Monday, July 14, 2008

Health Insurance and Universal Health Care

As the 60 something pastor of a small church in what some have described as an "anti-denomination," group health insurance is pretty much out of the question for me and my wife. Not only is it out of reach for us financially, I'm increasingly convinced I would not buy any if it were nearly "free." I don't have it, I don't want it, and I refuse to buy it. So what is available to someone in my situation?

Not much, if one is looking for traditional health insurance; but then traditional health insurance is exactly what I'm not looking for. With a typical health insurance policy, one has no control over how the premiums are spent by the company that "insures" his health. They may be using it to treat STDs, fund abortions, teach "sex education," or any number of other problematic health issues that have definite ethical concerns.

At the outset, it is pretty important to recognize that health is not the same as disease treatment. Virtually all health insurance of which I'm aware concentrate their services in the area of disease treatment rather than health maintenance. That is probably not the best approach. So, the first counsel I give myself is to take charge of my own health. I shouldn't do things that have a statistical record of harming my health. So, I don't smoke; I don't take recreational drugs; and I avoid a lifestyle that is likely to end up giving me AIDS or some other disease.

Proactively, I attempt to exercise. Admittedly, that is not as easy for me as it was when I was in boot camp back in my teens; but I can still walk without my knees giving way (though they do complain from time to time). So I walk. I try to eat things that are healthy (yes, I like cake and pizza, but that is a smaller part of my diet now) and drink beverages that sustain my health rather than put it at risk.

And about two years ago we did something else. We joined something called "Samaritan Ministries" (SMI). We do not pay a health insurance premium, but we do send a check each month to somebody in the country who is having health issues. But we do far more than simply send a check to a family somewhere. We have a name of someone who needs our prayers and for whom we pray day by day during the month. SMI also also includes a monthly prayer list for people to whom we have not sent money, but who have asked for our prayers.

Important notice: SMI is not health insurance and I'm not a broker for them.

Here is what happened with them last month (July 2008). There were 12,248 member households as of June 30, and needs submitted of just under $3,000,000. A quick trip to the calculator indicates that the total family share for the published needs comes to just under $245 per family for last month. But more importantly, there were 12,000 households praying for those needs to be eliminated by the powerful hand of God.

How great is that? Instead of paying hundreds of dollars per month to support an insurance industry that has dividends in mind as much as the health of policy holders, here are over 12,000 families throughout the US that are actually helping one another and praying for one another. When was the last time your insurance agent promised that there would be people praying for you if you got sick?

There is another solution out there for God's people. We don't need overpriced "health insurance," and we certainly don't need universal health care (translation: socialized medicine). All we really have to have is the will to help a brother or sister in need and the humility to accept their help should we ever need it.


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