There has been a great deal of heated discussion about raising the debt ceiling. How much of it is related to the health care debate? This week I heard several people say that they did not know if they would get their monthly disability check if the debt ceiling were not raised. Do our politicians know the anxiety level of the poor? Have our nation’s values become derailed?
Last year at my daughter’s graduation ceremony I heard Dr. Ben Carson, none too subtly, denounce the suggestion of some form of nationalized medicine. At the time I thought, “Dr. Carson, you have lost touch with the poor, the elderly, and the long-term sick of your nation.” Unfortunately Dr. Carson isn’t alone in this disconnect.
I am 66 years old and have lived about half my life in the United States (with privatized medicine) and half in England (under the National Health Service). Admittedly England has problems, but in my experience, England’s health care system is far more beneficial for citizens with middle and lower income than is ours. If it were not for Medicare and Medicaid I believe the United States would be a third world country in terms of health care.
Seven years ago my wife and I were living in Northamptonshire, England. We met John, a young engineer whose wife had just been struck down with meningitis and was in a coma in a London hospital. John was a budding engineer in a large construction firm and a keen lay preacher. He was still bubbling about his marriage to his wonderful wife, Linda, and their two lovely boys. He told us that as he sat in prayer by his wife’s bed he said, “With the help of God I will not let the devil have the last word in this situation.” Weeks later, when Linda came to consciousness, they found that she was completely lucid but the only thing she could do for herself was blink.
It took one and a half years before Linda could be brought home, but then it was to a virtual hospital room, set up in John’s house by the National Health with two nurses on duty at all times – a rota of six nurses every twenty-four hours. The detail and cost of this would boggle the collective minds of any insurance company.
Two weeks ago I met John in Europe at a friend’s wedding. When he wasn’t socializing, he was preparing intensely to bring the message of Jesus to the young people of his village, secure in the knowledge that Linda was being well-looked after. She was even able to take part in the festivities over the phone.
Friends in Orange County, New York experienced something similar. Peter’s wife Joan was diagnosed with a degenerative neuro-muscular disease. But Peter’s insurance company would fund only the cheapest option: putting Joan in a nursing home.
Peter had a good job as a police detective but his love for Joan led him to decide for early retirement so that he could keep her at home. The bulk of her care as well as most of the expenses have fallen on the family. Although Peter has remained a faithful and cheerful husband, this situation is not without much stress and anxiety.
Of course, the faithfulness and dedication of these two husbands is the most important part of both situations. But isn’t it our task as a society to support this kind of love? “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” If John or Peter were your neighbor, which support system would you want them to have?