Sunday, June 14, 2009

Horrifying health ministries: Inspiration for health co-op plan?

Andrea Mantegna, ca. 1490

Sen. Chris Dodd's health-reform site, now apparently closed after 26,363 votes on 514 entries from 484 people, got a lot of traffic from members of so-called Christian health ministries, who were apparently coached to post repeating messages (they all used nearly the same language) calling for preserving their private health-care expense-sharing plans and to hell with the rest of us. (I guess we're destined to go there, anyway, in their view, so they don't mind if we suffer here on earth first.)

Since the health cooperative idea proposed by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) seems based on the concept of these unregulated health-insurance programs, it's as well to understand how they work.

Typically, the organization publishes a newsletter specifying named individuals' health-care needs every month, and members, who are required to tithe a specified amount monthly, send their donations directly to the sick person of their choice. So not only do you have to tell all your fellow members about your hemorrhoids or prostate trouble, if you're unpopular, I guess you die.

According to the scheme most frequently cited, Peoria-based Samaritan Ministries:
"Whether anyone chooses to pay your medical bills will be totally voluntary. This publication should never be considered as a substitute for an insurance policy. Whether you receive any payment for medical expenses, or whether or not this publication continues to operate, you will always remain liable for any unpaid bills.

"This is not a legally binding agreement to reimburse you for medical expenses you incur...."

To participate in Samaritan Ministries, you must be certified by the pastor of your church as a born-again Christian who attends church three out of every four weeks, and who doesn't drink, smoke or have sex outside of heterosexual marriage. You must also practice undefined "good health measures."

No expense under $300 is covered; payments cap out at $100,000 per illness. No preventative medicine, regular checkups or routine tests, such as colonoscopy. No chiropractic or osteopathic treatments. No treatment for mental illness or resulting suicide attempts.

If you have cancer, diabetes or a heart condition before you join, no expenses related to those conditions will be paid for, ever. A 12-month symptom- and treatment-free period applies to other pre-existing conditions. They also won't cover any sexually transmitted diseases contracted by, er, having sex.

They do, however, cover the expenses of birthing lots of Christian babies.

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