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Church Advocacy for Uninsured

Note: Beginning in January 2007 hospitals in New York state will be penalized if they make the uninsured pay more than insurance companies. CSCO leader and physician Norm Wetterau led the Free Methodist Church western New York conference to gain the new state law. The following are excerpts from "Insure Justice" by Norm in Light and Life, Jan 2007.

"Whether purchasing individual insurance or paying out of pocket for hospital and outpatient care, the working poor pay more because they have no employer-sponsored insurance. These circumstances were unacceptable to Genesee Conference because the denomination embraces justice at its very core. In fact, Free Methodism's founder, B. T. Roberts, viewed owning a slave and charging rent for church pews to be unjust. Roberts also felt that it was unjust for railroads to charge local farmers more than they did Midwestern farmers to transport produce to New York City. Roberts formed the Farmers Alliance to put pressure on the politically powerful railroads. ...

"Starting in 1996 we surveyed all 46 hospitals in western New York, asking what the uninsured were charged for five common procedures.  ... The uninsured were usually charged three or four times more for a given service. Most hospitals had discount policies, but patients had to know whom to ask about them Only two hospitals made the discount policy clearly known to the uninsured. Next we met with the director of the Hospital Association ... we were told to 'Go take care of religion and let us take care of medical care.' Later the Genesee Conference passed a resolution calling on the hospitals and state to correct this injustice. ...

"The Buffalo News did one front-page story in a Sunday edition noting that "the cost to Medicare for an abdominal ultrasound was $102. To the uninsured patient, it ranged from $180 to $406. ... Finally after the issue was taken up by the New York Legal Aid Society and covered in the Wall Street Journal, a bill was introduced and passed in the New York Assembly. 

"Insurance price gouging is only one of many injustices the poor face today. ... People say, 'What can we do?' 'this is not our responsibility as Christians.' 'We cannot fix everything.' Fortunately B. T. Roberts did not stand silently by as he looked at injustice. Because of him and others like him, things did change."

To read the entire article (Jan/Feb 2007) with pictures, go to www.fmcna.org and then click "Light and Life" on left / then contents or archive.


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