thoughts on the passage of Obamacare

Well, it happened.  The House of Representatives passed Obamacare.  The door has been opened for nationalized healthcare.  It’s a sad, sad day for this country.  And, I’m scared about the future and the future of my children and grandchildren.

I’m scared that the quality of our health care will go drastically down.  I’m scared that the USA will become a giant welfare state, where we all are reliant on the government.  I’m scared of having to face DMV-like lines and DMV-like employees when, God forbid, my child is deathly sick.  And I’m scared that some nameless, faceless person somehwere will decide that my or my child’s health care problem isn’t worth the money to fix.  My husband (who is practically having a conniption fit over all of this) said that this will be the first generation in America that will have it worse off than their parents did.  Sigh.  That’s certainly not what I want for my kids.

At the same time, I know that being a Christian always involves bearing a cross and having difficulties.  We bear crosses because of our faith, and we have difficulties because we live in a world that is utterly infested with sin, and utterly wretched due to sin’s effects.  Yet Christianity has often flourished under lousy governments, and peaceful/easy times can often cause people to lose their Christianity and start focusing on themselves instead, which many people believe is what’s happening in America right now.  There are many people today that thing that American is heading towards an era of “Christless Christianity,” where Christ is not a Savior from sin (because the word sin isn’t used, and right and wrong are purely subjective), but Christianity becomes a bunch of good advice for having a nice life on earth (think Joel Osteen’s book “Your Best Life Now.”)  The focus is entirely on life here and now, and there’s no mention of sin or wrongdoing or guilt before a holy God.  Since there’s no mention of sin, then there’s no need of a Savior, either.  The focus of Christianity becomes entirely focused on life in this world.

Now, I most certainly want to be comfortable in my life here on this earth. But, that’s probably not wise.  I shouldn’t get too comfortable here, because this isn’t my real home.  So, in light of this distressing news out of Washington D.C., I’m trying to turn my focus to spiritual issues, knowing that governments rise and fall, yet God is still in control.  Someday the heavens and the earth will pass away, but God and heaven are eternal.  It’s not about our life here now; instead it’s about our life forever in heaven.

Don’t think I’m all okay with this, however. I’ll need to remind myself OFTEN of these thoughts in the days and weeks (and, probably, years) to come.

Meanwhile, I’ve had the song “I’m but a stranger here, Heaven is my home,” in my head this evening.  It’s helping to calm my nerves and keep my focus in the right place.

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original thinking needed

I am not in favor of Obama’s plan to nationalize health care.  I am not in favor of this for many reasons, which I am not going to go into here, but rest assured that my denounement of nationalized health care is NOT that I don’t want people who need health care to not be able to get health care.

I am also extremely frustrated at how a government takeover of health care is the only option being presented as viable.  C’mon, elected representatives, can’t you come up with other options?  And why do we assume that the government taking it over is going to be an improvement?  There MUST be other options, options that would keep government bureaucracy out and put needed health care in.  I don’t know what those options might be, but people who are “in the know” should be able to come up with some potential, workable solutions.  At least, they should in my opinion.

People, we need ORIGINAL THINKING.  We need to not burden ourselves by adopting a system that we’ll never be able to undo.  The decision to nationalize health care would be a permanent one.  There would be no going back.

Is this really what we want?

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Similarly, why can’t the WELS come up with any other option to balance the budget except for the two horrible options of cutting world missionaries or closing Michigan Lutheran Seminary?  C’mon people, can’t you come up with more options than that?  Both of those options are awful!

JJ put the live feed from the Synod Convention floor on his computer tonight, and we were listening as I made supper (creamy chicken & rice, for those of you who like those kinds of details).  One delegate brought up the idea of selling the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary campus rather than Michigan Lutheran Sem.  While I don’t think that’s a particularly good idea, I do think that the Mequon Sem is on 80 beautiful acres, much of it wooded and unused.  Why don’t they sell off a few lots on one end, especially the end that’s already next to some housing developments?  That land would certainly bring in a lot more money than MLS would.

Now, I’m not saying this is the greatest idea ever (JJ absolutely thinks it is NOT a good idea!), but I do think that if this idea were legitimately considered by the people who make the decisions, that consideration might lead to other, better, out-of-the-box ideas.  That’s how good ideas come — they come from not-so-good ideas tossed around and discussed until new ideas emerge.  And we most certainly need some new ideas, rather than every two years, giving the standard answer of “Close MLS.”   C’mon!  Can’t anyone come up with a better idea???

People, we need ORIGINAL THINKING.  We need to not shoot ourselves in the foot by getting rid of an institution that we will (most likely) never be able to get back.  (Not that we would be able to sell the MLS campus in this economy anyway).  The decision to downsize to one prep school would be a permanent one, and furthermore, it would dramatically affect future called workers in our synod.  There would be no going back.

Is this really what we want?

(Not to mention the horrible ramifications of the other option, cutting world missionaries.  These missionaries are doing the work of the church in the most grass-roots way possible.  They are having tremendous success!  But “while the souls of men are dying,” here we sit with all our stuff: our cellphones, cable, $3 lattes, new clothes, nice vacations, complete collections of [fill in the blank], etc.  We have so much stuff, but in the end, we ignore the most important thing we can do as Christians.  Think how much good all that money could do if it were used for world mission work.

I know, I know, I’m preaching to the choir here.  But it’s just so maddening.  I’m praying hard that the delegates at convention this week can come up with a better solution.  One of the last delegates to speak tonight asked people to stand up if they were opposed to both options, and apparently over half of the assembly stood up.  So, with so many people opposed to both closing MLS and opposed to closing world missions, hopefully some original thinking has been spurred on in Saginaw tonight.)

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By the way, if you want to watch President Schroeder’s opening address, check out this blog post.  The blog’s author writes:

How refreshing to hear Pres. Schroeder stress the importance of the theology of the cross as opposed to the theology of the glory in the life of the church, of realizing and being who we are–confessional Lutherans–as individuals, as congregations, and as a synod, and of not forgetting the lessons learned from the history not only of our synod, but of the Christian church over the centuries.

does more care equal better care?

Those of you who know my passion for natural childbirth will understand what I mean by that phrase.  I’ve written previously on this blog about how the USA ranks last among industrialized nations as far as mothers who die in childbirth (or shortly thereafter), plus how it ranks last among babies who die in childbirth (or shortly thereafter), and furthermore how the United States spends more money on maternity care and childbirth compared to every other country.  Looking at those undeniable statistics, it’s obvious that more care does not equal better care, at least as far as childbirth is concerned.

This is an interesting factoid to remember: As Obama and his aides start planning to take over the health care system of this contry (more on that in a bit), they’re realizing that the same concept also applies to other areas of health care besides childbirth.  Check out this MSN article.

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I agree that the health care system in the United States could be improved.  But, I think there’s a way to do that that wouldn’t involve turning the entire health care system into a government bueracracy.  Picture the hassle it is at the DMV.  Picture the hassle it is to deal with the IRS.  (The IRS goofed up an estimated tax payment of mine once, and it caused a huge amount of problems, ending with me being harassed by the IRS and practically called names on the phone by the IRS agent.  While the IRS eventually admitted their “error,” I still ended up losing money in the whole debacle.  Grr!)  Now, picture dealing with all that — while holding your sick child.

Like I said, the health care system of the US could stand some overhauling, no question about it.  But do the problems warrant a complete government overhaul?  Could the problems be addressed in a more efficient way, a way that doesn’t put control of one’s health choices in the hands of an unknown person somewhere in an office, an unknown person who decides if and where you will get your treatment?  Shouldn’t those decisions best be left for us to make ourselves?  Isn’t America the “land of the free”?

Canada and Great Britain have nationalized health care, and by all accounts, it’s nothing but a mess.  People who live there question why the USA would want to institute a similar system.  In fact, those with money from Canada and Great Britain come to the United States for higher quality care!

One final thought: Citizens of the United States choose and purchase their own auto insurance, home/renter’s insurance, life insurance, and most other kinds of insurance.  Yet, somehow, health insurance is often obtained through a person’s work.  Why not eliminate that?  Why not make health insurance something one buys just like any other insurance?  A person could buy a policy that works for their family and budget, and health care companies would have to streamline and compete for customers.  I fail to see how a complete government takeover of the health care system is going to be better for anyone except for possibly the poorest members of society.  They do need to be taken care of, no doubt, but there must be far better ways to accomplish that than nationalizing the entire system.

I hope Obama fails in this attempt to nationalize health care.

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(Just wanted to add that I complete agree with this article from Time magazine.  But again, why does the government have to be in charge of this?  Why couldn’t this be done by private health providers?  Why couldn’t we, as individual health care insurance purchasers, get reduced rates on our health insurance for living a healthy lifestyle and taking good prevantative care of ourselves?  We do it for car insurance — good car drivers get reduced rates!  What about people who take good care of themselves getting reduced health insurance rates!  But why, oh why, does the government have to be in control of this???)

less is more when it comes to maternity care

I recently found this article from the L.A. Times.  The author of the article, Jennifer Block, previously wrote an amazing book entitled Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care.  Like the movie The Business of Being Born (which I reviewed here), it takes a hard look at the maternity care system in the United States today and shows that it spends too much money and does not provide good care for mothers and babies.

The United States ranks at the bottom (41st place) of the world’s industrialized nations in regards to both infant and mother mortality rates.  This means a mother and her baby are more likely to die in (or soon after) childbirth here in American than in practically ANY other industrialized nation in the world!  How can this be?  We’re so MODERN here!  We have fancy machines at birth, we’re surrounded by doctors and nurses, our care is the best, right?

Wrong.

Study after study after study proves that when LESS machines are used in birth, when doctors are LESS involved, when LESS medications are given to mothers, and when LESS time constraints are put on labor – the result is MORE healthy babies, MORE healthy mothers, and MORE instances of successful starts to breastfeeding.  Less is more in childbirth, yet Americans in general don’t seem to believe that, and certainly not when it comes to childbirth.

The most cost-effective, health-promoting maternity care for normal, healthy women is midwife-led and out of hospital. Hospitals charge from $7,000 to $16,000, depending on the type and complexity of the birth. The average birth-center fee is only $1,600 because high-tech medical intervention is rarely applied and stays are shorter. This model of care is not just cheaper; decades of medical research show that it’s better. Mother and baby are more likely to have a normal, vaginal birth; less likely to experience trauma, such as a bad vaginal tear or a surgical delivery; and more likely to breast feed. In other words, less is actually more.

This topic becomes even more interesting when you consider the implementation of nationalized health care.  In most contries of the world with nationalized health care systems run by the federal government, midwives handle the majority of the births.  The high-risk births (about 20%) are attended by obstetricians, who are best able to handle the problems that go with these births.  But the majority of births are low risk, and those births are handled by midwives.  These countries spend far less on maternity care, yet they have far better outcomes for mother and baby.

There was much talk about “health care reform” in the last election.  Maternity care is a prime example of an area of health care that is badly in need of reform.  The good news is that reforming maternity care would dramatically lower costs!  Consider this quote from Block’s article:

Currently, just 1% of women nationwide get midwife-led care outside a hospital setting. Imagine the savings if that number jumped to 10% or even 30%. Imagine if hospitals started promoting best practices: giving women one-on-one, continuous support, promoting movement and water immersion for pain relief, and reducing the use of labor stimulants and labor induction. The C-section rate would plummet, as would related infections, hemorrhages, neonatal intensive care admissions and deaths. And the country could save some serious cash. The joint Milbank report conservatively estimates savings of $2.5 billion a year if the caesarean rate were brought down to 15%.

If nationalized health care does indeed become part of the United States under the Obama administration, will midwifery become the new standard of care for Americans?  Will birth centers become more prevalent?  Most birth centers today have a hard time keeping their doors open.  Because they support hand-on, low technology births, they don’t bring much money in, and they have a difficult time staying open.  Furthermore, many insurance companies won’t cover births that occur outside of a hospital setting.  (Nor will insurance companies cover doulas, as I have unfortunately discovered during my last two births.  Grr.)  Will the evidence-based best practices be implemented on a national level, not only for their cost-saving measures but also for their greater health benefits?

I’m not an Obama supporter, but I would be very pleased to see him instigate such practices.  And if anyone can get people on board to make change happen in this area, he can.

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An interesting side note: Last month I had my yearly OB-GYN checkup.  After the requisite poking and prodding, I got dressed and met my doctor in his office.  I offered him my copy of The Business of Being Born, explaining what the movie was about.  He was glad to receive it, and said he would happily watch it with his wife (who is also an OB).  We talked about the waste that happens in obstetrics today, and he mentioned something interesting.  Apparently all pregnant mothers are now recommended to be screened for cystic fibrosis early in their pregnancy.  It’s a blood test, like the others, but it’s another test that has to be run, and another test for which insurance now has to pay.  My OB thought that this test wasn’t worth it, as he’s seen only a handful of CF babies in his 20+ years of obstetrics.  He said, “It’s another test that costs insurance companies money, it’s another test for the mother to worry about, and it’s really not necessary.”  He then added, “If Obama made me the OB czar, I would get rid of all the prenatal testing, save for the 16 week blood test and the Level 2 ultrasound halfway through the pregnancy.  Pretty much anything that’s significantly wrong with the baby can be discovered one of those two ways.  That would save a lot of money while still giving doctors and mothers adaquate information about the baby.”

Ah, yes, Americans’ obsession with medical tests!  Another way that waste could be cut out of the health care system!  (Don’t get me wrong – I know people with CF, and I’m not saying your disease isn’t important enough to test for.  But, from a practical and monetary perspective, it’s just not that common enough of a disease for the entire general populace to be tested for it.)

Frankly, if all of this waste WERE cut out (and I’m sure there’s similar instances of waste in other medical fields), perhaps health insurance would become more affordable and there wouldn’t be this great health insurance debate going on right now!  We wouldn’t need to even consider getting the federal government involved, because costs would be under control.

Oh, well.  One can always dream, right? 😉