Nationalized Health Care, Down Syndrome, and Abortion

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I’m going to go out on a limb today and say something that a good portion of my readership probably won’t like. Namely: I support Obama’s health care plan.

You might remember that last year a group of us put together a bill to mandate coverage of “habilitative” services for children with special needs. This extremely frustrating process has shifted me from a default status of “big government=bad” to support of national health care.

Consider this:

  • A child who has a stroke on the birthing table will receive whatever therapies s/he needs throughout his/her life. But a child who has a stroke in utero, even a day or two before labor begins, will be denied the same coverage.
  • Likewise, if Alex (Heaven forbid) suffered a fall and received brain damage that made it necessary for him to receive ongoing physical, occupational, or speech therapy, he’d get it. But Julianna, who already faces an uphill battle for learning anything (aside from being cute, which she gets naturally 🙂 ), gets denied based on her diagnosis of Down’s.

As long as we were covered by First Steps, we got what we needed. It is a great program. But it only goes to age 3—and Julianna didn’t even walk until 2 ½. For 2 ½ years, we threw all our effort behind the basic gross motor skills, with OT and speech taking second place. This is the natural order of learning. But by the time she walked, we had less than six months to focus on speech therapy. Six months, when it took 2 ½ years to teach her to walk.

At 3 ½, she receives one hour a week of one-on-one speech therapy from the public schools. And although her comprehension is within twelve months of normal, she’s not even as far along as Nicholas (16 mo.) in speech production. She doesn’t know how to control her muscles. She can’t even babble the back of the mouth sounds (k, g, etc.) The only solution is speech therapy, and a lot of it. Can the school give her more? Probably. We’re certainly going to ask, come fall. But through insurance, we’re just plain old out of luck, because she has a pre-existing condition—namely, Down syndrome.

And we have good insurance. Insurance that served us well, as long as we had somebody else providing therapy.

This is the inequity—dare I say, the discrimination—that the Children’s Therapy Act seeks to address. But even knowing that grassroots-level legislation takes years to get passed, the complete and total lack of responsiveness from the political leadership was disheartening, to say the least. For weeks on end, we deluged the speaker’s office with calls to assign the bill to committee. We called senators, trying to get someone to listen to us. No response.

I contacted a former state senator, hoping for advice on who might be open to listening to us. Instead, I heard how insurance is not supposed to cover ongoing needs; insurance is supposed to be for short-term, emergency care, and we should not be putting mandates on private companies. I wanted to strangle him. Political philosophy is all well and good, but not when it holds us hostage. Because folks, there is not another good option.

A health insurance company can negotiate a rate with providers. A family can’t. It’s not because the therapists are unwilling; it’s just not allowed. That means that where an insurance company pays a fraction of the fee, families pay the whole freaking thing. Every time.

We know of people who have sold their homes to pay for therapy. People who have turned down good jobs, preferring to stay in low-paying ones, because Medicare does cover therapies. People who have gone into debt to meet their child’s needs.

How is this just?

This is why I put my support behind federal health care. Because as of 2014, it requires that insurers provide coverage equally across the board, regardless of “pre-existing condition.”

Now, I know the arguments. High taxes, socialized medicine, general governmental incompetence. I get it. I do. I’ve heard from people who lived in Canada and loathed the system, saying it was absolutely useless. But I’ve also heard from people who lived in Canada and said it was fabulous. Likewise for people in Europe, who come here and are appalled by our for-profit health care system. No system is perfect; somebody’s always going to be upset. But I truly, honestly believe that most of the backlash against “Obamacare” is about political power and fear of change.

What about abortion? Well, here’s the thing. Abortion, horrific and loathsome as it is, is not going to be legislated away. Not now, anyway. We as pro-life Christians would be far better employed changing hearts and minds than banging on a door that simply cannot be broken down right now. Through Theology of the Body, through natural family planning, through support of unwed mothers, we can change the world. Because where hearts and minds are, laws will follow.

One final thought. Parents given a diagnosis of Down syndrome during pregnancy are presented with a world where their child will be discriminated against every day. If parents can’t even trust their health insurance to help them get needed care for their child, how can we be surprised by a 90% abortion rate?

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23 thoughts on “Nationalized Health Care, Down Syndrome, and Abortion

  1. duke1959

    Let me state this upfront. My wife is one of those ugly insurance people. I see some of the other side of things. This whole argument on a National Health Care ( on either side of the debate) is wrong. What we have actually a regional Health Care System. Its not natial in any sense of the word. It just isn’t. You have every right to be upset about the treatment you are recieving. That is nonsense. There is no excuse for that stuff in this country. One of the issues that never gets talked about is how for 50 years Hospitals and Doctore overbilled insurance companies. They did it has a matter of course. The company that works for does not deal with younger people they only deal with seniors. They do have program that promotes seniors to live a healthy life and keep them out of the hospital. The clowns in Washington tried to kill it. It was saved.
    I am sorry for going on for so long this morning. Your is great! If I can ever help let me know.

    • Oh, I’m with you on too much $$…I love most of our doctors, which makes me wince to suggest that they get paid too much, but I do often feel that way. :/ Especially when I see how much the opthamologist gets paid for the three minutes he spends in the room, NOT telling me anything…!

    • duke1959

      My wife had a doctor who was sending patients to the Hospital as an out patient to get blood taken. She found it by just going through some routine stuff. The out patients for this doctor was much higher than others. That doctor doesn’t do that anymore. What she dooes is monitor patients care as they enter the hospital. One of the things people do not know is certain companies will give the hospitals and dcotors a certain fee on a procdure. Its doesn’t matter if the patient is there one day or 10. That leads to a “get them in and get them out ” mindset. Hang in there.

  2. I completely agree with you. I think that pro-lifers get so caught up in the abortion issue that they forget to fight for all life. I am an american living in canada, and I have been amazed by the national health care system. Yes, it is terrible that abortion is funded. But guess what else is, health care and therepy for everyone.
    I see so many more people with disabilities up here, a lady with down syndrome at the bank, a man with cerebral palsy at the mall, they are able to get jobs and go almost anywhere because the government pays for them to have a personal caregiver to help them. It’s amazing to watch. At the Taco bell there was a young lady with downs syndrome wiping down the tables with her caregiver encouraging her and giving her high-fives, it brought tears to my eyes. We have a man in his 50’s in our church who cannot walk or speak. His parent’s died in an accident when he was 11 and the government pays for his care in a wonderful Catholic nursing home.
    In the states I know of people who have joined the army so that their special needs child would be able to get the care they need. The system is just wrong, and it needs to change.

  3. duke1959

    One of the questions in all of this debate is who is going to pay for all of this. We have a 13 trillion debt. The only way that issue will be dealt with is taking on entitlement programs. That will not happen anytime soon. ( and growing) On the issue of abortion both side get caught up in things that really do not matter. You are right. If you are going to fight for life then it has to be all or nothing.

    • Duke, I know there are issues with paying. But how can we just throw up our hands and say, “We can’t pay for it the way things are now, so we’re just going to skip it.”? We’ve got to let go of our fixed ideas of what does and doesn’t, will and won’t work, and come up with a way.

  4. duke1959

    Under no circumstances can we throw up our hands and walk away. None. Not One. We are talking about people here! Especially when it comes to children. We a guy here is tennessee who wants to be governor but does not support pre-k spenging. When it comes to medicare ( that is what mey wife deals with) the rules are different. You are also right abour Roe V. Wade. that will not change. The Supreme court will tweek it from time to time but thats about it. You are right about Obamacare also. People are scared. One of the issues that is face in healthcare is that many Americans see it as entitlement. By 2014 who knows what will happen by then. Pre-exsiting does happen in medicare. My wife had a patient the other day that just enrolled with her company and went straight to the hospital. Is that fair to all involved? I’m not sure.

  5. I supported health care reform right up until I saw a little bit of what ended up being the final version (and no, I haven’t actually read the whole thing, who has?!). I am not a fan of “Obamacare” because “Obamacare” meant having no plan and letting congress come up with one of the worst combinations possible. I’m not sure that the resulting legislation makes any cohesive sense. It would have been far better, imo, if we could have had a well-thought out plan that was passed, rather than random pieces stuck together. Of course that wasn’t the politically smooth plan since it would have risked looking too much like “Hilarycare” but in my view it would have had a better result.

    As for abortion, I entirely agree with you that it is not going to be legislated away. But we should not increase abortions by providing federal funding! Money matters when it comes to healthcare choices. And it is of utmost importance that we as a society put money into providing healthcare for all children, and *not* into funding abortions.

    So I completely agree with you that something needed to be done, but I don’t think that what needs to be done has been done. Hopefully I am wrong, but for now I dream of a world in which legislation will be cleaned up, we will follow fiscal plans that make sense for healthcare, abortion will not be covered, and no one will ever think of worrying about financial issues when faced with a child with medical needs.

    • You know, the whole federal funding thing is a real gray area. I understood in the first place that the Hyde Amendment still applied here, based on the pro-life Democrat who ended up swaying the outcome. I know the pro-life crowd doesn’t buy that, but I can’t help thinking that’s more of the political power/fear thing. I know that plans *can* include abortion coverage, but that doesn’t mean that there is federal money going to cover it. The Hyde amendment would prevent the government option from covering it, wouldn’t it? Or am I missing something?

      Missouri just passed a law saying that plans offered in this state will not cover abortions. And there is a congressman from NJ who is working on an amendment to get this gray area better defined. Whether it goes anywhere or not is a question, but I’m sure people will continue to work on it.

  6. I have real questions about whether the path we are on healthcare wise is the right one, or one that will give us the worst of socialized medicine and medicine for profit. I believe insurance should not cover most families’ routine expenses; however, as you note, therapy for a handicapped child isn’t routine and isn’t cheap. Good luck with the school system–and check out wrightslaw for info on your legal rights.

  7. duke1959

    I had breakfeast with a Pastor friend of mine this morning. As always a wide variety of topics came up. Healthcare was one of them, He is in aggreement that we can never give up the fight.

  8. Kelly

    I don’t claim to know a lot about universal healthcare in all countries, but I did live in Germany for three years and received care in German hospitals. What a lot of people don’t realize is that they still have private insurance. The wealthy elite can afford it and still receive care from doctors and hospitals that will only serve those that are privately insured. There is a significant difference in the standard of care received as well. In addition to this, to pay for the socialized government programs, families that we would consider middle class were paying up to 50% in income tax, not to mention sales tax. Those families paid so much in taxes that they couldn’t afford insurance and had to use the government programs.

    In government programs your care is directed by your physician, not by the patient. As a parent, you are not entitled to make simple decisions such as which vaccines you want your child to receive or not. You will vaccinate or risk losing your child to the government. We won’t even get into the lack of freedom in education parent’s face, as I’m focusing on healthcare, but it’s outrageous how much you and your children belong to the system.

    As far as children, with disabilities, etc., most of those children are aborted in European countries. Because they are pressured to not have children that need to receive ongoing care, thus costing the government more money. Those people are a burden to the system and can be denied care if they choose to have a child with a known condition before birth. I recently read an article on a newborn needing care in Canada and the government was refusing to pay for care for a child that they basically said just needed to die. Do we think our country will be above this? It will come down to cost and what’s best for the society as a whole, not the individual families.

    Thought I’d share some other points to think about before supporting government run healthcare. I think we need better healthcare in this country. I would support price caps on care, because often doctors do price gouge those that are sick. We need benefits and incentives for doctors and healthcare workers who will volunteer part of their time at clinics for those who cannot afford care, etc. There are many ways to develop plans to help reduce costs and cover those in our communities who cannot afford it. You know, there are many hospitals that have programs people can donate to which cover the bills for low income people who qualify. How many people who support socialized medicine have ever check into what they can personally do to help those in their own communities?

  9. Kelly

    One other thought on the abortion topic. You commented that we cannot break down the door for legislation against abortion, but change the hearts and minds of people and the laws will follow. One way for the laws to follow, is to vote into office those with the hearts and minds against abortion, who will not support bills that pay for abortion. I cannot support any politician or legislation that violates my belief in the right to life for unborn babies…no matter what other good may seem to come from that. It’s very selfish to say, I can overlook the abortion issue and try to win the hearts and minds of those I meet, as long as MY child receives the care he/she needs.

    • Lots of things to think about–some of which I didn’t know, so thank you. My point about laws following hearts and minds is that right now there is tremendous resistance to prolife legislation, b/c of the abortion-as-backup-to-failed-birth control mentality. If we change hearts and minds, we actually have a prayer of passing abortion legislation.

      My problem with the argument you use here–voting “single issue”–is that I haven’t seen anyone DO anything. Lots of people try to get my vote based on the prolife issue, but once they’re in office, they do nothing about it. Because they can’t–because of cultural resistance, as I said above. Why should I vote single-issue prolife when they’re not doing anything anyway?

      Finally, as to “selfish”–my family is really lucky to live in a county where local government supports people with disabilities. So it’s not really me that needs this, anyway. We have other avenues; I just think it’s reprehensible that we should have to use them. What about all the other kids like my daughter who aren’t so lucky? To be truly prolife, you have to give people the support they need to raise children–whether they have DS or autism or CP or are completely “normal.” Otherwise, how can you be horrified when they choose to abort?

      I acknowledge the high termination rate in Europe–but I think it’s the same here. I don’t mean to belittle the abortion issue–it is trmendously important to me. All I’m saying is, this issue is incredibly complex and cannot be painted in bald black & white terms. And abortion exists because we have a contraceptive mentality in this culture. As long as that continues, abortion will remain.

      • Kelly

        I absolutely agree with you in this reply. We both want to address the same things, better care for families of special need children, overall healthcare, and reducing or abolishing abortions. We just disagree with how to get there. Myself and many others I know want the same things, but cannot support a system we believe will not bring us closer to those goals, but in fact put us under more control of our government.

        I also agree about not voting single issue. There are many who do use the pro-life, or pro-choice, as a tool to get elected and like you said, pro-lifers in office aren’t accomplishing anything. I won’t vote for anyone just because they are pro-life, but in good conscience cannot vote for anyone who is pro-choice because I am passionate about the right to life for unborn children. These children are brutally murdered and anyone who can support this, touts their stance as pro-choice to earn votes, will not have my vote.

        I am politically frustrated with our country. I consider myself a conservative, not a republican, and vote accordingly. Though, I confess it’s getting harder and harder to find candidates that even seem worthy of office. I think this speaks to the overall spiritual and moral decay of our society.

        I hope we can both see the ideals we hold come to pass, in a way that will be good for our country and not ultimately detrimental to individual freedom. I think we are wanting the same things. I think many Americans, liberal and conservative, have many common goals, but again, we disagree on how to accomplish them.

  10. “Though, I confess it’s getting harder and harder to find candidates that even seem worthy of office.”

    AMEN, sister, you said it there!

    I’ve always considered myself to be very conservative. When I wrote this post I began thinking I was more liberal than I had believed. Until I met a guy the next day whose words & attitudes made it clear to me that I am still VERY conservative. LOL

  11. After I wrote this post, my mom asked me, if families have to pay the total cost of therapies, where insurance companies don’t, what exactly that amounts to. Well, here is a portion of that picture, based on the statement we got in the mail yesterday. Insurance approved ONE 1-hour diagnostic speech therapy visit for Julianna this summer. The therapist’s company billed insurance a total of $500. Yes, I said FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS. The insurance company approved FIFTY. Now, I don’t know that this is the total picture, but as far as I’m concerned, this raises an awful lot of questions about the state of the health care industry–if insurers will pay fifty dollars for a service that the family would pay five hundred for. Or do companies bill ridiculous amounts, knowing they’ll get only a sliver? Do they have separate billing rates for families, then, or would we pay them $500 an hour? No matter how you look at it, this is SCREWED UP. If someone knows more than I do about this, I would love to be educated.

  12. Kristy

    I agree with you a 100%! I recently lost my health insurance. I have a 9 year old daughter with down syndrome and she is being denied insurance coverage. One company even put in writing “because of her down syndrome.” I was not aware that down syndrome was a disease. She might have one extra chromosome but she can read, ride a bike, beat mario on her Nintendo ds just like every other kid. I look at her and I just want to cry. Not because she has down syndrome but because of the awesome person she is!. Happy tears! She doesn’t deserve this discrimmination and neither does any other child!

  13. Greg

    Will human stupidity know no bounds?
    YOU chose to have a disabled baby.
    YOU chose to not have an abortion
    YOU decided to raise it.

    Now you expect insurance to pay for your mistakes?
    Why should everyone bbe burdened by your decision? If insurance pays for all the disabled child needs, then that means everyone else has to pay a higher insurance rate to offset the costs.

    Would u be ok for an insurance company to pay for physical therapy on a guy who was constantly jumping and falling flat on his back even AFTER he was warned by doctors that it is very unhealhy?

    Case closed

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