Trashing the Pedestal

PEDESTALThis poem by Louis I. Newman, “The Voice of God”, speaks of a common human desire to ascend above this world to a higher plane:

I sought to hear the voice of God,

    And climbed the topmost steeple.

But God declared: “Go down again,

    I dwell among the people.”

We all have an innate nature to desire someone we can look to as being a good example to follow.  Even those who are leaders in our society also have that craving for connection to something higher than themselves.  Many times, that quest for finding significance leads to seeking out other humans to fill that role.   Even back during the days of Moses, many of the newly freed Hebrews could not be satisfied with worship of the unseen God, but coaxed Aaron into agreeing with them, while Moses was upon the mountain, to fashion a golden calf to worship.  We humans want to have proof before our eyes and something we can touch.  “And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands” (Acts 7:41).

I remember few times in my life when I have entered into someone’s home or business and have seen an idol placed in a position of prominence.  Nowadays, most folks do not have such visible and tangible idols made of the inanimate, but often have living, human ones instead.  An example from popular media would be the search that goes forth on the television series American Idol.  More commonly although, people search for someone in their everyday surroundings who they put up on a pedestal and expect to be able to follow only to have the inevitable disappointment that will always occur when any other human is ever idolized.  The disappointed person, instead of learning from the experience, usually proceeds to find another person then to put up on their pedestal and the cycle repeats itself in our culture indefinitely.

A few years ago, I visited the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was told by a historian there that the city in its beginning had no person’s name on any city street sign or building because the Quakers recognized that no human should elevated above another.  If all of society would recognize that truth again, think of all of the problems that it would solve.  This does not mean that we should not have mentors in our lives or have parents and those in authority over us that we should respect, however.  There is a difference between learning proper respect for others and idolizing others.  We have to recognize that we cannot expect perfection out of any person any more than what we can do ourselves.  We all want someone to give us a break, so that should result in us giving others a break, too.  That is what grace is all about; if you want grace, you have to give grace.

Many churches lose pastors, communities lose doctors,  and many organizations lose leaders because of this same cycle repeating itself as people look to other people for something that no person can do — be God to them.  What is able to stop the merry-go-round pedestal is the recognition that we should put no one on a pedestal and throw the pedestal away.  It is just a present day way of having idols in our lives that might be a little different than in Old Testament days, but it is just as wrong now as it was then.  That innate desire to have someone to idolize and place on a pedestal should be replaced with looking up to the only person who was ever perfect –Jesus Christ.  Compare your life only to His and you cannot help then but to give grace, mercy, compassion, understanding, and lose the critical spirit, self-righteousness, and false expectations of others.

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Losing Lostness

lostNot my home
   Exiled here
Pulled upward
   Pulled down
Walking in light
   Surrounded by dark
Against the flow
   Buffeting self
Put together again
   Frustrated into brokeness
Loved before born
   Away from completeness
One heart with you
   Heart bursting into you
Angels fly, stars collide
   Take me away from here
Falling into you
   Clinging but letting go
In safe arms
   Feeling them more
Life everlasting awaits
   Fear of death gone
Royal garments
   Dirty rags removed
Heavenly manna
   Feed me yourself
All of you
   Nothing of me

Major Lab Companies Fleecing Patients

vacutainerIt used to be that when one would go to a physician’s office, the greatest cost was paying for the visit itself. Nowadays, that cost is just a drop in the bucket compared to what medications cost. Medication costs were already starting to rise, but have risen to unprecedented levels since Medicare Part D became law about a decade ago and with the latest government attempt to help us through the un-Affordable Care Act. In the last few years, add the cost of laboratory testing to that list.

Most people can remember the days when lab testing was done in the physician’s office and the billing for it was reasonable in most instances. If a physician had prices that got too high, patients could choose to go elsewhere. Competition would take care of any price gouging problem with no government intervention was needed. How all of this morphed into the current problem started with the introduction of CLIA laws which were intended to improve laboratory standards and were generally well intentioned, but have increased costs. After CLIA laws went into place, many physicians stopped offering in-house lab work, but there were still many continuing to operate labs in their practices. It was then decided later by Medicare that if a patient had lab testing done which was not approved as “medically necessary” (that means they don’t want to pay for it, not that it isn’t necessary), the patient was not responsible for it and they could not be billed for it. After several years of that, the last nail was driven into the coffin of most physician office labs. While the physician labs were declining in numbers, the large reference lab companies were growing in leaps and bounds. Eventually, most lab work was being done by these lab companies and still is. Then, Medicare decided to change the rules again in allowing that patients could now be billed for any lab work that Medicare didn’t approve. Whereas before in the physician office, a much lower price, or even a negotiated amount, could have been charged for a non-approved lab test, now there is hardly an option as larger and larger lab companies have made it difficult for patients and physicians to avoid these companies and their policies.

For one example, patients are restricted in how many lipid profiles that they can have performed within a year, but if there are complications with adjustments to medications being required, then the rechecking may not be approved. It is certainly necessary to know how a medication is working or not. A lipid profile is reimbursed by Medicare at just under nineteen dollars, but if Medicare denies it, these companies are sending bills to patients for over one hundred dollars. If one could make over 500% more money instead of the usual payment, it is not a stretch to think that these companies would not have as much interest in trying to help patients get their lab work covered through Medicare. Medicare has went from one extreme to another and patients are being put into financial jeopardy. A common sense solution is for anyone performing lab tests to be able to charge the patient what they would have gotten from Medicare had it been approved, but allowing over five times as much to be charged is allowing inflated pricing to occur.

Upon learning about what these reference lab companies are being allowed to do, I contacted via telephone one of Congressman Gregg Harper’s (R-MS) offices and discussed my concerns with one of his staff members. I had thought that there would be interest in protecting people from being charged such outrageous prices for inexpensive lab work. However, I was accused of not being a “capitalist” and questioned about how could I possibly “desire for (them) to tell these lab companies what (they) can charge”. I was stunned at such indifference and at being made to feel as though I was out of the mainstream, maybe even not American in my thought, according to their viewpoint. I replied to them Medicare, which is regulated by Congress, certainly did not mind telling physicians what we can charge and restrict us all so severely that hospitals and clinics are having trouble making ends meet now. If it is good enough for the doctors, hospitals, and other health care suppliers and workers, why should these large reference lab companies be exempted from price regulation? I could not get an answer to that question and was left frustrated that this is apparently okay with Congress while patients are being fleeced. Just as Congress is allowing this to occur, they can also decide to not allow it to occur. Concerned citizens should contact their U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator and let them know that they should reign in this unnecessary extra expense being placed on the backs of those who are already overloaded.