What happens in the halls of national government – for better or for worse – can dictate the future course of America. Along with your fellow Prayer Team members, you are to be constantly and fervently interceding for all the men and women who serve in Congress, for your military leaders in the Pentagon, and for the President of the United States, his cabinet and administration.
“Inside Washington” will equip you to do just that … with reports on the nation’s leaders and the decisions they’re considering … or have already made. We’ll examine the implications for the nation, and call you to specific prayer for those needs.
Health Care – Who Really Cares?
Citing financial problems, small hospitals are closing nationwide
By Dr. Tom Askew
The National Rural Health Association reports that 48 rural hospitals in the U.S. have closed since 2010. The Kansas-based association estimates that 283 of its remaining 2,000 members are in imminent danger of closing. For the high percentage of elderly and uninsured patients who live in rural areas, closures mean long trips for treatment, and uncertainty during times of crisis.
Health economists – such as Mark Holmes of the University of North Carolina – note that the reasons are multifold and sometimes tricky to analyze. A quick review of the causes for closure includes:
- Urbanization, and the declining population of smaller towns
- Cutbacks in Medicare by the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
- Reduced payments to hospitals for the uninsured, brought about by the ACA
- An overall two-percent reduction in Medicare as a result of sequestration
- The failure of 23 states to expand their own Medicare programs
- Inability to achieve economies of scale in small institutions
- Necessity for expensive equipment that is seldom used
According to The Washington Post’s Guy Gugliotta, “Experts and practitioners cite declining federal reimbursements under the Affordable Care Act as the principal reasons for the recent closures. Besides cutting back on Medicare, the law reduced payments to hospitals for the uninsured, a decision based on the assumption that states would expand their Medicaid programs. However, almost two dozen states have refused to do so. In addition, additional Medicare cuts caused by a budget disagreement in Congress have hurt hospitals’ bottom lines.”
A small town tale
One example of an affected community is Mount Vernon, Texas, a small town of 2,678 about two hours northeast of Dallas. When its 25 bed hospital was forced to close at the end of 2014, local residents were distressed on several levels. Sixty-year-old George Taylor is worried about where he will go for treatment for his panic attacks. Mary Hunter, 73, laments that she and her husband chose to retire in Mount Vernon, partly because of proximity to a good hospital.
Fortunately, there are available medical facilities in Mount Pleasant, 16 miles away, and a clinic in Winfield, eight miles away. In addition, Mount Vernon physician Jean LaTortue is attempting to lease the now-vacant hospital to convert it into an outpatient and urgent care clinic at his own expense. As laudable as this may be, many services previously available at the local hospital will not be available, and the financial risk is daunting.
Putting the “care” back into heath care
No one wants to live in a nation where major portions of the population are in need of basic health care. A quick analysis of the reasons listed above for hospital closures reveal the short-sightedness of large scale planning by government entities. Few would doubt the good intentions of government solutions such as the Affordable Care Act, but the number of negative effects that can be attributed to this legislation show the complexity of attempting to solve every personal problem on the national level.
Freeing up the enormous tax burden which funds ACA might just enable residents of Mount Vernon to help Jean LaTortue fund the new facility he plans to operate out of the town’s former hospital. Examples of waste in programs as large as Medicare and ACA are easy to document, and yet Americans continue to vote for costly, high-sounding panaceas instead of attacking local problems with insight and commitment to common sense.
Pray for a “holistic” vision of personal and health care
As you prepare to pray, meditate on these verses: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:13-15)
- Pray for Jean LaTortue and the residents of Mount Vernon, as they attempt to solve their own problem
- Pray for wise legislators who will enact bills to empower local communities to deal with their financial challenges without the encumbrance of higher taxes
- Pray for Christians to embrace and enact James 5 in relations with the suffering, the sick, and the sinful
Dr. Tom Askew has been an educator in both public and private schools for over 40 years, in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Having majored in English, he has authored textbooks, short stories, and newspaper columns. He is currently doing educational consulting, staff development, and curriculum writing for Christian schools in Arizona.
The following expressions and comments are from our members and do not necessarily represent or reflect the biblical, world views or opinions of the Presidential Prayer Team
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