Medical care is a very relevant topic both to frugal living and to one’s beliefs… and let me tell you, I’ve heard a lot about medical care here lately from others within my faith as a major drum bang on deciding who’s the morally superior candidate. What astounds me so greatly is the complete disconnect my brothers and sisters in the faith have between reality and what’s being spouted out by the talking heads who make their living off of fear-mongering that they listen to and allow to shape their opinions.
The biggest thing I’ve heard lately is, “Romney’s gonna save us from Obamacare and repeal it! He’s a good guy, and he supports not killing babies!” etc., etc. I’m sure all this sounds familiar to you. Well, let’s talk about a few facts here, shall we?
The Affordable Care Act
Let me preface what I’m about to say with the following statement: I don’t have a problem with socialized medicine for a multitude of reasons, but the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not how I would implement it. The reason why I’m tolerant towards socialized medicine is due to a simple philosophy: greed and profits should have no place in helping improve and save lives. It’s clear that the free market thrives on putting a price on misery to the point of exploitation, otherwise the current state of medical care in the United States wouldn’t be so lacking in comparison to nearly every other industrialized country in the world for more than a decade- despite being one of the most expensive to get care in.¹ Unfortunately, instead of taking away the problem, the ACA will simply exacerbate the problem by making free market insurance mandatory in the naïve belief that having more people participate in a corrupt industry will help lower costs for everyone.
Now, lets have a showing of hands here. Who has actually read PUBLIC LAW 111-148, a.k.a. the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare? If we’re going to discuss this thing and have it shape and influence our choices in the polls, shouldn’t we actually know what we’re talking about instead of regurgitating FEAR, UNCERTAINTY and DOUBT (better known as FUD)?
Good! I’m glad we agree. Knowledge is power, after all. Now, let’s address the whole “Romney’s gonna repeal the Act if elected” line. Forgive my over-simplification of a whole mess of detailed points in this post, it’ll be necessary for length. There’s a great deal of anger and rage and concern about funding “baby killing” with this act, and how the government is going to be given the power to decide “who lives and who dies” based on financial decisions, and how “socialism” is an evil threat to Mom, apple pie and the American Way. This is the fear and horror that Romney’s campaign has tapped into when he talks about repealing the Act. Let’s talk about that last one first. The ACA is not classic socialism so much as it’s mandatory capitalism.² There is no centralized governmental control over health care being proposed here, it’s governmentally regulated mandatory participation in free market medical insurance policies that have mandates designed to reduce the insurance companies’ ability to drop coverage for certain conditions and try to reign in excessive cash cow policies, which brings us to the second point. The only people who will be deciding who lives and who dies based on financial costs are still the same people who have been irresponsibly making these decisions already for a while now: the insurance companies. We’ll get to point one with birth control and abortion later on in the discussion.
The Massachusetts Health Care Reform Law
Next, let’s talk about the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Law, or Romneycare. The biggest nuts-and-bolts apologists citing Obamacare and Romneycare being completely different animals have their argument points mostly boiled down to the following: It’s a state-versus-federal law and state laws don’t work on the federal level, Romneycare had bipartisan support unlike Obamacare, Romneycare had support from its constituents unlike Obamacare, Romney as a leader partially vetoed portions of the bill before approval unlike Obama, and Obamacare is massive in scope compared to Romneycare. In regard to points one and five, of course Obamacare is going to be larger and more complex, it’s a federal law designed to have enough flexibility for differing state laws and policies and it’s necessary to be a federal level law if we’re going to continue to operate as a unified country while trying to provide health care under this plan to the citizens who travel out of state. If we’re expected to function as a unified country, we kind of need to ensure laws that are supposed to help provide people an improvement in their quality of life can be applied across state borders so they can do as they’re designed instead of getting tied up in the red tape of “interstate commerce”. Is this really so terrible? As for the support from their constituents argument, we’re a nation of people who’ve lost our capacity for critical thinking and entire swaths of our population are guilty of thinking exactly what CNN or Fox News tell them to think. There’s a lot of red states in this nation, and angry people get a lot of face time in media coverage, because FUD sells advertisements and news broadcasts thrive on ratings and sponsorship, and nobody likes the idea of new taxes in a country founded upon rebelling against taxation.
As for the assertion of the lack of Republican support for Obamacare, let’s stop and think about this for a moment. During Obama’s 2008 campaign, he made a promise to bring universal health care to the public, and this was a big deal for him to deliver on.³ Given the general Republican support for the Massachusetts bill even with the Heritage Foundation lending support in 2006,⁴ this should have been a slam dunk by taking a universal health care bill approved by Republicans and spinning it into a federal bill given how “successful” it was for the state. There was only one problem, the Republicans were more interested in playing politics and voting in lockstep to oppose anything and everything the Democrats and Obama were for. One only needs to look at the voting records on Capitol Hill during the time to see that the bill failed to have bipartisan support because the Republicans were more interested in a political pissing match on any policy that might be viewed as supporting Democratic interests (like approving and balancing budgets, presidential pet projects, reducing unemployment, providing social programs, etc.) to try and make Obama look bad than to try and actually resolve and address any issues that needed dealt with for the citizens they represented.⁵ It’s a bit unfair to claim there was a lack of bipartisan support on the bill when there was so much lockstep general oppositional voting by the Republicans at the time.
That brings up something else, the similarities between the bills. If you’ve read both, the language pretty well spells out mostly the same thing, which makes sense given both bills were penned by MIT Professor, Jonathan Gruber – a man who’s shocked by the hypocrisy of Romney and the Republicans over the controversy between the two.⁶ Wait, I stand corrected… there is a HUGE difference. The Massachusetts law specifically outlines approval and support for pro-choice health care, going so far as to appoint a member of Planned Parenthood to the MassHealth payment policy advisory board under Section 16M (a).⁷ Might I remind you, Romney vetoed portions of this bill and signed off on it in 2006 and this was an approved part of that bill.
As an aside: Let’s talk abortion, birth control, the sanctity of life, and social programs for a moment, shall we? I’m all for the sanctity of life, so much so that I’ve revised long standing personal opinions on the application of Castle Doctrine in my own and my wife’s life and have even taken to herding flies and spiders out the front door instead of smashing them the past couple years. Am I the only person who finds a deep hypocrisy in the following stance? “Abortion is wrong and is always murder no matter what and we have to preserve the sanctity of life. Birth control drugs are an affront to G-d and will contribute to sexual immorality if allowed to be prescribed under a national health care system, even if they have secondary approved uses for treatment of female health issues. We need to balance our budget and cut back on social programs, because these people are just lazy and can’t find work. We need to support our troops abroad as they kill those terrorist enemies that hate our way of life.” This is pretty much what I’m hearing out of the religious right these days, and it makes me ill.
I’m just going to say it: What makes us think we can legislate morality when people have free will and are going to do what people are going to do, especially when previous attempts to legislate morality only exacerbated the problem it was meant to stamp out? If we don’t want people to do wicked things, why aren’t we trying to show them why it’s bad in a sound, reasonable, and loving manner instead of being angry at them and trying to tell them what to do by legislating their adherence to our moral standards when we’re in the public minority? If life is so precious as to mandate preventing abortion, then what’s wrong with allowing women the option to prevent the creation of life to begin with and why does that precious life have to stop mattering once it’s out of the womb, only to be instantly treated as an unwanted burden upon society if the mother cannot afford to care for that child? Doesn’t that warp a child, being unwanted, uncared for, and treated as a burden? If life is so precious, why are we complaining about balancing the budget and wanting to cut programs that could help improve the quality of life of the impoverished, when the money spent there is a fraction of the budget specifically earmarked towards various creative ways of killing people?
I don’t like the idea of arguing morally relativistic points, because I believe in pretty firm lines between right and wrong… but people are going to be people, and when we start looking at the bigger picture to some of our choices in policies and approaches, where we consider the cause and effect outcomes to some of these ideologies… are some of our “righteous” choices truly creating a more lasting good in this world, or are we actually contributing to some of the very wickedness we hate by choosing to only focus on easy-fix microcosm good-versus-evil issues that allow us a sense of moral superiority over our fellow man thereby letting us sleep better at night? Should we not work on the wickedness in our own hearts before we try to change the hearts of others?
Also, I’d just like to say… you can support a country without always agreeing with and condoning everything they do. Support shouldn’t mean blind tacit approval. Just sayin’.
…but I’ve digressed.
Romney’s Forked Tongue
Romney has pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act if elected. Do you know how difficult it is to repeal a law that has passed scrutiny of the SCOTUS without a full majority Congress? It’s pretty darn difficult. This is pretty much a hollow promise that cannot be delivered on, pandering for votes to the Republican electoral base who have lost touch with their critical thinking skills. Even if he got the majority necessary to repeal the ACA, why would he? This is his health care plan enacted on the national level, a plan he defended and loved right up until the point that it became a liability to do so in order to pander to the extreme right-wing “Libertarian” Tea Party Randroids that have practically taken over the GOP these past few years when he secured the Republican nomination. Heck, you read his 160 page economic plan, “Believe In America“, he only promises to repeal the worst parts of Obamacare.⁸ So, we’ve either got a bald-faced liar running for office, or a man who’s scruples are so fluid that he’ll endorse anything he can to get whatever support is necessary in order to seize the power he’s after. That’s some real quality stuff, there.
So here we have a candidate who’s supported by the “moral majority” in this country because he supposedly wants to get rid of socialized health care and is pro-life… supposedly. Here’s the reality, when you examine their political voting histories and where they stand, both Obama and Romney are nearly identical in their ideologies: they’re both heavily authoritarian conservatives.⁹ And yet, the way people talk, you’d think the span between the two was large enough to wedge the Grand Canyon into, and the salvation and redemption of our country with G-d hinges in the balance between those choices. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, folks!
Back to the ACA and Frugality
Aah, yes. A core point to the discussion! (You probably thought I’d forgotten after the political commentary, hadn’t you.) There’s something significant and important to The ACA, something you should know about… especially if you’re one of those people who hates it and wants to support Romney over Obama because of it. There is an exemption on pages 107 and 128 of the final law for people who participate in “health care sharing ministries” from being subject to participation in the law.10 That’s right, the law itself allows you to participate in and fund medical care that doesn’t support the very things you find objectionable about the ACA. Though, one has to ask those of you out there who are in this “Abolish the ACA” camp already and paying for traditional health insurance how you actually thought you weren’t already contributing to the very things you find objectionable? Perhaps as the faithful, we should be asking ourselves exactly how much should we be participating in to begin with with modern medicine. In the mean time, have at continued health care that’s scripturally sound through outfits like Christian Care Ministry’s Medi-Share program.11
Just as an example, MMM recently posted on his new health care insurance that their new coverage only costs them $237 a month. If he and his family were to be able to qualify for and participate in Medi-Share and given how healthy they are, their monthly rates would actually only be $137 a month for a family of three with a $10,000 annual out-of-pocket portion for the household!
For the Missus and myself, our monthly pay-in is only $119 a month for the two of us with the same $10,000 out-of-pocket coverage. Of course, before you get your knickers in a twist over us paying far less for our medical care than you would be even just paying the minimum penalty as a non-believer, there’s a list of caveats. You need a verifiable testimony towards your faith and be active in fellowship, be able to profess their Statement of Faith, be celibate or monogamous within a strict definition of marriage, a US citizen, no coverage of pre-existing conditions, and believe in treating your body as a temple thus prohibiting any use of tobacco or “illegal” drugs and not abuse alcohol or “legal” drugs. It’s the same basic philosophy as the ACA, support one another’s financial medical burdens within your community, and be rewarded for lower costs by living a healthier lifestyle.
Quite simply, living a healthy and responsible lifestyle combined with a faith in a higher power could save you quite a bit of money and reduce your cost of living expenses further!
In a way, as a believer, I’m thankful for Obamacare. It’s not great, it’s not perfect, it’s not how I’d improve medical care in this country… but it is what it is, and it could be far worse for those who decry it the loudest if not for the very religious exemptions they’re oblivious to. Hopefully, for the rest of you, it’ll actually act as it’s intended and help keep costs low for a lot of regular folk and perhaps help improve what care the more impoverished might actually get in this country, because it’s pretty clear the law’s not going anywhere no matter who wins next week.
As for those of you who still have some sort of political axe to grind about our current and future presidential outcome… STOP IT. Both sides are representing what’s nearly identical leadership. I’m no great fan of Obama or Romney, but if you’re going to “vote your conscience” based on only those two choices and none else, I want to remind you of something true believers. Lying and deceit is a pretty wicked sin, and I quite like Grace Bible Church of Tulsa’s page on the subject as a means of outlining and defining the act, and gosh if the actions don’t sound similar to what somebody’s been doing these past few months.
Remember folks: if Obama were white and this were 1970’s America, the man would be another moderate Republican just like Romney… but these days he’s accused of being a “far left socialist” by members within that very party. I’ve heard concerns voiced from some folk who consider themselves in the same camp as conservative Christians that we’re starting to resemble a fascist state, yet they’re supporting a man who’s towing the line and pandering to a message that would have gone over like gangbusters in the Wiemar Republic a few decades back. I’m just thankful that he doesn’t seem to actually believe what he’s saying… I hope. But if Obama is what passes as a socialist these days, I must come across like a friggin’ Commie to some of you people by giving lip service to caring for widows, orphans, the poor and needy, scaling back the military and supporting the arts… and I paged for Republicans and voted for the GOP in my youth!
Ask yourself though, “If I’m only going to choose between two evils who are nearly identical, which is truly the more wicked? The one who actually kept a few campaign promises made four years ago and who is relatively honest about where he stands on things I don’t like, or the one who will tell me anything I want to hear to gain my trust and vote, even if he has a full standing history that contradicts every talking point he’s currently selling to me and would likely continue to embrace the very policies I dislike just to add insult to injury?”
If you’re not happy with that answer after a bit of self introspection and feel like you’re throwing your vote away anyway, might I suggest a third option: Gary Johnson. You may not like him, you may not agree with him, but he’s a special breed of politician like Ron Paul was. Dude may be bat guano and you might not like what he’s selling, but at least you know he’s honest about it. He also stands a chance of possibly helping establish a third serious political option in this country with enough votes. When you’re forced to choose between a lesser of two evils already, would having a third option really be a bad thing?
As for me? Whatever the outcome, don’t blame me for it… I voted Vermin Supreme. For ponies. And our future.
- The 2000 WHO Ranking of Health Care Systems, the 2011 WHO Health Statistics, the April 2011 Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Health Care Spending in the United States and Selected OECD Countries study, the 2010 Commonweath Fund Health Care System Report, CIA World Fact Book on Infant Mortality (US ranks 49th) and Life Expectancy (US ranks 51st). Some numbers could be worse, some could be better. There’s been a lot of controversy and debate about using these statistics for this particular point, and at the end of the day the axiom of “Lies, damn lies, and statistics” holds true, but there is significance in those numbers on a whole indicating that something isn’t quite right given the outlay of cost of medical care in this country versus the quality of life that care has provided.
- Romney Explains How Obamacare Isn’t Socialism – Mother Jones, 12 January 2012, as reported from the January 19, 2012 – North Charleston, South Carolina GOP debate. Romney: “First of all, the system in my state is not a government-run system. Ninety-eight — 92 percent of the people had their own insurance before the system was put in place, and nothing changed for them. They still had the same private insurance. And the 8 percent of the uninsured, they bought private insurance, not government insurance. And the people in the state still favor the plan three to one.”
- The Birthday Mitt Romney Wants You to Forget – Salon.com, Apr 12, 2011
- The 111th Congress Congressional Votes Database
- EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: RomneyCare author Jonathan Gruber – Washington Post, March 29, 2011; “Zero Difference” Between Romneycare & Obamacare – Republicans For Obama, November 17, 2011. Gruber: “Zero difference. This is, to my mind, the most blatantly obvious case of politics trumping policy I’ve ever seen in my life. Because this is an idea, that four or five years ago, Republicans were touting. A guy from the Heritage Foundation spoke at the bill signing in Massachusetts about how good this bill was.
“They’re the same f–king bill. He just can’t have his cake and eat it too. Basically, you know, it’s the same bill. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he’s just lying. The only big difference is he didn’t have to pay for his. Because the federal government paid for it. Where at the federal level, we have to pay for it, so we have to raise taxes.”
- Section 16M. (a) “There shall be a MassHealth payment policy advisory board. The board shall consist of the secretary of health and human services or his designee, who shall serve as chair, the commissioner of health care financing and policy, and 12 other members: 1 member appointed by the speaker of the house; 1 member appointed by the president of the senate; 1 member appointed by the Massachusetts Hospital Association;? 1 member appointed by the Massachusetts Medical Society; 1 member appointed by the Massachusetts Extended Care Federation; 1 member appointed by Mass Aging Services Association, 1 member appointed by the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts; 1 member appointed by the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers; 1 member appointed by Mental Health and Substance Abuse Corporations of Massachusetts; 1 member appointed by the Massachusetts Medicaid Policy Institute; 1 member appointed by the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems; 1 member appointed by Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts; and 2 members appointed by the governor, 1 member representing managed care organizations contracting with MassHealth and 1 member being an expert in medical payment methodologies from a foundation or academic institution.”
- Is Mitt Romney Committed to Repealing Obamacare? – Forbes, October 4, 2011; Believe In America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth – mittromney.com, September 6, 2011. “President Obama’s new healthcare law imposes higher taxes, cuts Medicare, contains insurance price controls and expands the size of our federal government. It is unhealthy for America. That is why it is critical that we elect fiscally-responsible conservative leaders who will work to repeal the worst aspects of Obamacare, restore commonsense principles to healthcare, and focus on getting our economy back on track.” Emphasis mine.
- Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, page 107: “(5) EXEMPTIONS FROM INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS.—In the case of an individual who is seeking an exemption certificate under section 1311(d)(4)(H) from any requirement or penalty imposed by section 5000A, the following information: (A) In the case of an individual seeking exemption based on the individual’s status as a member of an exempt religious sect or division, as a member of a health care sharing ministry, as an Indian, or as an individual eligible for a hardship exemption, such information as the Secretary shall prescribe.”
- Galatians 6:2 (CJB) “Bear one another’s burdens — in this way you will be fulfilling the Torah’s true meaning, which the Messiah upholds.”
Photo entitled “Medicare” courtesy of 401kcalculator.org and licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).