May 9, 2014

Health Coverage Options for Catholics (An Open Letter)


"Hi, Donnie!  A young woman asked me to advise her about taking health insurance from a provider that funds abortions. She says she has to do this under state law...  I told her that she had options... She asked me for them... How can she get insurance from a company that does not go along with abortion coverage, etc.?  Thanks!...God bless!"

Dear [Friend],

May the Lord give you His peace! Thank you for sharing with me the concern of the young woman you know about her health insurance covering abortions. I followed this issue very closely after the USCCB gave a primer a couple of years ago about the way in which these abortions would be funded http://goo.gl/HCPjvb and this is the bad news that has been like a thorn irritating our consciences.

The good news is that there are a few good options out there, as you suggested to her. There are a total of three Christian alternatives to health insurance, called health sharing ministries, whose members are exempt from the individual insurance mandate. Also, for Catholic organizations and Catholic business owners, there is still the option to obtain insurance, along with the Little Sisters of the Poor, from an insurance company run by the Christian Brothers, http://goo.gl/sbkpYj as long as their battle in court does not fail. This might be the best option for your friend if she works for someone who is Catholic. Otherwise, one of the three health-sharing ministries might work for her:

1) For an individual who is looking for an alternative to insurance that functions just like insurance, Medishare http://goo.gl/jJSDST would be the best option, because when you sign up you are given a card that functions just like an insurance card when you present it to your medical provider.

2) For an individual who is looking for the least expensive health coverage option, I would invite them to join CHM, Christian Healthcare Ministries, http://goo.gl/PfLP1S of which I have been a member for over a year. It is less expensive than Medishare or insurance because I do not have to pay the ministry to negotiate with my healthcare provider to arrange the payment, but rather, I present myself as if I
were a self-pay patient, explaining that I have "something better than insurance," in which my medical bills are shared by thousands of other
Christians. As a self-pay patient, I am still entitled to ask for the same discount that they give to the insurance companies, which is usually around 60%. This little bit of effort on my part is the key to keeping costs low for the ministry. Within the ministry, there are three different levels of coverage, the highest of which, for $150/month, covers most medical expenses.  I chose the lowest level of participation, at $45/ month, in which I will be responsible for the first $5,000 (you might call this a deductible) of medical bills from an illness or injury that requires hospitalization, while the rest of
these bills are paid by the ministry, up to a certain capped amount. However, even at this level, I was able to join a program within the ministry called Brother's keeper, in which "catastrophic" medical bills above the usual limit are shared among the other members who opt-in to this program. To opt-in to this program costs $40/ yr, and these costs are shared quarterly. Because of the rapid growth of this program, my brother's keeper bill has been very low, around $12/quarter. Also, my most recent $45 monthly bill was waived, because someone else who signed up said that I was the one who referred them to the ministry, and so I got a month free.

3) The third option is called Samaritain: http://goo.gl/GEY14f 

For someone considering one of the three health-sharing ministries, I would encourage them to compare all of the essential details in this handy chart: http://goo.gl/4KuS4r

Certainly this is good news, and woe to me if I do not share it. I do hope that this is helpful, and that it is more widely shared. I will pray for your friend. Please continue to pray for me.

In Christ,

Donnie Schenck
(513) 849-0022
CHM Member # 156332

Oct 4, 2013

Good News for Catholics in America


Contemplating the life of St. Francis, humble image of Christ and lover of poverty, let us consider how we can be better stewards of the good things God has given us. Let us follow the example of Pope Francis in his financial motu propio, and make sure that whatever resources we have, be they great or small, are being used to do good, not evil. 

As I write this, the United States federal government has "fallen sick" because we cannot agree on a morally acceptable budget.  There is more than just math involved in formulating a budget—there is an intrinsic moral dimension involved whenever someone makes a choice on how he is going to spend his money.

Let us find the courage to say, "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Let us be courageous in doing what is right in the sight of the God who loves us, because this is the key to our happiness.  Let us take a stand against the dictatorship of relativism by opening up dialogue and renewing the pursuit of the truth.

For those who feel compelled to finance abortion under the disputed healthcare law, there is good news: A class-action lawsuit has been launched under the Beckett Fund in order to defend a morally acceptable health insurance option with the Christian Brothers. If you do not know who the Christian Brothers are, they are a religious order that has adopted the ministry of providing many different financial services, including health insurance for dioceses, religious organizations, and Catholic employers—an option worth looking into—and good news, indeed—especially if you are a Catholic employer, or are employed by someone who is Catholic, or know of anybody else struggling with issues of conscience under Obama-care. There is also another morally acceptable option, especially for individuals, called health sharing ministries. Brothers, while we have time, let us do good! God bless you!

Oct 2, 2013



Today I am recalling some fond memories of the National Parks, which are beautiful.  But even more important is the beauty of a person's soul, and for Christians this means that we listen to God and obey the One who loves us more than anyone else.

Sometimes this means that we have to have the courage to object, to refuse to cooperate in something that we know is very contrary to the life (and Love) that Jesus wants all of us to have. Abortion is one example of this, although many people who procure or fund abortions feel like they have no other choice.

I was one of those people. I used to have a health insurance plan that directly funded abortions, and I felt so bad about the babies I was helping to abort that I made myself sick, after staying up one night researching health insurance comanies and not finding a single one that did not fund abortion.

The good news in Jesus Christ is that there is forgiveness and plenty of grace available to everyone:  there is help and support available to mothers who feel pressured to abort their baby, and no Christian is obliged to do anything with the State insurance exchanges, if he or she joins one of the alternatives to health insurance, which are called "health sharing ministries." There are 3 main options to choose from, which vary according to how much coverage you want and range in cost from $45 to $200-and-some per month. The 3 Ministries are called "Medishare," "Samaritain," and "Christian Healthcare Ministries." There is a clause in the Affordable Care Act which exempts members of these health-sharing ministries from the individual insurance mandate. Many people do not know about this, including even people in the Catholic news media. Please share the good news with your Christian friends and people of good will.

As for the payment of taxes, please don't neglect to pay your State and local taxes, and to get involved in the local political processes, because these things most directly contribute to the common good. As for the federal taxes, most of these also contribute to the common good:  insofar as we are talking about federal taxes in general, and not specific taxes/fines/fees levied in order to fund specific objectionable purposes, I am at peace with paying these taxes, as long as our elected representatives fully accept the moral responsibility involved in spending those taxes. I admire representative Boehner's courage in this regard, and I think I agree with his stance, but this is a situation where there needs to be a renewal of dialogue between people who might disagree with one another, with the hope of seeking the truth together, and seeking more to understand than to be understood.

Sep 23, 2013

Update

Praised be Jesus Christ! This blog has been updated, because of Pope Francis!

You will still find articles on euthanasia and the HHS Mandate,
and it is my hope that they will be received as Good News in Jesus Christ!

Feb 28, 2013

"I Thirst!"--A Case Against Euthanasia




This is my great-grandmother, Evelyn. She has since gone to Jesus, but look how beautiful she was for my cousin’s wedding, ten years ago.  It was quite an event: at the reception, she was choking on some roast beef, and I happened to be there to perform the Heimlich maneuver and save her life. Anyone else could have done it, but God put me there at that particular place and time.

People called me a hero, but that wasn't heroic virtue. Heroic virtue is what was called for a year later, when Evelyn was in hospice. Perhaps you have a parent or grandparent who needs more and more help. You may soon be called upon by God to practice heroic virtue. As any good Boy Scout would tell you, "Be prepared."

Do not forget that a moderate amount of nutrition and hydration will keep a person comfortable, and it should be considered ordinary, "everyday" care. The nursing staff will refer to this as "activities of daily living," or "ADLs." To deprive someone of nutrition and hydration when they are nearing the end of their life could actually become the cause of their death, and if it is done deliberately, it would be  "euthanasia." (CCC 2277)



We should be quick to forgive, and slow to judge mistakes in this area, even if this means forgiving ourselves for past mistakes when our conscience becomes better informed. But let us be honest and open to dialogue, because the Truth will set us freeIf the Truth convicts us, let us remember that Jesus Christ is Himself the Truth, and He will show us mercy when we seek Him and acknowledge that we have done wrong.

I am ashamed to say that Evelyn was deprived of nutrition and hydration for the last 6 days of her life. [Up to that point, there were many things going wrong in her body. Drinking was difficult for her, because she would easily inhale it into her lungs. This fluid build-up in her lungs, made worse by her congestive heart failure, resulted in a few bouts of pneumonia. Eventually, she became septic, meaning that the infection had spread to her bloodstream. The septic shock caused vital organs to began to "shut down:" the digestive system was not working properly, the liver was removing less toxin from the bloodstream, and the kidneys were reduced in functioning, although there was still urine output until the last day. However, despite the septic shock and the danger of dehydration, no I-V was given. Perhaps the technology for regulating hydration just wasn't as readily available then as it is today.]  I knew that withholding nutrition and hydration was wrong, but I did not know how to give it to her at the time, and neither, it seems, did anyone else in my family. However, I still wish that I would have pressed the doctor further to address the question of just how much hydration (even if it were just a few drops) that her body would have been able to assimilate, because a week without water is long enough to kill a person.

As we fast during Lent, we are painfully reminded that being dehydrated and malnourished is not a comfortable feeling. As one continues in such a state, the impulses of hunger and thirst may disappear, but they were only the first indications that the body is in need of water and energy. These needs will naturally arise as time progresses, but of course we must honestly address the question, “Is the body capable of assimilating that nutrition/hydration?”

Hydration can be easily given by an I-V, and the flow rate can be monitored very precisely, so that it does not cause fluid build-up in a way that could be harmful or uncomfortable. Also, methods of dialysis can easily remove excess hydration from the bloodstream. We are morally obligated to provide hydration, in whatever small amounts that can be safely assimilated by the body. This issue has caused a lot of people a lot of grief, including myself. But think of the rich man Jesus tells us about who had died, and as he was suffering from the heat of the flames, asked for Lazarus to be sent to dip just the tip of his finger in water, and bring him relief.

Nutrition, also, can technically be delivered directly into the bloodstream. But the last I heard, the current technology for regulating the blood-sugar levels of such a situation is not precise enough for this to be considered safe in all circumstances. If it is true that this is a risky procedure, you are not morally obligated to do it. However, as long as the intestines are functioning well, a feeding tube would be an easy way to provide nutrition, and would be morally obligatory if the person cannot eat for a long period of time.

Also, beware of the DNR and the Living Will, because they can be used to deny care to a person in the case of an emergency. It is best not to sign them at all, or to find some other advance directive forms that are morally acceptable. It is best to set something down in writing to designate friends and family who have good moral judgment, who could be there to help take care of you in an emergency.


Please pray for the people making these decisions:  It is not easyThat's why the struggle to care for our grandparents with an informed conscience should be called "heroic."

When God places you in the position to be present to human suffering, it is best to focus on the positive—consider that it is Jesus Himself who is crying out in thirst, mystically present in the person who suffers. For example, Mother Teresa became a saint because she recognized Christ's voice in that cry of thirst, and she followed after Him:

Feb 17, 2013

"I Will Not Leave You Orphans."--Why God's Plan Will Triumph Over the HHS Mandate

"Christian love leads to denunciation, proposals
 and a commitment to cultural and social projects; 
it prompts positive activity that inspires all who sincerely 
have the good of man at heart to make their contribution..."
--CSDC 6


Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Lori officially sounded the alarm--faithful Catholics in the United States are being asked to drop their health insurance,  "if they want to preserve their religious and moral integrity " and be true to their "morally well-informed consciences." No longer can we just "keep the status quo." We must discern the real meaning of "keep the status quo," which would present us with a fundamental choice: "keep paying for abortions through your monthly insurance premiums," or "keep [yourself rooted in Jesus Christ, by keeping] the faith, and everything that Holy Church has taught you."

STOP, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and say a prayer...

Why should any member of the Body of Christ have to worry?--Our Father in heaven knows our every need, and by His Loving Providence, He has given us a couple of options for legitimate health coverage, through the prudent additions to Canon Law made by Pope Benedict XVI, in his motu propio, "On the Service of Charity."

But before we explain the solutions, we must understand the scope of the problem:  It has been made clear by every bishop in charge of dioceses in the United States that "We cannot, will not comply" with the HHS mandate. And the sense of the faithful has indicated that, for the faithful themselves, to comply with the mandate would be, in a very real sense, "apostasy from the truth"--It seems that the act of funding an abortion, with at least $1 automatically from each monthly premium, is "by its very nature" [with a necessary connection between the funds and the act] a kind of proximate material cooperation in abortion, and therefore, "formal" cooperation in a sin of grave matter (see Evangelium Vitae, 74).  In this case, it also seems to be an excommunicable offense.  [Let us repent!]  Furthermore, if we fail to withhold the funds levied by this unjust law, it would be a very serious act of omission, by failing to fulfill the grave duty of Conscientious Objection. [Let us take action!]

Basically, Obamacare presents the faithful with a kind of moral dillema:  On the one hand, we all have the moral obligation to provide healthcare for those who are in great need, especially those closest to us, but on the other hand, we cannot do evil so that a good effect may come from it. We cannot buy "a product that violates our conscience"--we cannot buy Obamacare-compliant health insurance, just as we cannot buy a [self-automated robot] pre-programmed to attack babies and the elderly, or a vending machine that will dispense condoms, abortion pills, and vouchers for surgical sterilization, to which one's own children would have easy and free access, without any further parental consent or even notification.

NOW, HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS--TWO POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:

(1)--Join one of the three existing Health-Sharing Networks: "Medishare," "Samaritain," or "Christian Healthcare Ministries." Although these are largely run by Protestants, it may be appropriate to cooperate with our separated brethren in these ministries of Charity, according to article 14 of the Pope's recent motu propio "On the Service of Charity." This would be a good short-term approach.

(2)--The best long-term approach is to form a Catholic version of these charitable ministries in each and every parish across the United States. This kind of thing is what the Pope is specifically asking for in article 9 of the same motu propio. The Holy Father even goes on further to describe how there could be cooperation between neighboring parishes, and even suggests that there could be coordination between neighboring bishops, in article 12, paragraph 2. [Even though Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has retired, this motu propio remains effective because each article was incorporated into Canon Law.] To help get parish-based healthcare ministries started, there is a group membership option under CHM.  According to article 1 of the motu propio, such a parish-based association of the faithful for the purposes of healthcare would need to submit statutes concerning the governing of funds, to be approved by the pastor. The Knights of Columbus already have a good model in place for this, because they were originally instituted for this very purpose, with each council having a Treasurer to assist members in the case of "accident, illness, or need," and a Financial Secretary to collect money and to keep track of the Treasurer.



SOMETHING TO KEEP IN MIND, AS WE FORM PARISH-BASED MINISTRIES:

Pope Benedict cautions against an impersonal endeavor that is limited only to "collecting and distributing funds" (Introduction), noting that the parish-based ministries must "also promote in the whole community educational activities aimed at fostering a spirit of sharing and authentic charity." (article 9) In practice, this means, when we see someone in need, we should first consider if it is possible to help them ourselves, under our own initiatives, before getting the parish-based ministry involved in the matter. [This is our own opportunity to touch Christ in the poor!] This would be a perfect example of the principles of Solidarity and Subsidiarity, after the model of Christ, [the King of the Universe, who does not feel it beneath His dignity to wash us clean, if only we would let him!]




N.B.--There is also a third course of action, which must not be overlooked:
Small Christian Communities. There is a good example of this with Presentation Ministries.