The state of health care in the U.S. is in flux, but no matter where the nation’s laws and regulations end up, a small group of Catholic health care innovators are plunging ahead with solutions aimed at offering individualized, affordable medicine that respects Catholic values.
That’s a tall order, as speakers at the archdiocesan Respect Life Conference on “Restoring Affordable Catholic Healthcare” April 29 at St. Mary’s Cathedral event center in San Francisco acknowledged. In some ways, the solutions are a work in progress, but they also work – even if not for everyone and not all the time, the speakers said.
In brief remarks before leading the opening prayer, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone praised “this very timely and important conference.”
“The church, of course, from the very start has been a leader in providing health care, truly Christ-centered health care to care for the whole person. So, we need to, in the changing circumstances of our day continue to find new ways to deliver Christ-centered health care to those who are suffering,” Archbishop Cordileone said.
“We are all paying for health care that is garbage,” said Dr. Michel Accad, a San Francisco cardiologist, who said health insurance requirements have turned the physician into the “middleman.”
“Medical care today is increasingly mechanical,” the Catholic physician said, and lost its sense of the human being as body and soul. Doctors’ ability to practice has become hostage to what insurance companies decide are necessary, he said.
His solution was to become a direct primary care doctor. Accad said in his practice he has restored the physician as steward of the patient’s health by eschewing health insurance and instead operating on a model where patients pay a monthly fee for an ongoing relationship. Accad refers his patients for tests, services and to specialists who take insurance as well as directly paid fees, but believes with his model he provides direct, personalized care that allows him to get to know his patients and spend more time with them.
“The direct primary care movement is an affordable arrangement that aims to repair the doctor-patient relationship and reduce or remove conflicts of interest,” said Accad.
Direct primary care pediatricians, family doctors and internists are a “small but fast-growing movement,” according to a March 17 Business Insider article that said the rise of high deductible insurance plans makes the model more attractive. In the past five years, the number has increased from less than 200 to about 1,000, said Accad.
Another conference presenter offered an alternative to health insurance known as health cost sharing.
Michael O’Dea, founder and executive director of Christ Medicus Foundation based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, first got into the field several decades ago as a volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center when he realized that almost all health insurance plans paid for abortion, artificial contraception and sterilization.
Since then, O’Dea has been working on a state and national level for conscience rights and used his expertise from a career in insurance to devise solutions aimed at providing affordable but ethical health care financing options.
Christ Medicus now offers CMF CURO. The health cost-sharing ministry provides Catholics and evangelical Christians with an economically and morally favorable alternative to the Affordable Health Care Act that is exempt from the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate and the mandate that individuals purchase insurance, O’Dea said. To join, members must have a letter from their pastor saying they are a member or parishioner in good standing. While the program has limitations, including not covering pre-existing conditions, he said, “It’s amazing how much people can save under this program and it does not have the large deductibles.”
“Our most difficult thing is getting the word out,” O’Dea said. “It’s not insurance. Rather, it’s just Christian, sharing, caring with your brothers and sisters.”
O’Dea said direct primary care comprehensive medical centers that are faithful to the Ethical and Religious Directives of Catholic Health Care and the magisterium are also needed, particularly to provide a place for those facing terminal illness or chronic disabling conditions who insurance companies may decide to stop covering.
Full story at Catholic San Francisco.
Doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions? The current debate cites one source that approximately fifty percent of all adults have at least one pre-existing condition. While this system may be preferable from a moral standpoint, it certainly presents a HUGE financial risk. The advocates/sponsors of this system certainly have a significant educational task to make sure all fully understand the potentially debilitating financial risks they may be assuming.
mikem, “Doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions?” Is that a statement or a question?
It is a statement, paraphrasing the last sentance of the third last paragraph of the text.
If I understand correctly, this is just so-called “Boutique” primary care where your internist doesn’t do abortions, prescribe BCP’s etc or refers to others who do. However, to pay for specialty services, dermatogy, hemotology etc. you have to go to a private insurance company which will charge you market rate and deny you coverage for preexisting conditions which, under the GOP ACA replacement act includes pregnancy. It doesn’t say if the group includes gynocologists, but It would seem that a woman had a complicated, high risk pregnancy she’d be out of luck with this program. Do I not get something here?
I think the pre-existing conditions argument is overrated. First, most people with pre-existing conditions have full coverage. Also, if a company denies you insurance because of such conditions, I’m certain that you could find a company who will issue coverage, albeit at an appropriate higher rate.
Medical care in America is, as the article points out, in a state of flux. As a nation, we have not come to an agreement that people deserve good healthcare, no matter their economic status. As a nation we have not been willing to take on the healthcare delivery system. As a nation, we have not decided on the best way to pay for healthcare. There are some good models at work and more developing every day, but still not fast enough. If we applied some form of Six Sigma/Lean Management processes to health care I suspect we could reduce overall cost by 30%. If we had Medicare for all, we could reduce costs for all an eliminate expensive insurance companies who account for much of medial costs. We need to try different approaches and…
Steve – I really think your wrong. When I was younger I was refused an individual plan by Kaiser because I was alledgedly overweight and my employer didn’t provide health care. Thank God my parents were able to step in and fund a plan, not a very good plan but it was coverage. This many years later I have five employees and we’re all on my company’s plan. I agree with your last sentence , however, I’d change it to “..albeit at an *exorbitant * higher rate. In any event, as Catholics we ought to vehemently object to any plan that allows insurance companies to deny coverage for pregnancy as a pre-existing condition
But you were able to get insurance nevertheless. My old boss also had several pre-existing conditions. His problem wasn’t getting insured but getting insured at a low rate. He eventually found way. I had a similar problem insuring my house when I had to leave it vacant. People said that I couldn’t get insurance, but I did [although it was pricey.]
In regard to pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, I agree that it isn’t: that’s like saying having two lungs is a pre-existing condition. However, as political philosophy, I don’t think the government ought to regulate the types of coverage that insurance companies offer.
C&H, as usual, it’s a pleasure: I like that you never get upset.