I've been watching the news of health care reform town halls and listening to the way a minority whips up hysteria to avoid having an actual conversation about where we are as a culture and whether we have responsibility for one another and who deserves priority care and even what would be effective and efficient.
I keep hearing that most people are happy with their health insurance and therefore see no reason for anything to change. It seems to me they're neglecting to consider the possibility of losing their insurance and being unable to get more.
In the UCC we have insurance that is portable, which is to say we can take it from one job to another without having to be examined for various conditions, and that keeps us in the system whatever we may think about its cost to the churches we serve and to us in out-of-pocket charges.
I want my health insurance, more even than some people because I have a
dreaded "pre-existing condition." It's become crucial to my life and my family's security that I continue to serve in the UCC and to bring home the health insurance for all of us.
Meanwhile, churches are facing the same kind of economic downturn and financial concerns that we see in the rest of the world. They want to downsize. They wish they didn't have to pay for health insurance for pastors. Even in less independent-minded denominations, local churches are seeking ways to get out of covering a pastor.
That's bad for anyone but for a person with a pre-existing condition it's potentially disastrous.
I'll write more about churches later in the week, but for now let me say I worry that there will not be enough gainful employment for pastors in the not-so-distant future. I look out into a future of no church
jobs and see not only unemployment but poverty and uselessness.
I figured out some other work to do, I would be uninsurable.
in fact nearly impossible, for me to picture a future that isn't
catastrophic without my health insurance, and therefore hard for me to
separate my sense of call from my fear of being on the street. For me,
it won't matter if my husband can get another job with health
insurance, because no one will take me.
And if you are reading this and saying, wow, I'm glad that's not me, well, it could be. 18 months ago I was in vigorous health. I had lost a lot of weight and was exercising regularly and eating right. I felt great.
After shoveling a large amount of snow, I began to notice some shoulder pain, and then some knee pain. I thought I had injured myself, and I saw a doctor and then another.
Then one morning I woke up and could not bend my fingers. I had trouble getting out of bed. I could not open my bedroom door to get out into the hall and had to call my daughter to free me. Another night an 8 pound cat on the bed was enough to make it impossible for me to move the covers.
I'm lucky. My family practice doc got me right in to see a sports medicine doctor, and she listened to the physical therapist who urged her to send me to a rheumatologist. I responded well to baseline treatments that are relatively inexpensive compared to some of the newer medications. I work a regular, in fact a demanding, schedule. If I need the more expensive medications, it seems they will be covered, too.
Sometimes I feel crappy, but mostly the pain and stiffness are mild and I consider them to be background noise.
You wouldn't look at me and know I had a chronic illness. Well, I don't think you would. I'm not a Bible-era leper. No one is ringing bells as I walk along. I'm not contagious.
But an insurance company would look at me and see someone they did not want to know. On paper, it can't be hidden, this invisible illness.
So when I read stories about people who lost their insurance, I feel close to them. I know things must change. I want the people with the power to make the changes to stop being distracted by yelling and, frankly, to stop catering to people who will never do things differently or see the need for progress.
(Yes, that has a parallel to church life, too.)
With insurance and appropriate continuing care, I am a contributing member of society. But should I face a period of unemployment, I would lose the capacity to pay for those medications. I would become a burden to my family, both physically and financially. And when the money runs out–when the house is sold to pay for prescriptions–when there is nothing left–then I become a burden to the rest of you.
There has to be a better way.