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Archive for the category “Healthcare”

Religious Exemption

President Obama’s push to bring U.S. health care coverage into modern times is an step toward defeating poverty and I wish he would be uncompromising in his demands. The current argument argument regarding the requirement for coverage of contraception is one that should have taken place generations ago.

Insurance plans should cover contraception and the only exemption should be for houses of worship. The argument against contraception is heard loudest from the Catholic Church and they are calling for exemptions for all of their organizations such as hospitals and universities. Take a closer look at these organizations.

As an example, Providence Health & Services here in Alaska claims to be a Catholic organization. However, take a look at their executive leadership. There isn’t a single Sister of Providence on the leadership team. Even the Chief Mission Integration Officer is not distinctly Catholic.

This organization also has a Foundation and the only sign of Catholicism on the Board of Directors is extreme wealth that would rival that of the Vatican.

To be fair, the parent organization, Providence Health & Services does have two Roman Catholic Sisters on their Board of Directors. However, the leadership team again shows a complete absence of church guidance.

Religious organizations that are truly guided and governed by the church should be allowed to qualify for an exemption from including contraception in their insurance plans. However, that qualification test should be rigid and include a study of the faith base of their employees done by an external agency.

The divine law that governs the Catholic Church in this area is ancient and unchanging. One of the reasons people leave the church is because of its rigidity. Throughout history the Catholic Church and other religions built strength on controlling people’s behavior. It is time for the church to accept that people can think for themselves and make moral decisions defined by the time in which they live and the parameters of their own lives.


In Absentia

Just over a year ago, Mother broke her hip after straightening the downspout on the gutter at the back of the house. A routine moment followed by a life-changing moment.

Of all the people involved in her care over the last year, I am probably the very least engaged. I’m on the fringe mostly willingly and probably only because I live 5,000 away in Alaska. Alternately I feel guilty and relieved. If I lived nearby, my life would be consumed with taking care of Mom, fretting over her state of mind, trying to make everything okay. That’s just the relationship we had.

I struggle with my sense of responsibility, remember our jokes about sending her to “Shady Pines.” Neither of us ever thought this time would come: when she could no longer live alone and depended on others for her care. This situation is what I think of as her worst nightmare.

Suddenly it occurred to me that I’m wrong. I’m making assumptions. A year ago, Mom was independent, still doing everything for herself. In fact, insisting upon doing everything for herself. She refused to call my sister for so much as a ride for an appointment to have her cataracts removed. She had to do everything for herself, a behavior I inherited and battle daily.

She has lost that level of independence. She is dependent on others for her meals. She no longer has to take care of her home. She doesn’t drive down to the Post Office to pick up the mail. “How terrifying to lose so much,” I thought.

Her mind is intact. She remembers everyone and everything. She battles depression which is managed with medication, something she has probably needed for many many years but never had to face. Her body is weak. She has some symptoms from a minor stroke. She begrudgingly participates in physical therapy.

I had only considered what she lost. I only considered how I would feel in her situation. It never occurred to me that in all the loss, she might have gained something as well. Mom is 83 years old. Of course her perspective is different than mine.

Maybe over the last year she has gained the time to stop, reflect and be. Maybe she has learned to trust. Maybe she has come to accept that she doesn’t have to do everything herself.

I wonder and I hope that at least some of these ideas hold a smidgen of truth.

Contents vs Package

I suspect when the birth control pill was first introduced to the public, the male doctors behind the scenes were having intense discussions about how it would be packaged.

“You know, Joe, the girls will need a way to remind them to take the pill once a day. They can’t possibly keep track of it themselves.”

“You’re right, Jim. We’ll find a way to package the pills individually. Maybe in a cute, discrete, pink dispenser that she can carry in her purse.”

“And what about that week off the pill? You know she won’t remember to stop after three weeks and restart on the fifth week.”

“Good point.”

“Oh, this should work. We’ll add a week of sugar pills. Tell them the church made us do it.”

Joe pulls open the bottom drawer by the lab table and opens the bottle of scotch. They toast to their new world of sex without consequences.

Now, 40+ years later, women still suffer the condescension that is the packaging for birth control pills. Every three months I buy a box that holds three smaller boxes each of which hold thick pamphlets printed on thin paper, a faux suede case for the bubble pack of pills, and said bubble pack of pills. Each pill is surrounded by impenetrable plastic on the top side and foil that will not be separated from the plastic on the bottom side.

Three rows of little yellow pills and one row of fake little white pills. I puncture each bubble with some amount of aggravation and put the yellow pills into a nice, easy to open bottle. It’s not labeled either!

As the cost of the birth control pill has risen at an outrageous rate over the last ten years, I have become more irritated by this packaging. I asked the pharmacist if my prescription could be ordered in a bottle with only active pills. Not an option. I know that some of the price increase is due to the deficit reduction act (seriously). That increase could have been off-set by reducing the amount of packaging.

It would bring me so much joy to not have to face a 1960’s attitude toward birth control every time I filled my prescription. Beyond my selfish attitude about being inconvenienced, lower costs for the pill equates to wider use which in turn means fewer unwanted pregnancies which reduces the number of women and children living in poverty.

Please, dear pharmaceutical companies, consider the impact you could have by changing the packaging of your birth control pills. Reduce waste. Reduce poverty. Change the world.

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