Friday, January 17, 2014

Letter about Amish and insurance


America is supposed to be the land of equality, and so I think when we Americans find a situation that doesn’t hold up to that standard, we should work to make things better.

Something many people might not know about health insurance companies: they can make bargains with participating hospitals to hold down the prices you are charged.  “Great!” you might think, “I’m glad I have my insurance company!”

It’s not so great, though, for people whose religious beliefs do not allow them to buy insurance or to participate in insurance programs, for example, the Amish.  It is perfectly legal and frequently happens that a family without insurance must pay more, much more, to the hospital than a family with insurance must pay.  So, when an Amish child needs an appendectomy, the family might pay $20,000.  When an insured child needs an appendectomy, the charge might be half that, or less.  This is all perfectly alright in the land where all men are created equal.

An Amish family will always pay their bills, even if it means selling their farm and possessions to get the money.  So, more often than you or I would like to know about, a whole family with many children has to start over again, from the bottom.  And, they do not accept any public assistance under any circumstances.

When I saw this happening in the early 1990’s, I wrote to the ACLU and asked for their assistance.  They were not willing to help.  If my memory serves me well enough, the idea behind their refusal was that this was a religious issue, which they regarded as a matter of choice for the Amish, not a matter of discrimination by hospitals.

At around that same time we were made aware of a case in which the State of New York began a legal battle with an Amish family with an extremely ill baby.  The State wanted to force the issue of a liver transplant upon the baby and the family.

Transplants of organs from one human being into another is contrary to Amish beliefs, I was told by a social worker on the side of the Amish.  And, she reminded me, it is not as if, once a transplant is done, all is well, forever.  “That child would have to spend its lifetime taking anti-rejection medications, and probably would not live as full and happy a life as the siblings in the family.”

We became involved peripherally, in the preparation of documents and arguments for the issue.  Eventually, the representative for the Amish family won the case, and the child was allowed to come home to its mother and family.  Several days later, the child died peacefully in its mother’s arms and surrounded by a loving family, who had no doubt that the child went straight from the arms of its mother, into the arms of God.

I think the bills from the state-enforced hospitalization sent the rest of the family decidedly someplace else.

 I am no great fan of the State.  As a matter of fact, every time I use the word I think of the former Soviet Union.  I am ashamed that my country who touts equality all over the world, would force all Americans to pay insurance companies, private industries, for medical “protection,”  thereby making those of us who refuse to do so, law-breakers.  I have to do something about this now, I should have done something about this long ago.

So our family members are becoming law-breakers.  We are cancelling our medical insurance, and putting aside the $ 1,650 per month of protection money demanded by our insurance racket.

I would encourage you to act according to your informed conscience.  Who knows?  Maybe you might become a law-breaker, too!

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