struggle, spirituality, absurdity

Category: Politics (page 1 of 2)

Fighting the Insurance Company

Twice this year I have had to fight my insurance company for medication. I’ll spare you the minute details, because that would be a long, complicated explanation of coverage, plan info, benefits, deductibles, out of pocket maximums, and me wanting to hit my insurance company with a shovel.

The first “oopsie” occurred when I called in to have my oral chemo filled. My and their understanding of my plan benefits were vastly different. True, the meds are about $11,000 per month, but that really shouldn’t matter. They essentially informed me that I would owe, over the course of the year, $35,000 in co-pays for that particular prescription. I wanted to tell them that I would be happy to write a check and that they could deposit it in a very “unambiguous” place, but I kept my cool.

We argued for about 2 weeks, which was how long I was off this life-saving medication, and I had to get my church’s insurance broker involved. When we teemed up, we finally convinced the insurance company that I did not, in fact, have to pay a teacher’s annual salary (in Houston, at least) worth of co-pays in order to live. It took a bit of work, but I am thankfully trained in the fine art of reading, analyzing, and understanding complicated documents – thank-you exegetical course work.

To the surprise of no one, the mutation that causes my particular flavor of leukemia reappeared due to not having access to the medication. But I tend to take things in stride, so I figured that I would bounce back after getting back on the pill.

Things were fine until we were notified that my insurance plan was changing its prescription coverage. “Everything would be the same, if not better!” they assured us in their brightly colored pamphlet. I called it the instant I found out: they were going to make the same mistake they did last time. And I was right.

So I rallied the troops, and drafted a few more into my little army: lawyers. Yes, those lawyers were family members, but it still counts. The insurance company still quoted me ridiculous co-pays while I reminded them that that was not how my plan worked: back and forth like a old married couple. After another two weeks, they finally traced the problem to a “computer glitch” that gave them the wrong information. I’m sure the strongly worded letter claiming negligence had nothing to do with it.

I learned a few things that I thought important enough to break my 6-month streak of not writing. The first is that when you tell insurance customer service reps that they are effectively blocking (via negligence) you from getting a life-saving medication, and that you will eventually die without it, that conversation gets very uncomfortable very quickly.

The second thing I learned has shaken me to the core. Consider my scenario: (1) I am well educated – good schools, with a master’s degree. (2) I am decently literate and am able to read and understand complicated documents reasonably well. (3) I have a ton of connections and a huge community of support: multiple, talented lawyers in the family, access to viciously persistent insurance brokers (I love them), people I can talk to in the business world who have fantastic advice, etc. The list goes on. (4) I have a job that offers a lot of flexibility, so that if I need to spend 3 hours on the phone and explain my prescription benefits to 3 different people (all of whom should know it better than me), that’s not a problem. At all.

Now take those 4 points and change them. What if I were a single mother working two jobs to make ends meet who has Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, who, though fortunate enough to actually have health insurance, is “blessed” with my same plan/company? (1) Little or no education. (2) High-School (or less) reading level. (3) Is very much alone and isolated, considering the toll that surviving takes on her and her family, without much support/family/anything to help her when she needs it. And (4) is easily replaced (jobs are in high demand, workers are expendable) if she needs to take a few hours to attempt sorting the issue out.

That’s a very bleak and vulnerable person. When I listen to political discourse regarding healthcare and other social issues, I can’t help but think about the people that are constantly slipping through the cracks in spite of their giving every ounce of effort they have. It changed the way I think. This isn’t about Republican or Democrat, Obamacare or Romneycare, or any other polarizing dichotomy. This is about real people who are sick and lack the resources to get help. I realize that this instantly gets complicated, but having needed help and receiving it, my mind immediately goes to those that need help but can’t find it.

Theological Reflections on the Death of bin Laden

For starters, I’m irritated with the fact that it was under Obama’s command that he was killed. This isn’t a political statement or a revelation of my allegiances; It all comes down to grammar. About 6 times now I have been in conversation with someone about the death of Obama, at which point I feel like an idiot. I seem to remember John Stewart joking about the same mistake.

On a more serious note, I feel very ambivalent about the whole thing. One the one hand, a dangerous man responsible the deaths of thousands of people all over the world is now dead. That is justice.

But a Christian is called to forgive. We believe that all humans bear God’s image (Imago Dei is the fancy-pants term), and thus we affirm the sacredness and dignity of all human life. I think this applies to issues of war, sexuality, human trafficking, business practices, ethics, and everything in between. The more I think about it, humans-as-imagesbearers is a pretty deep rabbit hole that too few venture down. That’s a different matter, I guess.

It particularly disturbs me, though, when the killing of bin Laden is labeled a victory. The taking of life is not a victory; at best it is a necessary evil – and I use that word specifically.

Jesus made a cryptic statement when he was on trial before Pilate, the governor, who was attempting to assess whether Jesus is a threat to the peace and security of Roman interests in Judea. “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would have been fighting…” Sounds simple, right? It is, but it also goes very deep into the heart of the matter for today.

Palestine had a reputation of violence for hundreds of years before and after Jesus’ life. Jewish revolts were relatively common, often beginning in the context of the great Temple in Jerusalem. Or to put it another way, the many revolts that took place against the Romans were messianic in nature. The Messiah, it was thought, would lead the great war to kick the Romans out and reestablish an autonomous Jewish nation. These were incredibly bloody affairs, and they rarely ended well for the Jews, especially around the 1st centuries BCE and CE.

So Pilate had to decide whether Jesus was yet another violent revolutionary leader. As it turns out, he was not. Jesus recognized the futility and evil of violence and taught his disciples the same – not that they always understood. His kingdom was not of the world because it operated under a different set of values, but it was still very much for this world.

And this is where we get to the heart of the matter. If read with this background in mind, we can come to understand a deep truth regarding the nature of evil. Namely, that one of the tools of evil is violence, and fighting will never really eliminate the problem. It might contain it, but it will always resurface. This is why thoughtful and courageous non-violent resistance can be wildly successful, especially when the enemy is much more powerful: it strips them of their power.

Giving into violence might make the situation better for a time, but it will never make evil go away. Since all human life is sacred, even those responsible for incredible evil, Osama’s death is still a tragedy. Necessary, but tragic. It is better that he is dead? Probably. Is it a cause for celebration? No, never. We defeat our enemies through forgiveness, not by killing them, and we do not celebrate the death of anyone.

Scientology Protest – St. Louis org. JUST TAKEN



Academic Article on Cults, Scientology, and Psychology.

The essay is very much abridged , but the idea is to consider basic human psychological need and then examine how cults (and Scientology) manipulates these.

Why Bush, Huckabee, and Other Evangelicals are Wrong. Period.

This is a response – among many, I’m sure – to evangelical politicians who are intent on “Taking this nation back for Christ.”

1. This nation was never a “Christian” nation.
    Thomas Jefferson was a deist who was interested in the ethics taught by Jesus and preferred to dismiss spiritual claims. John Locke and others from whom the Founding Fathers developed their ideas for the United States held similar religious understandings. They had no intention of founding a religious nation, especially considering the fact that they kicked their former ruler out who made that claim.

2. Jesus and the early church leaders had little to do with politics.
    Well, that’s only half true. When they did interact with politics, it usually ended with their execution. This is Rome, after all. What really chaps my ass is that not only did they distance themselves from the government (most of the time, anyway), when Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion, many scholars would say that this was, in fact, a highly destructive move for the Christians (see Hauerwas/Willimon specifically).
    Once political power (and therefore money) entered the game, corruption spread through the church faster than the plague. Granted, the plague was usually right behind.

3. The Christian Scriptures are highly critical of wealth and power.
    The writers understood very well that it is easy to corrupt people. Here I would like to point out that it has corrupted many self-proclaimed evangelicals in government offices, but that implies they weren’t corrupt before taking office. I’m not entirely sure that is an accurate statement, and thus I will refrain.

4. Notable Christians in history are usually notable BECAUSE they rebelled against authority.
    After all, Jesus pissed a lot of people off which got him killed. Martin Luther should have been executed but escaped the wrath of the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic church a few times.
    Martin Luther King, Jr. challenged an authority that OVERTLY CLAIMED TO BE CHRISTIAN. He was assassinated. Soren Kierkegaard fought against the established church his entire life. Honestly, the list goes on.

My point: Many of the most highly regarded Christians throughout history have their status because they opposed corrupted power. Rarely do heroes stand on the side of power. Why? Be cause power always corrupts.

Huckabee, Bush, Cheney, Rice, Robertson, etc – you have all missed the point, and your corruption is bringing the demise and death of many, many people.

Oh, yeah, and you’re pissing off the rest of the world. That’s a bit more serious than some idiot blogger.

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