Daily Archives: December 23, 2009

Weighing Medical Costs of End-of-Life Care

The Ronald Reagan U.C.L.A. Medical Center, one of the nation’s most highly regarded academic hospitals, has earned a reputation as a place where doctors will go to virtually any length and expense to try to save a patient’s life.

“If you come into this hospital, we’re not going to let you die,” said Dr. David T. Feinberg, the hospital system’s chief executive.

Yet that ethos has made the medical center a prime target for critics in the Obama administration and elsewhere who talk about how much money the nation wastes on needless tests and futile procedures. They like to note that U.C.L.A. is perennially near the top of widely cited data, compiled by researchers at Dartmouth, ranking medical centers that spend the most on end-of-life care but seem to have no better results than hospitals spending much less.

Listening to the critics, Dr. J. Thomas Rosenthal, the chief medical officer of the U.C.L.A. Health System, says his hospital has started re-examining its high-intensity approach to medicine. But the more U.C.L.A.’s doctors study the issue, the more they recognize a difficult truth: It can be hard, sometimes impossible, to know which critically ill patients will benefit and which will not.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Aging / the Elderly, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Mitch Albom Wants You To ”˜Have A Little Faith’

[ROGER] SIMON: They changed you?

Mr. [MITCH] ALBOM: Oh, no doubt. I mean to be honest with you, 10 years ago I highly doubt I’d be having a conversation like this with you about faith. I was very cynical about it. But what I saw being around these two men was faith practiced on a daily basis, you know, not for show, not for headlines. I saw Pastor Covington driving around Detroit in an old car putting food on the hood of his car and driving around like one, two miles an hour so it wouldn’t fall off, breads and cheese. And the poor people of the Detroit area, you know, would see him. People were squatting in apartments and come running out, and he would literary just feed them, just feed the hungry. I don’t know anything more Christian than that. And he didn’t ask for anything, you didn’t have to join his church, there was no quid pro quo. He just felt that he was doing good, and this is what he needed to do.

And you see enough of this happen on a daily basis, over and over, hundreds of examples of these two men, and to be honest, you lose your cynicism. I don’t know how you can maintain cynicism in the light of that. It’s beautiful work.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Media, Religion & Culture

Treasury Secretary Geithner Voices Confidence About Economic Rebound

Geithner said some of the signs that confidence is returning in the fourth quarter include consumers spending more, businesses investing again, stronger exports and a more stable housing market.

“These things all help ”” they all make a big difference,” Geithner said. “But we were in a very deep hole, and it’s going to take a long time to repair the damage done to confidence.”

Geithner said it’s important that the administration continue to work with Congress to pass financial reform legislation that can “prevent the next crisis” and build a “more stable financial system.”

“But right now, the real risk we face is that banks are not lending enough and not going to provide the capital businesses need to grow for the economy to strengthen going forward,” he said.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Economy, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Rep. Stupak: White House Pressuring Me to Keep Quiet on Abortion Language in Senate Health Bill

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said the White House and the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives have been pressuring him not to speak out on the “compromise” abortion language in the Senate version of the health care bill.

“They think I shouldn’t be expressing my views on this bill until they get a chance to try to sell me the language,” Stupak told CNSNews.com in an interview on Tuesday. “Well, I don’t need anyone to sell me the language. I can read it. I’ve seen it. I’ve worked with it. I know what it says. I don’t need to have a conference with the White House. I have the legislation in front of me here.”

The Michigan Democrat succeeded last month in getting 64 House Democrats to join him in attaching his pro-life amendment to the House version of the health-care bill. The “Stupak amendment,” as the provision is known, would prohibit the federal government from allocating taxpayer money to pay for any part of any health insurance plan that covers abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Senate

AP Health Care Bill Analysis: Bitter pill to come before relief is felt

Americans will feel the pain before the gain from the health care overhaul Democrats are close to pushing through Congress.

Proposed taxes and fees on upper-income earners, insurers, even tanning parlors, take effect quickly. So would Medicare cuts.

Benefits, such as subsidies for lower middle-income households, consumer protections for all and eliminating the prescription coverage gap for seniors, come gradually.

“There’s going to be an expectations gap, no question about that,” said Drew Altman, president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “People are going to see their premiums and out-of-pocket costs go up before the tangible benefits kick in.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

RNS: Southerners lead U.S. in religious devotion

There’s a reason the South is known as the Bible belt: A survey shows that Southerners — and Mississippians in particular — are most active in their religious practices and beliefs.

Residents of Mississippi ranked first among Americans in all four measures of a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, with 82 percent saying religion is very important in their lives. Five other states had at least seven in 10 people stating that religion holds that kind of importance for them: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and South Carolina.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

Brian Hicks in the Local paper: Religion police run amok

Fire stations across the country have decorated like this for years, and it has not pushed the United States down the slippery slope toward a religious state. If anything, Gallup polls show that the number of people who consider religion important in their lives has dropped nearly 10 percent in the last decade.

It’s not like there was a shrine to Christianity in the tax collectors’ office or city hall; there was no implied “thou shall worship,” no banner proclaiming “Charleston: Proud Sponsor of Religion.”

This is a fire hall, a place where firefighters essentially live. Since they have to stay there around the clock, waiting to save our houses, it’s only fair that they get to add a few touches of home. If they want a manger, what’s the harm?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Church/State Matters, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

In South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn takes on critics from GOP on the Health Care Legislation

[U.S. House Majority Whip Jim] Clyburn said the high-profile deal that Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson reached to have the federal government pay 100 percent for Medicaid expansion in his state will help land South Carolina a better deal during the conference negotiations.

Nelson was given the perk in return for agreeing to vote for the bill. Nelson’s vote all but assures the bill’s final passage later this week.

Other states would receive reimbursements worth 91 percent. Clyburn said he will be a party to the conference negotiations and he will push for states to receive a 95 percent return for the life of the bill, but he cannot guarantee he will get it.

“Rather than carping on this, I think it opens the door for other states to demonstrate need for similar treatment when you get to the conference,” Clyburn said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

Governor Schwarzenegger to seek federal help for California budget

Facing a budget deficit of more than $20 billion, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to call for deep reductions in already suffering local mass transit programs, renew his push to expand oil drilling off the Santa Barbara coast and appeal to Washington for billions of dollars in federal help, according to state officials and lobbyists familiar with the plan.

If Washington does not provide roughly $8 billion in new aid for the state, the governor threatens to severely cut back — if not eliminate — CalWORKS, the state’s main welfare program; the In-Home Health Care Services program for the disabled and elderly poor, and two tax breaks for large corporations recently approved by the Legislature, the officials said.

Schwarzenegger also will propose extending a cut in the state payroll that is scheduled to expire this summer. That cut has translated into 200,000 state workers being furloughed three days a month, the equivalent of a 14% pay cut. Lawmakers would have the option of extending the furloughs, imposing layoffs or some combination of the two.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General, State Government, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

The Future of Evangelicals: A Conversation with Pastor Rick Warren

This is long, but well worth the time to plough through. Take a look and see what you think.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

RNS: Covenant to bind Anglicans sent out to churches

Each Anglican province is autonomous, limiting the power of Williams and other Anglican leaders to police the communion. In fact, earlier this month, Episcopalians in Los Angeles openly defied Williams by electing an open lesbian, the Rev. Mary Glasspool, as an assistant bishop.

Since then, Williams and an international panel of Anglican leaders have asked the Episcopal Church to “exercise restraint” by not confirming Glasspool’s election. In addition, the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee on Friday asked Episcopalians to exercise “gracious restraint” with respect to “actions that endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion.”

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who generally supports gay rights in the church, sits on the 15-member Standing Committee, but it is not known whether she supports the statement. A spokeswoman for Jefferts Schori said on Tuesday that “as agreed upon by the Standing Committee, the details of the conversations of the meeting are considered private.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Latest News, Anglican Covenant, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop

Bishop David Hamid: Final Version of Anglican Communion Covenant is sent to the Churches

As the Anglican Communion has developed in recent years there has not been a parallel development of a framework to address together a response to problems which arise in relationships between the member Churches. The Covenant puts forward such a framework, faithful to Anglican ecclesiology, within which a response to tensions can be discerned and articulated. At present, as no such mechanism exists, it has led to serious threats to the unity and integrity of the Communion.

The draft gives considerable prominence to the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion which can make recommendations concerning the relational consequences resulting from actions by individual member Churches. It can make requests to Churches to defer certain actions, for instance. However, it will still be up to each member Church to decide how to be guided by any specific recommendations which may come from the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, thereby respecting the treasured autonomy of the Provinces.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Europe

Committing to the Anglican Covenant: An analysis by the Anglican Communion Institute

…there apparently is a new ACC constitution (now referred to as Articles of Association) that changes the membership procedures for the ACC. This new constitution (which has not been made public) also applies in some way to the adoption of the Covenant by other churches.
11. On the second question, “who can invite,” the Covenant is explicit in saying that this may be done by the “Instruments.” On its face, this means that any of the Instruments, e.g., the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Primates’ Meeting, could issue such an invitation, which would then invoke the procedures indicated: approval by the Standing Committee and consents from the Primates.

12. None of this is meant to suggest that such an invitation is necessarily imminent, but the procedures are far more flexible and responsive to developing circumstances than many have been led to believe.

13. With these principles in mind, we urge all churches and dioceses interested in committing to the life of mutual accountability and interdependence required by the Covenant to adopt and affirm the Covenant as soon as practicable and communicate their decisions to the Communion and its churches. We note that paragraph 4.1.6 provides that “This Covenant becomes active for a Church when that Church adopts the Covenant through the procedures of its own Constitution and Canons.” Thus, the Covenant will become active as soon as member churches begin to adopt it, and the Global South churches have indicated their intention to begin doing so as early as April 2010. By committing to the Covenant, a church or diocese will immediately begin to share in the Communion life represented by the Covenant even as the formalities of the Communion Instruments necessarily will take longer to implement.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Identity, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Instruments of Unity, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils, Theology, Windsor Report / Process

Ephraim Radner–The New Season: The Emerging Shape of Anglican Mission

…true encouragement comes from honesty before God and self and the strength of purpose to serve in the face of disappointment or uncertainty. Or so it should. I know a young person who sneered at the faith of an Episcopalian ”“ a more conservative person ”“ who chose to leave TEC for another set of ecclesial structures. “You would do such a thing”, this young person said to him: “yours is the generation, after all, who invented no-fault divorce”. In fact, in this case, the complaint was less directed at a purported hypocrite, than at what he perceived to be the witness of an impotent God, unable to garner the sacrificial steadiness of His adherents. But either way, faith is scandalized by those who do not have the strength, nor certainly seek the strength, to stand in the face of upheaval.

I will come back to this at the close of my remarks: honesty need be neither angry, miserable, nor defeatist. It should be the seed for hope, because it is the first and necessary turn to God who alone saves.

What is the difficult thing to speak, honestly? It is this: the Episcopal Church, as it has been known through the past two centuries, is no more, in any substantive sense. TEC is simply no longer the church filled with even the strength of purpose we saw only 10 years ago ”“ yes, even then, a church with a good deal of vital diversity and disagreement; but a seeming sense of restraint over pressing these in ways that overwhelmed witness and mission. And as a result, even then, it was church that was growing in outreach and faith. That church, shimmering still with some of the vibrancy of love spent for the Gospel seen140 years before, even 90 years before, is now gone. And TEC will not survive in any real continuity with this past and its gifts.

This is something we must face. To be sure, I am not speaking here of this or that diocese or bishop or congregation or clergy person within TEC: there are many through whose service the Gospel shines bright and the witness of the Kingdom flourishes. I am speaking of an institution as a whole ”“ not even in terms of its legal corporation, but in terms of its character and Christian substance given flesh in the Spirit’s mission.

Read it all carefully.

I want to stress, please, that people in the comments interact with what Ephraim is arguing for and actually saying. Comments not doing so will be dispacted into the ether. Many thanks–KSH.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, - Anglican: Analysis, - Anglican: Commentary, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, House of Deputies President, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Presiding Bishop, Seminary / Theological Education, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Data, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils, TEC Parishes, TEC Polity & Canons, Theology

The Hill: Senate leaders will return next week to plot health conference

The State of the Union typically takes place on the third Tuesday of January, which would be Jan. 19.

But it’s unclear whether negotiators will be able to smooth out significant disagreements in such a short time.

Congress traditionally does not reconvene until the week of the president’s address but leaders may bring their colleagues back to work early to get a jumpstart on remaining legislative work before election-year politics begins to intervene….

[Max] Baucus said differences over how to pay for new federal health insurance subsidies and limits on abortion coverage are two of the biggest obstacles.

The House legislation would pay for a large portion of its benefits by imposing a tax surcharge on individuals who earn more than $500,000 and families earning over $1 million.

The Senate bill would instead tax high-cost insurance plans and raise the Medicare payroll tax on individuals earning over $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Senate