Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

The Cost/Benefit of Faith and Risk

June 7, 2017

My family chooses to participate in Samaritan Ministries, a medical cost-sharing network.  We have been a part of it for almost four years now.  In that time we’ve had one claim, when our oldest son passed out and broke his front tooth on pool decking.  We paid close to $4000 for the associated care for that injury, and when we submitted our claim to Samaritan, we were reimbursed in full for our expenses (minus a $300 deductible) by the members of the program.  Otherwise, we faithfully send off our share to the designated person/family/need each month, along with a card and prayer.  It has been a great experience for us, but whenever you do something out of the norm, I think there’s a persistent level of uncertainty.  Are we making the right decision?  What if we’ve made a monumental mistake that will cost our family dearly?

All of which is a form of fear and anxiety.  It isn’t that anything is wrong right now, but something might go wrong, something that we won’t be able to handle, something that our choice of Samaritan as opposed to a conventional health insurance provider will prove to be disastrous in.  It’s always a possibility.  It’s a possibility even with a conventional health insurance provider.  But at least in going that route, you have the comfort of knowing that most other people have made the same choice as you, and falling into the logical fallacy of bandwagon thinking – assuming that something must be right/best just because a lot of other people do it as well.

Thus I was interested in this article commenting on Christian health care sharing ministries in general, with a lot of attention focused specifically on Samaritan Ministries. It is a critical article. Clearly the author is uncertain about the merit of such systems, despite the fact that most members of these systems report great satisfaction with them.  To support the critical perspective, the author focuses on a family who is not satisfied, and evaluates their treatment under Samaritan.

Ultimately what the article does is remind everyone to read the fine print and to make sure that they are getting coverage that matches their needs as well as their beliefs.   We were motivated primarily by a desire to not support abortion and abortion-inducing prescriptions through active participation in a traditional health insurance plan compliant with the mandates of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  Doing so may put us at risk for certain things not being covered that would under a traditional health insurance plan.  However, based on our beliefs, our behaviors, and our general level of healthiness as a family, we believe that the risk is one we can shoulder.

It’s also an article that encourages constant evaluation and reconsideration of policies, particularly policies that attempt to embody Biblical beliefs and teachings.  Ultimately this is going to be subject to interpretation and not everyone may agree on the best way to interpret and apply Biblical mandates or principles in an organization.  Which means there should be a healthy and continuous dialogue.  I hope Samaritan will take that to heart.  All their members have a lot riding on it.

Assistance vs. Insistence

February 2, 2017

I hope to be visiting the Netherlands for the first time this spring.  I just hope that I don’t fall ill and unable to speak for myself, or tick off my family to the point that they decide I need to die and are willing to hold me down to make it happen.  Well, that’s probably a poor analogy.  But let’s just say that the Netherlands are not a place I would feel safe living in if I was getting on in years and suspecting I might be developing dementia.  Someone might make the decision that it was time for me to die, even if I didn’t want to.

That’s what happened to one woman, and the Dutch courts have cleared the doctor involved of any criminal responsibility because she acted “in good faith”.  I’m not sure what that means.  Family members were asked to hold down the woman so the doctor could inject her with a lethal dose of drugs.  This after a sedative in her coffee failed to sedate her enough for them to do this peacefully.  Clearly, the woman didn’t want to die – certainly not at this point, although there are indications that perhaps she had once been open to the idea.

The woman suffered from dementia and lived in a nursing home.  She had exhibited signs of fear and anger – neither very unusual in these cases as I understand it – and also was prone to wandering around at night (also not necessarily unusual for someone with dementia).  The article doesn’t make clear who requested the euthanasia.  Had the woman left instructions when her mental faculties were capable of such things?  And if so, should she be forced to abide by that decision against her own will in the moment?  Did the family request the euthanasia, and is there any reason to think they could be held accountable?  Or was it the doctor’s idea, assuring the family that this was the merciful and loving thing to do, fully in keeping with the woman’s own (previous) wishes or ideas?

Proponents of assisted suicide never talk about these sorts of situations, yet they go develop sooner or later.  After 17 years of legal euthanasia, I’m sure there are plenty of Dutch doctors who have absolutely no qualms about ending a human life, even when the person doesn’t want to die and is capable of physically resisting.  I don’t understand how anyone can not be worried by this sort of thing.

Watch those Permission Slips

January 26, 2017

I remember having to get parental signatures from time to time as I was in school.  I remember needing their signature to watch Zeffireli’s Romeo and Juliet in freshman honors English.  I might have needed a permission slip to go and see Elie Wiesel speak as part of the Historical Society.

Permission slips seem to have evolved and changed a bit since then.  Hopefully you’re reading them carefully and asking good questions before signing them.  Otherwise, your kid might come home with missing teeth.

This strikes me as pretty weird, but is a good reminder of the increasingly central role that public school has come to play in our society.  Not just educating kids but providing them with food and health care as well.  We’d best be paying attention to this massive institution if it’s going to keep expanding power and presence in the lives of American families!

Get Those Flu Shots?

January 19, 2017

Hurry!  Or maybe you shouldn’t hurry.  Who really knows?  Let’s just get those shots all the same, right?

The effectiveness of flu shots declines rapidly, providing less and less protection from multiple strains of the flu as weeks go by.  One scientist laments the marketing of flu shots as opposed to the most efficacious use and deployment of them.  This is a wonderful reminder to folks that science does not exist in a bubble, and scientists don’t always get to control how their discoveries are used.


Goldfish Now NBA Target Market

January 14, 2017

Thanks to Ken for sending this humorous article.  If you don’t believe shrinking attention spans is a problem, perhaps knowing that professional sports organizations are looking to make changes to keep games shorter will be a more compelling argument.

While I’m not sold entirely on the research, it’s not terribly surprising.  Funny how the end of the game is often where the greatest excitement is, so I would think that attention spans would actually be longer and more focused there rather than other parts of the game.  Maybe if half-times were shrunk  or the quarters were shorter it would accomplish the same goal of making the game shorter without eliminating some of the final drama.

Then again, I can count on one hand the number of games I’ve watched from start to finish in the past year of any sporting event.  Do whatever y’all want!

More Vaccine Fun

December 28, 2016


There’s a spike in reported cases of mumps this year.  But it’s not grabbing headlines like a couple of years ago when measles at Disneyland provided the necessary ammunition for states like California to ram through mandatory vaccination legislation.

I wonder why not?

Perhaps the difference in reporting levels is that there is already a vaccine for mumps that most children receive.  Twice.  The majority of those self-reporting in the current outbreak also received the recommended double-dose vaccination against mumps.  Yet mumps is showing up in near-record numbers this year all the same.  There have been other years where mumps has increased, which is itself an interesting phenomenon.  Other sources acknowledge we don’t really know how effective the vaccine is, for how long.  In other words, does the immunity fade over time, and if so, over how long a period?  Nobody knows these things, apparently, despite the fact that citizens are being forced to receive vaccinations.  How good a solution is it to just tack on a third dose of the vaccine?  What sorts of side-effects might that cause?  How can it even be suggested when we don’t apparently understand the effectiveness of the current regimen?

Yet another reason why I still disagree with mandatory vaccinations.  I don’t argue that they can provide some real benefits, but I don’t think we know nearly enough about what we’re doing to force people to receive them.



Meanwhile, in the Netherlands…

October 3, 2016

…they’re killing babies if they don’t think the babies will enjoy some arbitrarily defined idea of  a good or meaningful life.  This is not aborting pregnancies before they come to term – this is lethally injecting babies after they’re born.  This is nothing new, but the desire is to legitimize it fully and remove any stigma from it.  And it isn’t just a European aberration.  It’s an idea that is touted here in the United States by certain intellectuals.

What is promoted as an act of selfless mercy is ultimately an appeal to very selfish utilitarian principles and ideas.  What is often at issue is not the merciful ending of a life of pain, but rather the limiting of the costs – emotional, financial, and otherwise that caring for those with serious conditions requires.  In which case, who is being given mercy, the infant being killed or the state that is being spared from a lifetime of care and cost?  Who gets to make that decision and on what basis?  The insurance company?  The hospital?  The government?  How short a path is it from offering infanticide as an option to requiring it as a matter of policy?

And how is it that people can be so comfortable with the idea of killing people?  Oh wait – that’s right.  We’ve been primed for this already through the promotion of abortion.

California, Again

July 4, 2016

Living in California I’m amazed at the beauty of where I live, still in shock after nine years in the state and six years in our current locale that God has seen fit to place us here.  We are blessed beyond belief.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some really serious issues to deal with in our state.  For instance, did y’all know that in California, there is no option to get out of paying for abortion services through your insurance?  If you’re buying health insurance in the State of California, even if you’re a church, you’re paying for abortion services.  The State of California classified abortion services as a “basic service” in the state, meaning every insurance provider has to cover such services, meaning everybody in California is paying money towards these services – even if you disagree with them ideologically.  No exceptions.

Several churches tried suing the State as well as petitioning the Obama administration for exemption to this ruling, but failed on all fronts.

Yet another reason why, for as long as we’re able to, we’re going to opt out of traditional insurance in favor of a shared health expense network that more closely aligns to our values and beliefs.

Policy & Science & Feelings

June 16, 2016

Part of the massive changes sweeping our culture right now are far from the battle-lines (past or present) of how we define marriage and who can marry, or how we define gender and sexuality.  In mainstreaming alternate sexual and marriage practices, other areas of public policy are affected if they are seen as out of step with the insistence of full cultural acceptance and endorsements of practices that were once peripheral or illegal.

Like who can donate blood.

When AIDS emerged in the early 80’s, along with the recognition that it could be transmitted via blood, a firewall was put in place – no homosexual men could donate blood.  Ever.  The disproportionate spread of HIV among homosexual men was seen as a clear rationale for denying gay men the option of donating blood.

A year ago this policy was modified, so that only men currently actively sexually involved with other men were prohibited from donating blood.  Only men who have not been sexually active with another man for over 12 months can donate blood.  The twelve-month time-frame was chosen because it is consistent with limitations on people with other health concerns or risks, such as those who recently received a blood transfusion themselves, or were accidentally exposed to another person’s blood.

But even this is seen by some as unfair.  In the wake of the Orlando shootings last week, many gay people have wanted to donate blood but are not allowed to do so, and they see this as unfair.  This despite the fact that there has been no reported shortage of blood available to the victims.  But there are some who see this scientific policy on blood donations as discriminatory, and believe that men who are “lower risk” in their active, current sexual relations with other men should be allowed to donate.

Of course, all of this is based on the honesty of the person wanting to donate blood.  Anyone can lie on the survey beforehand, denying active homosexual activity – or other risky behaviors – and thereby allowed to donate blood.  One argument for further reducing or eliminating the ban on male homosexual blood donations is that if the restrictions were less severe, there would be more people willing to donate, or more people who are honest about their sexual activity.

I wonder if there are demands for a stop to other blood donation policies.  Is it discriminatory that I shouldn’t be allowed to donate blood for a year if I was exposed to another person’s blood?  Is it discriminatory to prevent transfusion recipients from donating for a year?

As we legitimize (or invent) practices and preferences, these decisions have far-reaching implications.  Advocates for eliminating waiting periods for homosexual men to donate blood claim that there is no evidence that waiving such a waiting period puts the population at greater risk for HIV infection from blood transfusions.  But other reports simply indicate that there isn’t enough evidence – data collected – to know one way or the other.

Claiming discrimination rather than utilizing actual data to help determine public health policy is a dangerous means of creating policies.  But the argument has been so successful in other arenas of public debate, it’s hardly surprising to see it crop up here.



More Vaxxed Thoughts

May 30, 2016

I continue to be perplexed by the response to this movie.  I’ve found several more articles that criticize the movie, but end up mainly criticizing Andrew Wakefield.  I’ve not seen any articles that deal with the movie’s main assertion – that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) altered and/or repressed data from a 2004 study on the Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccine that would have demonstrated a link between the vaccine that contains all three of these innoculations together, and autism in general and particularly for African-American children.

In “unrelated” news, however, a new study indicates the autoimmune system may be a critical factor in autism, though the study focuses on the mother’s immune system and response to infections or illnesses during pregnancy.  I wonder if what studies examine the child’s autoimmune system and how it responds to vaccinations.  Interesting.  An alleged whistle-blower for the nation’s clearinghouse for medical information – a whistle-blower specifically on one of the biggest, uncovered medical situations in our nation – generates absolutely zero interest from the media.  Nearly zero interest from Congress.

Interesting.  And troubling.  If it’s all a ruse and the movie is a lie, it should be easily disproved.  If not, we have grave cause for alarm, cause that might significantly affect the kind of research that is done in the future.  It seems easy enough.  Why isn’t anyone doing anything?