No Blood for You

During my years as an ER doc, I had many occasions to take care of Jehovah’s Witness patients. These folks, of course, have a religious belief that getting a blood transfusion is an awful sin, and they would always make sure to tell me this whenever they came in. Most of the time it wasn’t an issue, because they just had the usual non-blood-requiring ER problems like heart attacks, sprained ankles, crabs, etc. But every once in a while, somebody would really need some blood, and they just weren’t going to go for it. They’d rather die, it was such a sin. Well, whatever. I’d explain why they needed a transfusion and what might happen if they didn’t get one, and move on with plan B—that’s plan B as in “give IV saline and cross my fingers” as opposed to Plan B the contraceptive product.

Yeah, contraception. This week the Catholics are all up in arms because apparently the businesses they run (such as hospitals, like St. Agnes, where I had my first ER job) have to make sure that the health insurance they provide employees meets certain basic requirements. Requirements that the government only has because sneaky CEOs would otherwise provide health “plans” with $$ saving limitations like, say, covering only one lung, or only diseases that were acquired from the Amish…within 12 hours of filing your claim…which must be handwritten in triplicate…in Urdu. One of the multitude of such government requirements is that the health plan cover contraception. Holy Water, Batman! Non-Catholic employees must be permitted to disobey Catholic dogma? What will the evil government think of next!?! (we know the Catholic employees would never avail themselves of contraceptive services, so it’s only the non-Catholics that are a concern).

But isn’t this impinging on the Catholic employers’ religious freedom? God, I hope so. But that’s just me—the right wingers and bible thumpers went nuts. They’ve been shouting “Freedom!” like Mel Gibson at the end of Braveheart. Got me to thinking, though. What if your CEO was a Jehovah’s Witness? Should he be able to forbid health insurance that covered blood transfusions? What if you worked for a Christian Scientist? They don’t believe in any medical treatment. Your health plan would be real cheap—say two prayers and call me in the morning (if you can).

But Rob, you want to make Catholic businesses provide health care that goes against their beliefs!

Actually, I don’t. Not for a moment. What I want is to get business out of the business of health insurance. It’s absurd that our health coverage (and all too often, lack thereof) depends on where we work and who we work for. Medicare for all.

I kind of see a win-win here, don’t you?

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