News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  21 March 2017  •  No. 113

Processional.Cavatina,” guitar solo by Ana Vidovic.

Photo by Gus Ravenwheel

Feature issue
Health Care

Invocation. “Lord, dear Lord I've loved, God almighty / God of love, please look down and see my people through.” —Mahalia Jackson, “Come Sunday

Good news. “By 1995, [Bon Secours Hospital, in West Baltimore] had bought 31 of the 67 vacant properties, including an unused school. With this expanded neighborhood presence, it made three public commitments: It would renovate the homes as affordable housing; do something with the school that would help families; and stop making unilateral decisions about its activities in the area. Bon Secours, without realizing it, had adopted a strategy that in the following decades would boost the economies of many areas hit by disinvestment, poverty, and unemployment.” Cecilia Garza & Araz Hachadourian, Yes! Magazine

Call to worship.Kyrie Eleison,” Divna Ljubojević .

Right: These twinned poplars, photographed in 1950, are related to a Cherokee peace treaty. See the story below. Photo: Citizen-Times.

The work of historical recovery. “In 1737, Caldwell County [North Carolina] historian Nancy Alexander recounts, ‘the Cherokees had become more and more incensed and indignant that the Catawba Indians were openly welcoming the white [migrants] . . . into this area. The Catawba sent one of its most fearless warriors to declare war on the Cherokees.’ A ravaging battle between the peoples took place north of Lenoir, followed by a peace treaty. ‘As a token of their decision,’ Alexander continues, ‘they erected a mound of stones . . . and tied two young poplar trees together.’” Rob Neufeld, Asheville Citizen-Times

Hymn of praise. “We take what you offer, / we will live by your word / We will love one another / and be fed by you, God.” —Wild Goose Worship Group, “We Will Take What You Offer

¶ “If you listen to many Republicans in Washington, the Affordable Care Act’s insurance markets are in a ‘death spiral,’ ‘imploding,’ ‘collapsing’ or ‘will fall of their own weight.’ That’s part of the rationale behind the new House proposal to reshape the health care system. But the new estimates from the Congressional Budget Office contradict this long-held talking point. According to the budget office, the Obamacare markets will remain stable over the long run, if there are no significant changes.” Reed Abelson & Margot Sanger-Katz, New York Times

¶ “Since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act in March 2010, health care stocks have risen more than 133%, better than the Standard & Poor 500’s 103% gain.” Adam Shell, USAToday

The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the new health care plan’s cost/benefit ratio predicts that in the next decade the number of people without insurance will nearly double, from 28 million from 52 million. The “good” news, for Republicans, is that wealthy families will receive a $600 billion tax cut, courtesy of higher coverage for the elderly and low-income households. —for more, see “Trading Health Care for the Poor for Tax Cuts for the Rich,” New York Times editorial

¶ “This Is Not a Healthcare Bill. It’s a tax cut.Charles P. Pierce, CommonDreams

¶ Ezra Klein (among my favorite commentators) on the Republican healthcare plan. (5:17 video.)

¶ “According to the latest report of the O.E.C.D. (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [composed of 35 of the wealthiest democratic nations] the United States as a whole does not actually outshine other countries in the quality of care. . . . Overall, Americans spend far money on health care than citizens of any other country, by a very wide margin.” —Anu Partanen, “The Fake Freedom of American Health Care,” New York Times

Confession. “There is nothing / a blessing / is better suited for / than an ending, / nothing that cries out more / for a blessing / than when a world / is falling apart.” —Jan Richardson

This is one of the implications of amerika-first thinking: The Obama Administration’s “Affordable Care Act” is being replaced by Trump’s “American Health Care Act.” In other words, “America” replaces “Affordable.”

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof targets Rep. Paul Ryan’s health care plan in this bit of satire using a Jesus story backdrop.
        “Upon the healing of the woman afflicted with years of bleeding, St. Paul of Ryan says to Jesus: ‘But teacher, is that wise? When you cure her, she learns dependency. Then the poor won’t take care of themselves, knowing that you’ll always bail them out! You must teach them personal responsibility!’” (Thanks Susan.)

Hymn of intercession.Lift Us Up: A Song for America,” by Peter Yarrow, performed by Bethany Yarrow & friends. (Click the “show more” button for the lyrics.)

¶ “Americans are still struggling with their health, and rank last against citizens of 10 other wealthy countries when it comes to emotional distress, struggling to pay for care and skipping doctor visits, a new report finds. The latest report from the Commonwealth Fund shows not much has changed in 15 years or longer. Americans still pay far more for medical care than people in other rich Western nations but have little to show for all that spending.” Maggie Fox, NBC News

Prayer of petition. “With haggard hearts each voice / imparts this plea for constancy. / Draw near, dispel confounding fear, / with Heaven’s clemency. / Each tongue, by supplicating lung, / invoke bright morning’s rise! / Through darkest night let love’s Delight / condole all mournful eyes.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Draw near,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 130

For every three doctors in the US there are two staffers handling paperwork. —Sarah Kliff, “8 facts that explain what’s wrong with American health care,” Vox

¶ This past week the highly respected Consumer Report gave an “F” to the American Health Care Act based on five key criteria, saying the legislation does not ensure broad coverage, does not provide meaningful access to healthcare, is not easy to navigate, does not address underlying reasons for high costs, and does not set basic consumer protections. —see Deirdre Fulton, CommonDreams

Hymn of lamentation. “There's no light in the tunnel, no irons in the fire / Come on up to the house / And you're singin' lead soprano in the junk man's choir / Come on up to the house / Don't life seem nasty, brutish and short / Come on up to the house / Well the seas are stormy you can't find no port / Come on up to the house.” —Sarah Jarosz, “Come On Up To The House

¶ “The Affordable Care Act never really solved the healthcare crisis. It treated healthcare as a commodity allocated through market forces rather than as a public good and failed to address the profiteering at the core of our healthcare system, forcing it to use a series of confusing and convoluted mechanisms to expand health insurance coverage and regulate health insurance providers.” —Mark Dudzic, “Six Ways Trumpcare Makes Healthcare Worse (and One Way to Make It Better),” CommonDreams

See Josh Marshall’s Twitter spoof of Paul Ryan’s reaction to the Congressional Budget Office’s “scoring” of the Republican health care plan. (3 second video)

Words of assurance. “If you, O God, should keep track of all our failures, / none of us would make the grade. / But your hands heap pardon on all the penitent. / Forgiveness is your middle name.  / Mercy is your mandate; pardon, your provision.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Amnesty,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 130

In a 1961 recording for the American Medical Association, Ronald Reagan claimed Medicare legislation would lead to the death of capitalism and a socialist dictatorship. (Listen to his 10:06 speech.)

When only the blues will do. Fredrik Strand Halland, 12 year-old Norwegian, plays Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood.”

By the numbers. The Congressional Budget Office says that in time the Republican health care plan will lower average premiums but that “has little to do with increased choice and competition. It depends, rather, on penalizing older patients and rewarding younger ones. According to the CBO report, the bill would make health insurance so unaffordable for many older Americans that they would simply leave the market and join the ranks of the uninsured.” Margot Sanger-Katz, New York Times

Offertory.Once Upon a Time in the West,” performed by the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra with Katica Illényi on the Theremin, an electronic musical instrument.

Preach it. “Some basic level of health care ought to be considered a fundamental human right, along with free speech, the right to vote, and all other recognized provisions for what it means to pursue ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ The US is the only industrialized country in the world that lacks universal health care. We won’t get there until our nation’s commitment to ‘the common defense’ and ‘general welfare’ provisions of The Declaration of Independence include health care as an inalienable right.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Health Care as a fundamental human right

Can’t makes this sh*t up. J. Michael Pearson, CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, explains his company’s practice of buying up drug patents and jacking the price—56 such drugs raised an average of 66% in 2016:
         “My primary responsibility is to Valeant shareholders. We can do anything we want to do. We will continue to make acquisitions, we will continue to move forward.” —“Valeant CEO J. Michael Pearson Speaks One-on-One with Meg Tirrell Today on CNBC,” 28 May 2014

Call to the table. “My real charge to people is look around and see who’s missing. And try to invite that person.” —journalist Michel Martin

The state of our disunion. Poor people “just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves,” said Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) during congressional debate over replacing the Affordable Care Act. And in comments on a CNN interview, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said “Americans have choices, and they’ve got to make a choice. And so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone . . . maybe they should invest in their own health care.” Kristine Phillips, Washington Post

For the beauty of the earth. Stunning Aurora Borealis from filmed from space by NASA.

Make room in your schedule for 15 minutes of hopeful exhortation from Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy and director of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Altar call. “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” —Audrey Lorde

Benediction. “Turn down your gaze upon the earth / Where is the One who never sleeps? / We call on One who guards you now / Your spirit safe in holy keep.” — Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, “God Is Holding Your Life” (Thanks Brian.)

Recessional.Psalm of Life,” Annie Moses Band.

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Now goodness rests upon my head, / to follow all my days, no dread / but mercy comes running to embrace me / With love’s refrain I shall obtain, / a dwelling place in God’s new Reign / And fallow fields in chorus yield hallelujah!” —continue reading “Hallelujah,”  a litany for worship, adapting Psalm 23; listen to Ken Medema’s musical rendition, using the tune written by Leonard Cohen

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Can these bones live?” asks the Lord of Hosts. / “Only you know,” say our doubt-tendered lips. / “Prophesy, you raggedy-ann human!” came the reply.  / “Prophesy to the wind. Demand Heaven’s own Breath!” / Behold: comes the shaking, bone fit to bone. / Followed by sinews, knitting each to all.  / “Say to these graves, / ‘Your death grip has ended! / Your rancor, exhausted; / your redemption sure purchased.’” —continue reading Ken Sehested’ “Dry bones,” a litany for worship inspired by Ezekiel 37:1-14

Just for fun.Impeachara.” Feeling depressed. . . ? You may be suffering from TIAD, “Trump-induced Anxiety Disorder.” (Thanks Mike.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Dry bones,” a litany for worship inspired by Ezekiel 37:1-14

• “Draw near,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 130

• “Amnesty,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 130

• “Health Care as a fundamental human right,” a short essay

Right: Ricardo Levins Morales, ©RLM Art Studio

Other features

• “Hallelujah,”  a litany for worship, adapting Psalm 23; listen to Ken Medema’s musical rendition, using the tune written by Leonard Cohen

©Ken Sehested @ Language not otherwise indicated above is that of the editor, as are those portions cited as “kls.” Don’t let the “copyright” notice keep you from circulating material you find here (and elsewhere in this site). Reprint permission is hereby granted in advance for noncommercial purposes.

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