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America business economics health care

Why Health Care is Complicated

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I’m turning 65 this year, so I’ve been receiving reams of unsolicited information about Medicare. As I’ve reviewed it, one thing has become very clear. The intricacies and Byzantine complexities of Medicare (and also of employment-based health care in general) are not to help consumers manage their health care expenses. They are to limit costs—and thus improve profitability—for health insurers and providers. One huge advantage to a single-payer federally funded health care system would be an exponential reduction in complexity and the costs associated with maintaining a bureaucracy to navigate those complexities. Those costs are already borne by consumers because they are passed on to them by insurers and providers in the form of higher premiums and some of the most expensive health care services in the world.

Conservatives drown out every good argument for radical change in our health care system with shouts of “Socialism!” but the truth is that most developed countries in the West have had tax-funded health care for their entire populations for decades without descending into chaos like Venezuela. Even in the United States we have decades of experience covering nearly everyone over 65 without all the catastrophes conservatives keep predicting for socialized medicine. It’s time to cut out the complications of our health care system and create a system designed with the best interests of health care consumers in mind.

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business Christians fear jesus life punishment spiritual life theology

God Does Not Have a Plan for Your Life

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When Paul—called Saul at the time—encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus told him to go into the city and await further instructions. Then he revealed to Ananias that he had chosen Saul to carry his name to the Gentiles. Because of his reputation, the Christians at Jerusalem refused to accept him, fearing that his conversion was a ruse to infiltrate their ranks, so Saul went home to Tarsus where he spent many years not preaching to the Gentiles.

Some will read what I have just written and think that I have flatly contradicted myself. God clearly had a plan for Saul’s life. Bear with me.

Jesus told several parables about a master who leaves and later returns and demands an accounting of the servants he left behind. The early disciples evidently retold these parables in the expectation that Jesus would soon return and call them to account for what they had done after he left. In each of these parables, the master leaves no detailed set of instructions—no plan—for them to follow. He leaves them with a mission. The planning is up to them. For example, in the Parable of the Talents, the master gives each of his servants bags of money, then sets out on a long journey. He doesn’t tell them how to invest it or give them detailed plans about how to put his money to work. He leaves that to their abilities. When he returns, he finds two of the servants have doubled the money he gave them, and he elevates them to positions of greater responsibility. The third servant, however, did nothing with the money entrusted to him. He buried it and returned it to the master after he returned. He tells the master that he was afraid.

What was he afraid of? Did he fear punishment should he fail? Did he fear disappointing the master? The master calls him wicked and lazy, indicating that he regards the servant’s fear as an excuse for him to do as he pleases and not accept responsibility for the work needed to make more money from the money he was given. Because the master sees through the servant’s excuses, he rewards him with the very things the servant had feared: disapprobation and punishment.

None of these servants was given a plan for how to use the master’s money. That was their own part. The master’s part was to provide the money. Theirs was to put it to work. The success or failure of their work would depend on their own ability to make wise investment decisions. Two embraced that responsibility, and their efforts prospered. The third shirked it, and made no effort.

So it is with the life of every believer. God has a mission for your life. That mission always involves taking his name to other people and showing them his love. He may, as he did with Paul, give you a more specific mission, but the planning and work involved in carrying out the mission is your part. Of course, God may also give very specific instructions when a strategic part of his overall plan is especially crucial. He did that when he gave such specific instructions to Ananias about where and when to meet Saul. But for the most part he entrusts us with the mission and leaves the planning to us.

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book review business leadership

How To Fail

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Read this article on my blog.

Jim Collins’ latest book, How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In, is his best yet. His data-driven approach to business analysis is refreshing in a genre dominated by anecdotal, “common sense” approaches. Collins identifies five stages in the fall of once great companies, and as in his previous studies, he compares the fallen companies to similar companies in the same industry that did not fall, effectively demonstrating that decline was due to choices made by the business leaders, not to market forces outside their control.

Rather than summarize the five stages and fail to do them justice, I will just say this: Read this book. Anyone who leads an organization can benefit from its insights. The biggest surprise was finding that companies rarely fall from doing nothing. Instead they enter a period of frenetic activity characterized by innovation, restructuring, re-inventing, and loss of connection to core values. The key seems to be the loss of cohesive vision. A company that recovers its vision can often pull out of its dive and return to greatness.

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