lurkitty: (Pogo)
There was a time when South Africa was synonymous with hate. Its political system, apartheid, was overt, institutionalized racism. Its leaders were shunned or considered criminals by much of the world. The country was held up as the last bastion of an old, outmoded world that was sick and wrong.

Since the fall of apartheid, South Africa shares an important distinction with the US. It remains the only other developed country that lacks a national health care system. One difference is that they have tried medical savings plans.

When apartheid fell, their system was very much like that of the US: employer-based. Facing the fall of their entire system of government, all sectors were deregulated, including health care. This left a "competitive" system to sort itself out in the wake of th e social revolution.

What happened was the development of the "medical savings account" scheme that freed the consumer form being tied to a job to receive health care. In reality. it skimmed the healthiest young adults from the system, leaving the old-style insurance companies with the burden of dealing with the most infirm with the balance of healthy clients paying into the system. Furthermore, the system ignored the advancing HIV epidemic and had to be forced by the government to cover antiretrovirals under medical savings account plans. The entire effect has been to drive the cost of coverage up, not down. Medical savings accounts do nothing to contain the cost of health care, nor do they increase competition. They are anticompetitive and more costly in the long run! South Africa is now struggling to reregulate its health care market.

The US has to stop and consider the South African experience before leaping head first into the medical savings account debacle. There was a wealthy, advanced nation. They could not make it work. What makes lawmakers think it will work here? The majority of the uninsured in this country don't have enough money to contribute to a conventional savings account, much less a medical savings account. And given that most bankruptcies in this country are undertaken because of medical reasons, few would qualify for such accounts.

The US would do well in following South Africa's lead in turning away from this model.

As to following South Africa's lead? South Africa is the first nation on the African continent to legalize gay marriage. It says something when we are less free than the former home of apartheid.
lurkitty: (Default)
There are few hot button issues nowadays hotter than gay marriage. Proponents of gay marriage suffered yet another defeat this week with the denial of their case at the New York State Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court. Having looked at both decisions, I don't think they went far enough.

I think we ought to ban marriage outside of the church.

Let's get a few things straight. The debate centers on the definition of "marriage". When one side uses the term, they mean marriage in all its religious glory. They mean the time honored, white wedding, man and wife thing. When the other side uses the term, they mean the legal and civil contract that entitles two people to specific rights as a family unit.

In the first, or religious case, there is a real problem. Not every church agrees on the procedure involved in getting married. The ceremonies differ widely. Many churches don't recognize marriages performed in some other churches, and some churches don't recognize any marriages performed outside their own. The Jews, for instance, have very strict guidelines about who is allowed to marry in the synagogue. Catholics are not likely to accept a Pagan ceremony as valid for marriage. Furthermore, different churches recognize different age limits for marriage, and some have none at all.

Do I need to cover the issue of Polygamy? I think just saying the word gives you the picture.

Then there is the issue of divorce. Some Christian churches would have a good percentage of the population stoned if they could get away with it. With real rocks. I did read of an interesting case under Sharia Law. It seems a muslim man talked in his sleep and managed to repudiate his marriage in the proper formula not once, but three times during the requisite three consecutive menstrual cycles. The local authority had decided that the couple were divorced, the couple disagreed and stayed together, citing a different scholar who said a couple cannot be compelled to divorce by intoxication or other means.

Religious authorities can agree on neither the procedure nor the process of divorce.

So the civil authorities step in. They set rules for who can conduct a marriage and who can get married. They start issuing licenses. Because the religions could not agree on marriage or divorce procedures, they set up laws governing them. Over time, married couples are given rights, both legal and civil, according to their marital status. These rights govern everything from adoption, to hospital visitation, to inheritance. Married couples are given preferential treatment with respect to loan applications, and therefore are given housing preferences.

But the civil authorities made a big mistake. They called it "marriage". What they sought to govern back then, and what their laws cover is not marriage at all. Marriage is a religious institution - a loaded word that carries many meanings to many different people. The government never had any business overseeing marriage. I can't see why any church would want the government meddling in their religious ceremony.

The state should not recognize marriage. The church need not recognize marriages outside their own jurisdiction. The Catholic Church has done it for years, folks! Your marriage in front of the Justice of the Peace is no more legal to the village priest than that of your gay uncle who got married in Canada.

What the government now considers marriage should be civil union for both gays and straights. It should be separate from any religious marriage ceremony that may take place. It is merely a legal contract. Let the churches have their due, let them define marriage as they please. But when it comes to doling out rights and privileges, the First Amendment says the Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

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lurkitty

August 2011

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