Health care should not depend on employment
Written by Bernice Powell Jackson
December 2004

Bernice Powell Jackson

This is a very unsettled and scary time. A bellwether year for hurricanes and tornadoes. Volcanoes bubbling and threatening to erupt. A divisive political campaign, with both sides playing on fears. An economy that even the economists can't quite explain. A war after a war in which the outcome is unknown and unpredictable.

For the UCC's national staff, it is no different. Through the years, many local churches have been keeping more of their money for local mission. Moreover, the stagnant economy has meant lower remittances to Our Church's Wider Mission and lower interest income.

Five years ago, the UCC's national structure was redesigned with anticipation of more dollars and, thus, it has faced several layoffs since 2002. This fall, we faced an even larger layoff of colleagues, each of whom is valued and has made a contribution to our church, some for many years. Like many workers who face the prospect of job loss, it has been an unsettled and scary time.

One of the most frightening aspects of losing a job is the loss of health insurance. But, why should our ability to have health care, a basic human right, rest on a job? In no other industrialized nation does having health care depend on one's employment status.

Every American knows that our health care system is broken. With the loss of millions of jobs over the past few years, there are now 45 million Americans with no health care insurance. Many are families with children and people with disabilities who need care the most. This is tragic. We live in the world's richest nation, one that really can afford to insure every resident, if only we would so choose.

Even those with insurance know the system is broken. Some have two or even three means of coverage because of a working spouse, and all are aware of great waste in the system.

Still, some systems rely on administrators rather than doctors to determine treatment. In some states, insurers have dropped Medicaid or Medicare programs, leaving patients with little choice or no coverage. In rural areas, finding appropriate care can be a real challenge. In inner cities, the hospital emergency room may be the only option.

Only when voters demand universal health care for every American will we see change. The UCC has been working on this important issue for decades, but we, the public, must insist on it.

There are more than a 1.3 million in the UCC. Whatw if each of us wrote a letter to the president, to our senators and congressperson? That's four letters per person. Then, what if we asked three friends to do the same thing. We could change this nation. What if?

Bernice Powell Jackson is executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries and a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers.

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