With all the news about health care, most are familiar with the phrase “pre-existing conditions” that might affect the kind of health care coverage one can access.
The intention is simple and understandable, at least from a strictly financial standpoint. If an insurance company or health plan knows or suspects that a person or family might cost it more in benefits paid than said person or family will pay in premiums, coverage may be denied or limited.
Up until a few years ago, I got a lot of calls from health insurers trying to sell me policies.
The caller would try to talk like we knew each other, introduce their product before I could speak and hope to make a sale. I find it offensive and presumptuous when salespeople try to talk like we are friends.
What they didn’t know was that my bride and I have a child with severe hemophilia, which was and may still be the most expensive chronic disease in the world.
The course of the call was predictable. I would answer the telephone and hear:
“Hello, Mark (my first name is Mark, but anyone who knows me calls me Reggie). This is Bob and I represent America First Insurance Company.
“Now, Mark, before you let this opportunity escape you, let me tell you that we offer some of the best health insurance in America with some of the lowest premiums and some of the highest lifetime caps. Do you think you might be interested?”
“Sure, I am interested,” I would respond.
“Great,” he or she would say. “Let’s take down some basic information about you and your family so we can get this policy set up and in effect as soon as possible.”
I admit that I despise such “cold calls,” especially when I know they will change their mind about selling me anything when they find out my circumstances.
Along the way, the caller would ask something like, “Is there anything in your or your family’s health that might be important for an insurer?”
“Do you mean like a pre-existing condition?” I would inquire trying to sound naïve.
“Yes,” the caller would respond.
“We do have a son with severe hemophilia.”
There would usually be a time of silence followed by something like, “Mark, I am just a salesperson. Let me put my supervisor on to speak with you about this matter.”
After a brief exchange, this second-level person would usually ask, “Mark, do you currently have health insurance?”
After my affirmative response, I would hear something like, “Sir, we recommend that you stay with your present company. Good day.”
The first time or two that happened, I was at first hopeful and then offended. After that, I took some morbid pleasure in listening to the scrambling on the other end of the line in order to get rid of me when the truth was known.
Thankfully, laws have changed with regard to the insurability of those with pre-existing conditions, but such businesses may still search for ways to avoid shouldering the costs of people like our family’s “six million dollar man.”
Why am I bringing this up? Pre-existing conditions were far more of an issue in the Old Testament than in the New Testament.
In the former, God’s people were ideally to be as spotless as possible – physically, morally, mentally and spiritually. The priests had especially high standards to meet.
That changed substantially with the coming of Christ. Pre-existing conditions were less of an issue.
In fact, they were allowed and even expected. More specifically, the pre-existing conditions of sinfulness and the awareness of that sinfulness were crucial.
More than that, we all know the outcasts, lepers and sinners were welcomed to the family of faith. All of the synoptic gospels record Jesus as having said at least once that he had come for the sakes of sinners and sick, not for the sakes of the righteous or well.
Although something may be lost in the written word, I like to think that his words dripped with sarcasm in those encounters. Thus, those with such conditions flocked to him.
I won’t speculate or judge the long-term outcomes of the struggles among insurers, Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid and those with all the pre-existing conditions that are among us.
I am just grateful that there is room among the company of the committed for the likes of me. I also try to be careful to see to it that the churches I serve have arms as open as those of our Lord, even to those whose pre-existing conditions may cause me to wince privately.
Reggie Warren is pastor of Union Hill Baptist Church in Brookneal, Va., and a former member of the board of directors of the Baptist Center for Ethics.