Health Care -- Semper Reformanda
One of the principles of the Reformation is that the Church must always be in the process of reforming itself. We can't let ourselves think that we've brought the church back to perfection. I'm part of a movement that has referred to itself as the Restoration Movement, and at times some of our folks have looked to the 1st Century church as the perfect golden age to which we need to return.
Well, now that the House has re-passed the fixes sent to the Senate to redeem the Senate bill, and which required a bit of amending, the final bills are now being sent to the President. We have a new health care plan that will provide insurance coverage (eventually) for millions of Americans. It will end unfair practices such as cutting people off from their plans if they use them or refuse folks if they have pre-existing conditions. This latter reform will be of great help, because it will prevent insurance companies from cherry-picking healthy clients, and leaving those with pre-existing conditions few options.
But, if we think we've reached health care nirvana, we're kidding ourselves. This lays an important foundation, without which none of the other reforms can take place. We need to work on developing better and more cost effective delivery systems. We need to recognize that too many dollars go to specialized equipment and costly procedures, and not enough go to providing for family practice. We've become a society overly dependent on costly tests, and not enough on good old fashioned physical examination. In addition, billions are spent each year on paper work. I go to the doctor, the doctor bills the insurance company, the insurance company decides whether to pay, sends me a letter and the doctor a letter, and the doctor sends me a bill -- it's very inefficient. Then there is the question of malpratice insurance and tort reform, which need addressed.
Yes, this is only the beginning. The health care system has been reformed, and it must continue being reformed.
Having begun this essay with a bit of religion, I'll end with some. One of the questions that has arisen in this debate is the role of faith/religion in the conversation. There are some, including some fellow bloggers with whom I'm in regular conversation, who are calling for a retreat from political advocacy. I'm assuming that one is allowed to enter the political realm as an individual, but the focus should be on the church's work of social care.
The position that I take has been described by Mark Toulouse in his book God in Public as the Public Church position. I have argued for this position in an article written with Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer for Congregations (Summer 2008), and another that is based upon that article for the Rabbinic journal CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Journal , which comes out this summer. In this view, the religious community enters into the public square as advocates -- recognizing the dangers inherent in this act. It is out of concern for the common good that we seek to act, knowing that our actions are not perfect.