Mississippi and North Carolina Democracy versus Liberal Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism is defined as “a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible. Totalitarian regimes stay in political power through an all-encompassing propaganda campaign, which is disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, a single party that is often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy, regulation and restriction of speech, mass surveillance, and widespread use of terror” (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Totalitarianism). This definition actually describes the type of actions desired by those who want to punish Mississippi and North Carolina for wanting to let their citizens be able to decide for themselves what they want to think and do with their own lives. These liberals want a totalitarian government, not a republic, and not a democracy. They seek to force their viewpoint upon everyone any way they can.

Most of these companies who are voicing public objections to the laws passed by states, which want to allow religious freedom, are solely acting to protect their bottom line financially as they see it and will shift their actions to whichever way they think the wind blows if it will make them money. The same activists who threaten Mississippi and North Carolina also threaten these large corporations if they don’t comply with their demands. If it is okay with people to demand adherence in such a totalitarian fashion, then some other questions should also be asked.

Should Teva Pharmaceutical Industries be boycotted and people be asked to do no business with this company because they refuse to allow propofol to be sold for executions? They are discriminating against what their product is used for on the basis of their belief system even though the death penalty and executions are legal. If Christians should be forced to participate in matters that conflict with their belief system and violates their conscience, then how can one argue that these companies should also not be forced to sell their products without “discriminating”? If it is okay to sue Christians who solely don’t want to perform a service out of moral objections based on their faith, then should not the states who cannot get the medications sold to them for legal executions be able to bring lawsuits against these companies and force them to do what the law states is okay?

Should physicians who have moral objections to participating in abortions be forced to perform them since abortion is legal and physicians who refuse are “discriminating”? How about pharmacists who won’t fill a prescription for an abortifacient drug and are “discriminating”? Should all of these physicians and pharmacists be labeled as promoting “hate”, and boycotted for their “discriminatory” practices?

What about the pastors who refuse to participate in a homosexual “wedding”? Should they also be labeled and treated in the same way? Are these pastors to be listed on a “hate group” registry and hounded for just not wanting to participate?

What about Muslims who will not sell pork, or prepare it for sale, to others based upon their religious beliefs? Should all the pork-loving people all get together and bring boycotts and lawsuits to force the discriminatory Muslims to participate in what they deem objectionable based upon their faith practices?

Should Jewish owned businesses who choose to close their doors on Saturday be forced to stay open and not “discriminate” against those who want to shop on Saturday? Is it offensive to those who don’t hold those beliefs and places undue burdens on those who only can shop on Saturdays since it is possibly their only day off from work?

It is not people of faith who are bringing lawsuits and attempting to ruin others through tactics of fear and intimidation. These are the actions of the liberal, totalitarian activists who people of faith need to be protected from. Should peaceful non-participation be now made illegal also? That is also what totalitarian governments do. No dissent is allowed without retribution.

People of all faiths should be allowed to follow their conscience and faith practices as their traditions commonly dictate and not have their belief systems trampled by totalitarian demands. The pharmaceutical companies should be allowed to followed their conscience while the states are free to pursue other options without forcing adherence. Physicians and pharmacists should be free to practice in ways that do not violate their faith while those who want something different are always free to seek to have services they legally want elsewhere. Pastors should continue to be free to choose whom they will agree to marry as they always have. Jewish people should be free to practice all aspects of their faith as there are other options for those who live under different practices. Muslims should be free to practice portions of their faith practice as they desire to do so and people who want something different can do business with others. Those who want to label these laws as hateful only reveal their own heart toward those whom they disagree. For people of faith, it is about protecting their own conscience by not participating and it is not about doing anything to hurt anyone else. It is about having respect for other people’s faith choices in their lives and giving them the freedom to live their lives with having a conscience intact, unlike those within totalitarian regimes who historically could be argued to have lost any conscience they might have had.

Israel: Nov. 2015 Walk the Jesus Trail Trip Journal

Journal of November 2015 Trip to Israel on Walk the Jesus Trail (includes all days and more pictures, but large file)

Separate smaller documents:

Journal of November 2015 Trip to Israel on Walk the Jesus Trail – DAY ONE

Journal of November 2015 Trip to Israel on Walk the Jesus Trail – DAY TWO

Journal of November 2015 Trip to Israel on Walk the Jesus Trail – DAY THREE

Journal of November 2015 Trip to Israel on Walk the Jesus Trail – DAY FOUR

Journal of November 2015 Trip to Israel on Walk the Jesus Trail – DAY FIVE – AM

Journal of November 2015 Trip to Israel on Walk the Jesus Trail – DAY FIVE – PM

The Seasonal Script Shuffle

pillbottleDuring the first few months of every year, everyone is used to dreading the tax season of preparing those wretched returns, but now physicians and other providers of primary care can also look dreadfully forward to the yearly change of the formulary with its compulsory deluge of forms requesting medication changes. What is accomplished with this fruit basket turnover of medications is nothing that usually improves anyone’s health, but solely serves to help the financial bottom line of the insurance companies who send them while they continue to raise yearly premiums and co-pays to levels hardly imaginable. Physicians loathe these forms because little is accomplished that is worth our time and training. We want to improve our patients’ health and get to care for them, not just serve as liaisons to enforce insurance company policies for their own financial benefit. It leaves one feeling thoroughly unfulfilled and used like a pawn.

Requiring us to change within classes of medications, as if all of them are the same chemical compound with just different names, reveals the naivete of the people who are making the decisions for us now. Any physician can give loads of examples. What is worse are the physicians who work for these companies who actually are aware of what they are doing and have pushed aside their conscience for mammon while foisting this charade upon us underlings, the grunts who toil among the patient masses, while they sit in their ivory towers thinking of what their next cost-saving measure, labeled as a quality measure, will be.

In the past, most of this rigmarole was confined to forcing us to choose a generic medication instead of a brand name medication. It was not that difficult to accomplish and most of us were able to go along with it without too much of a problem. Nowadays, however, this has morphed into an out-of-control prior authorization (PA) scheme designed to prevent patient care, not just alter it, while it is done in such a way where the physician can be blamed for the lack of supply of the medication to the patient; we simply do not have the time to complete all of the forms the insurance companies want done. They know that and have learned to keep those road blocks in the way so that they can keep their costs down. The number of these PA requests continues to escalate and take our precious time away from doing what we were trained to do, just to help the insurance companies have a better profit.

In addition to the PA system they have shifted to full tilt, their strategy for more control and more profit has started pushing into full throttle the forced acceptance by patients of mail order pharmacies. Most patients like their local pharmacy and want to continue to use them for their medications because they know them and trust them. Patients are now being forced to pay outrageous prices if they try to use a local pharmacy and it is not the local pharmacies’ choice, but is arranged this way by the insurance companies who now have their own centralized pharmacy chains. If physicians were behaving in this manner, we would be hauled into court on felony charges, but not so for the large insurance companies who can pay for lobbyists and campaign contributions to keep this legal.

How can we fix such broken system? First, if insurance companies want to force medication changes through financial pressure, require them to accept the liability for their decisions if the physician opts to disagree with them. Second, require the insurance companies to pay a fee to physicians to cover the cost of these forms being completed and submitted, which is not reimbursed, and costs us all a lot of payroll expense. If they have to start paying something for this to be done and share in the liability for their decisions, I think they will start thinking twice about continuing this game where they seem to be able to make all of rules as they see fit. Patients and physicians need our leaders to help us reclaim our health care, not help these profit-driven insurance companies take further advantage of us all.

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.

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.