Archive for July, 2017

What’s a Good Reason to Restrict Access to Health Care?

What's a Good Reason to Restrict Access to Health Care?

This week’s cartoon is an open question to my fellow Christians. It’s not intended to exclude non-Christians — you’re certainly welcome to ponder it, too. It’s just that I’ve never committed myself to a non-Christian faith or philosophy, so I wouldn’t presume to have the qualifications. Whereas I’ve been an active, practicing Roman Catholic all my life.

“Practicing” being the key word here. I’ve been at it a long time, but can’t say that I’ve got it right. The best evaluation I could hope for at any given performance review would be “does not meet expectations.” So I ask not from a position of “holier than thou,” but from a genuine confusion in trying to reconcile the teachings of Jesus Christ with American health care policy.

Obviously my question is easily traced to the ongoing chaos playing out in Washington DC. Watching the Congress grapple with health care these past few months feels like a live theater production of the Book of Revelations (except Revelations is more whimsical and easier to understand).

But what really tripped it off was State Senator Rick Jones submitting a bill to eliminate health insurance benefits for domestic partners for state employees.

In the context of our current system, it seems sensible enough. Jones wants to save the state some money. Why don’t these people just get married? Well, here are a couple of things:

There are rules in place to limit if not eliminate gaming the system — couples must prove they are in fact domestic partners. And the money saved (a million annual dollars) is relatively minor, especially if you consider that it is going to provide health care for real, actual people.

But it’s his awkward attempt at being hip with the kids (“put a ring on it”) that exposes the undercurrent. Two years ago Jones floated the same bill in the hopes of eliminating health care benefits to same-sex couples. This isn’t about saving money; this is about enforcing moral superiority.

The idea of meting out basic human health care based on a person’s wealth, intelligence, or morality is simply not Christ-like. I mean, what’s next? Kicking transgender people out of the military because of their supposed potential for health care expense?



After Seven Years, the Repeal and Replace Puzzle…

After Seven Years, the Repeal and Replace Puzzle...

If you need some perspective for this health care madness, reporter and author T.R. Reid is a pretty good place to start. Reid is an American but has lived overseas (Japan and the UK) and also has firsthand experience with seeking medical services in multiple countries as part of his work. Research for his 2009 book, The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care, predates the ACA, so it is an excellent resource if you have trouble remembering why Obamacare came to be.

One of Reid’s main observations is that a country’s health care system is reflective of its nature and values. So for example Germany has an extremely complicated public/private (yet strictly non-profit) system, but Germans are rule-followers, so it works. Canada has a single-payer system that sometimes causes ridiculously long waits for certain procedures, but Canadians are all about fairness and the system treats everybody (rich and poor) the same, so it works.

The United States, well, we all want to be winners. We want the best health care, but don’t want to pay for it. This has resulted in a convoluted mix of systems — your particular flavor depends on your age, employment status, geographic location, and so on.

But beyond its burdensome expense and gross inefficiency, it’s primary flaws are these:

  • The United States does not provide guaranteed health services to all its citizens (which is a problem for the poor and middle class).
  • The United States is the only major developed country where its citizens can be bankrupted by medical expenses (which is a problem for everybody except the hyper-rich).

The ACA was an attempt to solve these flaws. Repeal and (maybe) Replace is an attempt to double-down on them.

To be clear, I don’t believe a Medicare-for-all type system is without its own flaws. It would serve us well to acknowledge and plan for the challenges.

But can you imagine a health care system where all individuals would be free to move jobs and start businesses without fear of medical consequences? Where small and large businesses would be unburdened from the expensive diversion of administrating insurance plans? Where the State of Michigan could free its budget from the medical world and concentrate on education and infrastructure?

It’s really a matter of deciding whether we want to reflect the best or worst part of our nature.


Playing “Simon Says” with the State of Michigan

Michigan UIA Simon Says

We’ve all been caught in the grinder — whether it’s government (the IRS saying you owe money for a property you never owned), business (the cable company charging you for a box you returned in 1997), or even a well meaning non-profit (you accidentally getting signed up with Pups That Poop — a canine rescue for large dogs with bowel control issues — who now contact you every day to insist a Great Dane named Balthazar would be perfect for you and your studio apartment). Through no obvious fault of your own, you managed to get slightly outside of the lines, and now you are in database hell. It is really one of the few common experiences these days that cuts across our political and socio-economic divides.

So it shouldn’t be difficult to sympathize with the plight of an absurdly large number Michiganders and their experience with unemployment benefits. If you are unaware of this issue, here’s a link to a Michigan Radio story from last week:

I’ll summarize if you prefer to stay here:

In 2013, after Michigan began using an automated system to identify cases of unemployment insurance fraud, more than 20,000 people were wrongfully accused, with an error rate of 93%. Not only did these people not get their benefits, they were charged penalties in interest and fees and aggressively pursued for collections. Many of those without the time and financial resources to fight back got pulled into the grinder and spit out bankrupt. Some of those falsely accused filed a class action lawsuit in 2015 against the state. The lawsuit is currently in Michigan Court of Claims and the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Which brings us to last week Friday at a hearing for the case. Deputy Attorney General Debbie Taylor, in arguing for the state, asked the case be dismissed because, well, basically because the victims had not followed the proper protocol to correct the situation. In other words, she seems to be treating this like a high stakes game of Simon Says (although she did allow that their destroyed finances were “unfortunate” — a super big help for paying bills).


Summer Rerun: Tragedy — Some Perspective…

Summer Rerun: Tragedy — Some PerspectiveI took this holiday week off (from cartooning, anyway). So here’s a summertime favorite from five years ago. Enjoy!