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Query to the Vaishnava Community

Tuesday, 18 December 2012 / Published in Ads / 2,018 views

Danakeli dasa: Is Insurance Gambling?

Hare Krishna.

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I am a licensed CPA in the state of Texas and I have been researching the implications of Obamacare on our ISKCON temples. As with most government documents, it is not very easy to navigate. However, what I found is that since churches are often considered to be employers, they may be required to provide health insurance to their “employees”. The final determination will be made sometime in 2013 and it will go into effect in 2014. There are certain religious groups who are exempt. Muslims, for example, consider insurance to be a form of gambling since insurance is essentially paying for the possibility of an occurrence. The Amish are also exempt since they pay for health care costs communally.

I am not sure if the early pioneers of ISKCON under Srila Prabhupada’s guidance ever considered buying insurance for either Srila Prabhupada or themselves. However, I wonder what we as a “religious group” think about insurance now that we are a little more established. We are striving to depend upon Krishna in all respects in our lives. Where does one draw the line between practical and spiritual? The reason I ask is because if ISKCON felt strongly that insurance was against our religious principles, then we as a religious group may be able to opt out of both Obamacare and Social Security/Medicare. Personally, I am undecided since I see pros and cons on both sides.

Your guidance and input would be appreciated.

Your servant,

Danakeli dasa

2 Responses to “Query to the Vaishnava Community”

  1. Adi says :

    Hare Krsna!
    Not only one is gambling – one is gambling AGAINST oneself:-), that is, a person who buys insurance profits only if he gets very sick or gets a bad injury. And the insurance companies gamble FOR us, they bet on our good health. Weird. But the modern medicine in most of the world is ridiculously expensive, so in case of an actual injury, one is helpless or dependent on one’s community, all one’s savings/possessions, relatives, debt etc., if one wants to get a treatment and is not ready to fast to death:-( .

    In 1993 there was a GBC resolution:
    “47. That the Health and Welfare Ministry should conduct an adequate survey of all those who are fully active in ISKCON. The survey should determine what services the devotees feel the temple should
    provide so the devotees can be secure and enthusiastic in their devotional service as life-long dependent members of ISKCON. Life insurance, health insurance, basic lodging and food, old-age programs, etc. are some of the areas that could be covered.”

    Then in 1996 the GBC describes TP’s duties:
    “To ensure all dependent devotees are provided with adequate health care and health insurance except in those countries where health insurance is provided by state authorities.”

    So the blessings from the authorities seem to already be there.

  2. pustakrishna says :

    I cannot speak for sure regarding ISKCON’s policies, but I would like to offer some examples of how other religious communities have managed things. The Amish in Pennsylvania and elsewhere generally do not buy health insurance, nor do they, to my knowledge depend upon the government for welfare. However, if someone gets ill, the community funds the cost of healthcare, etc. I have not, in general, seen this to be the case in ISKCON. If someone was ill, or needed special healthcare (often expensive), the temples funds were hardly sufficient to take care of this. Nonetheless, if one of the administrative heads or spiritual leaders needed care, special consideration was given….somehow or another, to pay for that care. But, rank and file devotees were not often helped in this regard. At best, they might be sent off to the County hospital. Thus, under the circumstances, and given the near certainty that health issues will come up in life either due to accident or aging, it seems prudent that one give at least the same consideration to their body that they give to their car. Just as one (in the USA) cannot legally drive an automobile without liability car insurance…so too, perhaps consideration should be given to care for the soul’s automobile (yantra-machine), the body.
    You may not be aware of the extremely high cost of health care in the US today. A simple trip to the emergency room, for practically any reason at all, will cost over $5,000, and can be much more expensive. Similarly, a day in the hospital typically costs over $10,000, and most operations (including hospitalization, anesthesia, surgeons fees, assistant surgeons fees) cost dearly. If one has no health insurance, the costs are astronomical because the fees are not reduced in accordance with contracts that the hospital has with insurance companies. The cost of healthcare insurance (for family) can range from about $10,000 to $25,000 per year, often with some deductibles. Hence, you can see the great bargain that Medicare is in the US. However, to obtain Medicare in the US, one must work for 40 quarters, or the equivalent of 10 years paying taxes into the Medicare system. For dedicated bhaktas, that may not be possible unless they became qualified taxpaying employees of the ISKCON society. These are good things for the ISKCON management to debate. And, if the ISKCON management has some form of formal healthcare insurance, why not the rank and file servants? Pusta Krishna das

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