Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A note to Sister Keehan

Sister Carol Keehan is the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, which represents 600 Catholic Hospitals and 1400 other health-care facilities in the US.

She has been a fervent supporter of President Obama's health care mandate. When conservative Catholics raised questions about the likelihood that the mandate would be used to override conscience clauses already in law, Sister Keehan brushed the concerns aside. Her engagement of the Obama administration on health care was pure collaboration, without the base alloy of prudence.

I will leave for a future post Sister Keehan's bizarre view that Catholic social teaching requires state control of healthcare. The Church has always taught the primacy of subsidiarity-- the principle that solutions to problems of governance be solved on as local a scale as possible. The Leviathan State-- the concentration of power in the hands of federal politicians and bureaucrats-- is hardly the teaching of Christ, or of the Church. The responsibility of the state is to create an environment most conducive to human flourishing, not to extract money at gunpoint from the populace to impose its own version of flourishing (and to buy votes). Christ didn't teach that the remedy for sin was the encroachment of Tiberius' Imperium. God's Kingdom isn't a political suzerainty, and certainly not of the Left. The Church is, and has always been, the counterbalance to absolute power of the state. The millennialism of state power is a totalitarian Christian heresy, soaked in misery and blood. Prudent Catholics know that. Leftist Catholic naifs don't.

There are many approaches to improving American healthcare. The first approach is to acknowledge that it is the best healthcare on earth. Period. The second is to acknowledge the Law of Unintended Consequences. Efforts to "improve" health care will change it, not always for the better. Medicare provided free care for the elderly, and contributed enormously to the explosion of health care costs, which impedes the provision of care for the non-elderly. Hawaii found that making state-funded health care available for all children caused many families to drop their private health care insurance, which would have bankrupted the state system. The third is to encourage prudent changes that make health care even better and more affordable and accessible. Healthcare savings accounts, tax breaks, changes in health insurance laws to encourage competition and to shift coverage more toward catastrophic care would all be of help, with Medicaid-type assistance for people unable to get care. Reform of Medicare would also be desirable. The elderly in the US are the wealthiest segment of the public. Why should young families struggling to pay their own bills pay for the healthcare of their far richer parents?

Vincible ignorance is a sin. Sister Keehan is of that variety of Catholic who believes that "we're from the government and we're here to help" isn't a joke.  To wit, referring to Obama's demand that Catholic institutions pay for insurance for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients, she told the New York Times:

“I felt like he had made a really bad decision, and I told him that,” Sister Keehan said of the president. “I told his staff that. I felt like they had made a bad decision on principle, and politically it was a bad decision. For me another key thing was that it had the potential to threaten the future of health reform.”
Note to Sister Keehan: the government stomping on your rights and telling you what to do is "the future of health reform". 


  1. Michael,

    Aha! I finally get it. You're actually a comedian. All these ridiculous threads you've been writing for years are actually very clever satire.

    'There many approaches to improving American healthcare. The first approach is to acknowdge that it is the best healthcare in the world. Period'.

    Brilliant! I fell off my chair laughing when I read this. Australia spends 9.1% of GDP for universal healthcare of high standard. America spends 16% of GDP on healthcare for a product that still leaves patients and their families with considerable out of pocket expenses and fails to cover 50 million Americans.

    Keep up the good work. I'm looking forward to reading your future humor columns, now that I know that you're writing satire instead of serious commentary.

    1. So bach, off topic, but sincere: which way do you go? Are you a believer in the Landscape? The Multiverse? The Anthropic Principle? Something else?

  2. Our medical system is the best in the world if you’re extremely rich and powerful. Take Dick “the cyborg” Cheney for example, that man has had some premium health care. Both my grandfathers would probably still be alive if they got even a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, spent on Cheney over the years. Why the way things are going Cheney will probably end up as a disembodied head hooked up to machinery in some underground bunker, and when that happens we can point to his head and proudly proclaim we have the best health care in the world.


  3. I am an outsider in this my comments are only a matter of opinion.
    The way I see it: With either a universal system or a private system there is still a very real threat of corruption and various price fixing stuff.
    I can understand why the people in the USA want reform.
    I just feel that shoving down their throats is the wrong way to do it. Why not let the STATES experiment with it, and if a good model appears then it can be emulated by OTHER states - not ENFORCED by the feds.
    The only way the feds should be getting involved is to send some of the TAX revenue they have collected FROM the states back to the states to FUND it.

  4. What’s truly ironic is that health insurance mandates are an entirely Republican Idea. When Clinton was fighting for a single payer system the Republicans proposed insurance mandates as the alternative. They argued that having insurance is a personal responsibility and those without it are freeloaders.


    “The concept of the individual health insurance mandate is considered to have originated in 1989 at the conservative Heritage Foundation. In 1993, Republicans twice introduced health care bills that contained an individual health insurance mandate. Advocates for those bills included prominent Republicans who today oppose the mandate including Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Robert Bennett (R-UT), and Christopher Bond (R-MO). In 2007, Democrats and Republicans introduced a bi-partisan bill containing the mandate.”

    Romney was just being a good Republican reformer when he introduced the insurance mandate in MA. Obama went with it in the hopes of a bipartisan health reform bill.

    Of course now, because the Republican rank and file is as dumb as a bag of rocks with no long term memory, and the Republican leadership’s #1 priority is beating Obama, they call their own idea a socialist government takeover of the healthcare system. It’s the biggest politically driven flip-flops in modern history, and it relies on rank and file Republicans keeping their heads up their asses.


  5. Vincible ignorance is a sin.

    Based upon your posts, you commit this sin daily. If not more.

  6. Wow, Roy Blunt, with 19 Republican co-sponsors, has offered an amendment to the highway bill “to amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to protect rights of conscience with regard to requirements for coverage of specific items and services”.

    This amendment would allow any employer to exclude any health service coverage, no matter how critical or basic, by claiming that it violates their religious or moral convictions.

    Does your religion frown on single women having sex? With this amendment you can not only deny your single female employees birth control, but maternity care as well. Other employers could express their deeply held moral conviction that overpopulation is the biggest threat to the world and cover abortions but not maternity. With this amendment employers could do just about anything they want with their employies health insurance.

    I think it’s clear that Republicans have gone insane.