "If they are not interested enough in supporting the people who have difficulty in meeting their prescriptions, they don't need money we would have spent on gum and other stuff. It seemed offensive that Walgreens, with their size and record profits and sales, to hold up the state of Delaware for more money. Walgreens was trying to hold Medicare recipients hostage, and that did not sit well with us."

Please call Walgreens in your area and let them know that they should serve the poor on Medicaid in Delaware (and everywhere!). Thank you!

Grace and Peace,

Bruce Gillette
Co-Pastor, Limestone Presbyterian Church
Wilmington, Delaware
Email:
bcgillette@comcast.net

 

Republicans support public health insurance, too!
Well, not all of them, but still ...!
[6-25-09]

The Rev. Ralph Clingan offers this thought on the surprising support for public health insurance, even among Republicans.

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar wrote for the AP a story "Democrats Bolder on Public Insurance" in today's Newark Star-Ledger. In the story, Sr. Zaldivar reported that the current NY Times-CBS Poll records that 72% of Americans support public health insurance; 50% of the Republicans polled. Did I mention the Republicans for Single Payer website? Dearly beloved, now is the moment to go for the gold. Carpe diem!

Micah preached:
Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Ralph G. Clingan, PhD
www.actionpreaching.com

What should be the goal of health care reform?
[4-15-09]

Monica Sanchez writes for the Campaign For America's Future:

To guarantee everyone has access to quality, affordable health care when they need it requires system-wide reform that will lower the cost of health care and slow its ridiculously high inflation rate. ... The way to lower overall health care costs, stem their inflation rate and guarantee everyone access to quality, affordable health care is to give everyone the choice of a public health insurance option.

The full essay >>   

And for earlier discussions of health care issues ...

We have posted numerous items on the health care crisis over the past few years -- first a long analysis of  "Medicaid and the 2006 Budget," published by the Presbyterian Washington Office in 2005.  A newer page carries a variety of good material from 2006 up to earlier in 2009.

 

Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.

 

John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."

 

John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.

 

Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.

 

Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!

 

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