I’m heading to the Board of Pensions Regional Consultation this Wednesday and Thursday as one of the reps from my Presbytery to offer feedback and get information about the proposals around our healthcare plan.
I wanted to state what my “operating principles” are heading into the meeting. I spent some time the last few days organizing my thoughts for myself and decided to share them with others:
- We are a church not a corporation.
- The community nature of our plan is its centerpiece. It should not be tampered with. “Business” explanations about why this is a “good” or “prudent” idea do not in my opinion pass the theological smell test.
- Our official policy position of the PC(USA) is that single-payer healthcare for all people (not just Presbyterians) is a “moral imperative.” That is who we are. This is a theological position rooted in our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is gospel values.
- Pitting various groups in the church up against each other is not acceptable behavior. We seem to do this a lot in the PC(USA). I think it drives people away from being with us, and I refuse to participate in that sort of a thing.
- We already have a discriminatory call system in the PC(USA) that is in many places ignored or swept under the rug. Our hiring system is not covered by legal protections that most other professions enjoy. It is not acceptable in my mind since we already do not adequately or systemically deal with age/race/gender/sexual discrimination to now add economics to the mix to an even greater degree. See this policy paper (Neither Poverty nor Riches) that was also approved by our General Assembly for more information.
- Disagreements are part of being a Presbyterian. We value intellect and a good debate. I enjoy this as much as most Presbyterians I know do. Good debating sharpens our intellect and helps us clarify who we are theologically and spiritually. Mud-slinging, name-calling and belittling are not acceptable. It is possible to state your opinion without doing this. I am still concerned about this issue.
- I believe that as a Presbyterian who loves the church I have been a part of since my birth means I lovingly challenge the church when it is not living up to its values. I have always conducted myself in this fashion and grew up in a congregation that held this as a leadership value. There is nothing wrong with asking questions.
- I do not believe the “urgency” argument that is before us. I do believe we have serious problems from a long and short term cost perspective that must be dealt with. I am in favor of taking no action for another year while we do more study and seek greater input from across our denomination to the real issues our Board of Pensions is facing. Good decisions are never made in a rush. We have enough money in the PC(USA) to “buy us” another year to understand what it is we are contemplating doing, the pros and cons, to have wider conversation in the church and to engage the wisdom of our next General Assembly. I know that those who work at the Board have been dealing with these issues and trying to work out solutions longer than the rest of us and I am deeply, deeply grateful for what they do on our behalf. But allowing another year for those of us who are plan participants to understand more, get more questions answered, have longer time than most have had so far with their Regional Reps, and so forth I think would be a step in the right direction, would engender so much trust and “buy-in” to whatever decisions we make–and it would allow us to feel like we are all in this together. I know that so many Presbyterians who are in the plan (and local Sessions and COM’s) still do not understand what is happening and do not understand the implications for the long and the short term. Despite the outreach that has already happened, it is just not sinking in yet and I believe more time is needed for this critical step. A year would be so meaningful and would offer so much more in the way of these opportunities.
- I shaped when talking about medical care, costs, insurance companies, etc. by my personal experiences since 2007. Having walked through a terrible experience of major illness in my family, dealing with insurance companies of all types (and not just our BC/BS Presbyterian plan), litigation, etc. I do not believe that insurance companies are fair, equitable or just institutions. They are guided by only one thing: profit margins. Right behind that is “risk management.” They have bought our legal system in most places in this country, and have even “bought” their consumers/clients. I do not believe that catering to these “corporate” values is compatible with Christian values. They are a “necessary evil” with which we have to contend in our lives—but we are the church and our values are different. I believe we should make our decisions about our medical plan in a different way. We need more time to untangle ourselves from these relationships, get answers and understand the devil we are dancing with. When I say this I mean insurance companies and the financial institution/power-structure they have created.
- I am taking the following biblical story with me into the next two days—the story of the feeding of the five thousand in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 6: 30-44). We have many of the hallmarks in this story. We are anxious. In that anxiety we behave like sheep without a shepherd. We need re-teaching. We believe there is no longer enough to go around and we need to start limiting what people can and cannot have. We do not trust. Jesus invites us to be with him, to trust him, and to not buy into the myth of scarcity that is around us. We are doing this not just in the PC(USA) these days but everywhere we look. And we are harming others with our anxiety and our need to hoard and protect. This lesson on abundance, trust and radical welcome from Jesus is the one I am listening to this week.
I plan to write blog posts, etc. about my experiences in Philadelphia this Wednesday and Thursday. I’ve been praying deeply about going to Philadelphia and for the conversations that will happen there in the next two days. Please pray for everyone who will be there having conversation together.