Moral Contradictions

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Those who work yet do not receive

Between working full-time and going to school full-time, I'm a little behind the times. I read an article a few days ago the Richmond Times-Dispatch which impressed on me again that those who go without health insurance are not just the poor - they are the working poor.

I applaud the commonwealth for its efforts in trying to decrease the rate of uninsured children. Currently 1 in 11 go without health insurance.

I really don't know what the solution, if it feasibly exists, should be. However, I do know some things:

A. Again, this is a moral issue that receives short-shrift because the emotional gut-reaction is not widespread.
B. Healthy children grow up to be healthy adults, and thus can contribute more to society and have a better chance of attending college and obtaining substantial employment. The article mentions the risks of skipping routine check-ups.
C. This is not a class issue: 70 percent of uninsured children come from families where the income level is twice the level of poverty, or $33,200 for a family of three.
D. This is not a race issue: In Virginia, 27 percent are African-American and 17 percent are Hispanic - totalling 44 percent.

"These findings destroy some of the stereotypes that exist," Pollack said.

Families USA said that despite gains in enrolling children with insurance, the rate of uninsured children has increased since 1998. And there are wide disparities from state to state.

In Virginia, 9 percent are uninsured, while in Texas the percentage is more than 20 percent.

The figures suggest that uninsured children will represent a huge cost burden as time goes by. For instance, less than half experienced a well-child visit in the past year. Uninsured children are three times more likely to have unmet mental-health needs and nine times more likely to have other unmet or delayed medical needs.

How do we as Christians address this issue?


  • A record 46.6 million Americans had no health insurance in 2005 and fewer people received coverage through their employers, according to U.S. census figures released Tuesday, August 29, 2006.

    Nearly 1 in 6 Americans, or 15.9 percent of the country, was uninsured for some or part of last year, compared with 45.3 million, or 15.6 percent, in 2004.

    The number of people covered through their jobs slipped to 59.5 percent from 59.8 percent in 2004, according to data from the census' Current Population Survey.

    "Health care costs are increasing, and that is making employers think harder about the kinds of benefit they can offer," according to Laurence Baker, associate professor of health research and policy at Stanford University.

    With medical costs rising about three times as fast as wages, employers have tried to reduce the burden by shifting a greater percentage of costs onto their employees.

    Some no longer offer coverage, have reduced benefits or are hiring more contract employees who are not covered under the company's plan. Among workers offered insurance, a growing number are declining it, deciding they can't afford the higher costs.

    The number of children without health insurance is estimated at 11.2 percent last year, up from 10.8 percent in 2004, for an increase of about 400,000 kids.

    "Part of that clearly are kids who have parents who no longer have employer-sponsored coverage," according to Katherine Swartz, a Harvard School of Health professor.

    This next quote from the San Francisco Cronicle dated last wednesday just absolutely shocks my senses with disbelief:

    "Increased government spending on health coverage will not solve the problem of the growing uninsured, said Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute.

    Cannon promotes other solutions, such as Health Savings Accounts touted by the Bush administration. "The government needs to stop throwing money at the problem and maybe our uninsured problem will begin to recede," he said."

    So, here is the current wisdom. Health care costs are rising. No argument from anybody on that point. Employers are scaling back by offering reduced benefits via a high deductible policy. And, as statistics are indicating, more employers are simply opting out of providing health coverage for their employees. Again, it's hard to deny the facts that this is happening.

    So, using the *cough* christian *cough* notion that God helps those who help themselves, Congress created Health Savings Accounts just before they recessed for Christmas 2003.

    The theory is, by combining high deductible insurance coverage with the new Health Savings Accounts (which would allow a tax deferred savings that could be drawn upon to meet out of pocket expenses until the deductible is met), would shift more of the costs to the individual and thereby moderate the rising costs of insurance premiums.

    For definition, high deductible policys must meet the minimum requirement specified by Congress in the Health Savings Account program of $1000 per year for an individual and $2000 per year deductible for a family.

    Now, the last policy that I had through my employer provided a $1200 deductible for me and $2500 for the family. My part of the premium cost was $135 per month for family coverage. If I had opted to add a Health Savings Account to cover JUST my own $1200 deductible, the policy would have been aproximately $120 per month. So, by shifting more of the burden to me, since God will only help me if I help myself, I would have to find $255 per month in my household budget,if I wanted to be insured, and that wouldn't include any out of pocket deductible expense for my family.

    That kind of money does not grow on trees, especially for the 'working poor.' So it should not come as any big surprise for anyone to see the percentage of uninsured or underinsured continue to escalate year after year. No doubt we will have to pay the consequences for this travesty in years to come.

    Your question, 'How do we as Christians address this issue?' almost makes me laugh, if it was not so tragic. I know many Christian business men and women. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard these very people express the attitude that, "People without insurance can still get medical attention, THAT IS WHAT THE EMERGENCY ROOMS ARE FOR."

    How ignorant is that? I don't even need to waste space in your blog addressing the ludicrousness of such an attitude. Yet, the sad fact is, that too many Christian business men and women, who should know better, actually feel this way and are not ashamed to express it just that bluntly.

    How can we address this issue? We can start by answering 'yes' to Cain's question, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

    By Blogger Dusty Bogard, at Sunday, October 01, 2006 7:10:00 PM  

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