Thursday, August 20, 2009

PC(USA) and Health Care

As the debate around health care gets less and less civil it may be time to step back a bit and think about how our commitments as followers of Jesus Christ informs our thinking regarding this current health care reform debate. To help inform our thinking, I've posted a few links to what our church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), has said about health care. I've also included the full text of a resolution passed by the 2008 General Assembly of the PC(USA).

As Presbyterians we believe that the discernment of God's will comes through discussion and that there is plenty of room for debate. The following are only offered as guidance, not as a doctrinal dictation. Leave your thoughts in the comments. (Please stick to substantive reflections and refrain from name calling, etc. I will delete any comments not in the spirit of Christian dialogue and respect.)
Expanded text of the 2008 General Assembly resolution from the August 2009 letter by Gradye Parsons.

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.

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