Sunday, July 22, 2007

jesus + health care

I don't usually think of writing movie reviews. While I watch quite a few movies, I'm never really compelled enough to write anything that I think people would want to read. Let it be known, however, that I'm not writing this post because I believe you'll want to read it. Rather, I'm writing to convince you to go and see Michael Moore's new film about America's health care system, SICKO.

The film has been out for a couple of weeks and has been getting pretty good reviews. I went today with a couple of friends and was completely moved. Now I will be the first one to say that I'm not always a huge fan of Michael Moore. I think his tactics often get in the way of his message - diluting it to the point of camp and rhetoric. Sicko is something else entirely.

I knew that when I moved out to Seattle for seminary I would be giving up my amazing health care through Actor's Equity, the union for actors. The way health care works for actors is through a point system. After you become part of the union, you begin racking up points or weeks for every week you work at a qualified theatre. To get a year of coverage you must work a minimum of 20 weeks, consecutive or non-consecutive, during a 12-month period. 10 weeks will get you 6 months of coverage. Basically if you don't work enough you don't get covered.

I have been blessed the last three years to be able to work enough to qualify for coverage...which, like I said is amazing. The producers of the qualifying theatres pay into a pot which goes towards covering those actors who qualify. Until very recently, the actors paid nothing except a $500 deductible and a $10 co-pay. Now actors are required to pay $100 per quarter - still an incredible deal.

All that went away when I started school. Many of you who have lost or changed jobs know what it is like to not have any coverage all of a sudden. It can be a scary feeling especially if you are not sure where your next meal is coming from.

Seeing Sicko today was quite apropos, as I had just received a letter from Blue Cross that I had finally been approved for coverage. I had spent countless hours scouring the internet for the best coverage and ended up applying for coverage through I am lucky to be a healthy, 20-something, so getting coverage was not that difficult, but frustrating nonetheless.

The point of this blog, you ask? Well it's two-fold.

To begin with, I think Sicko is Michael Moore's best film to date. And I would encourage all of you, whether you like him or not, to see this film. At the risk of sounding like some kind of activist, I think that the film poses some very interesting questions about our health care system, and perhaps more importantly about how we take care of one another.

Secondly, I wonder if we'd ever thinking of giving Jesus universal health care. I was struck throughout the film by Jesus' words to us about taking care of the sick. In his parable about the sheep and the goats his says:

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.
Matt. 25:42,43
He also says:
I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.
Matt. 25:45
Moore's argument is summed up by asking, "What is wrong with us that we won't take good care of each other."

Again at the risk of sounding like an activist, this kind of "universal health care," a system similar to that in Canada, France, and the U.K., where everyone receives care, seems pretty much in line with what Jesus is asking us to do - to take care of the sick.

Certainly these systems have their flaws - people will take advantage of them, private companies will go out of business, people will lose their jobs, etc... While I don't advocate shutting down an entire industry and I might feel different if my mom worked for Cigna or Aetna, I still think that Jesus would like the idea of us taking care of each other in this way.

Let's say Jesus lived on earth right now. He's a free-lance speaker and is self-employed. Chances are good he either doesn't have health insurance or pays extremely high premiums to cover himself and the others in his organization. For argument's sake, let's say he doesn't have insurance and suddenly finds himself extremely ill. Supposing that he decides not to heal himself, he instead subjects himself to our worldly ways of treating the sick. Finding himself too sick to work and in need of serious care he finally heads to his local doctor who treats him and sends him on his way. Months later he is stuck with medical bills that he is unable to pay. On and on it goes until he has to fire all his disciples and quit speaking because he is too ill to work, and too poor to see the doctor.

While maybe a silly illustration, this scenario is played out everyday. Again I am struck by the fact that Jesus tells us over and over that HE is the least of US - and that what we don't do for each other is what we haven't done for him.

When Jesus said, "whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me," I'm pretty sure he meant it. So I guess I wonder...if Jesus were alive today, do you think we'd want to give him universal health care?


April Henry said...

I couldn't agree more. There are some hospitals (Providence Everett, for example) that will treat patients regardless of ability to pay, but unfortunately this is not the norm. I also think that a lot of people would be reluctant to enter in to this kind of system because of how widely the welfare system has been abused.

Fortunately, many church's (my own included) have support systems to help out thier members in times of financial hardship. But again this does no good for non members. We, the church as a whole, should work toward a solution to this problem. We have medical missionaries in other countries, why not in our own?

:::: Travis Keller :::: said...

hmmmmm... mind is turning.

Marsha said...

Good for people to know.