Faith community crucial to health care reform
Written by W. Evan Golder
Left: Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) addresses the crowd at the UHCAN conference. Right: Diane Lardie, National Executive Director of UHCAN (left); Loretta Richardson and Barbara Baylor of the UCC, former and present UCC ministers for health, respectively; and the Rev. Linda Hanna Walling of UHCAN's Faith Project at UHCAN's 10th National Conference. W. Evan Golder photos.
Are you a church member who is concerned about health care reform?
That makes sense, says the Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister who serves as Faith Project Director for UHCAN, the Universal Health Care Action Network.
UHCAN drew 110 persons to its 10th National Conference Nov. 16-18 in Baltimore. Participants included many church people wanting to right the wrongs of health care access.
"UHCAN is strongly committed to the moral imperative of health care for all," says Walling. "Healing and wholeness are part of every religion's teaching. But in the United States, health and wholeness are not part of everyone's experience. The sinfulness of lack of access to health care blocks this. This is one of our country's great injustices."
Health Care Resolution
UHCAN's Faith Project offers two ways for churches to get involved. One is to organize a Health Care Justice Sabbath observance in April 2002.
The other is to endorse the Health Care Access Resolution (official name: House Concurrent Resolution 99) and to encourage Members of Congress to cosponsor it.
This resolution directs Congress to enact legislation by October 2004 that provides access to comprehensive health care for everyone in the United States.
It lists 14 key attributes of a just and efficient health care system, e.g., affordability, cost efficiency, early intervention and timely payments for providers. It does not specifically endorse any one model of reform.
An afternoon panel on state efforts to reform the health care system lifted up the importance of church participation.
"The faith community is the only major group that can get the people out," said Vinny DeMarco, Director of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative.
In Maine on Nov. 6, Portland voters approved a non-binding resolution urging Maine to become the first state with universal health care. The resolution passed 52 percent to 48 percent, despite supporters spending only $25,000 compared with $382,000 spent by health insurance companies to oppose it.
Costs less, serves more
"The faith community was an important part of our coalition," said John Dieffenbacher-Krall, co-director of the Maine People's Alliance. He estimated that for 2001, a single-payer health care plan would have cost $5.1 million, while the current system will cost $5.5 million.
Another speaker who asserted that universal health care will cost less than we spend now and cover many more people was Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich). Conyers, who has been introducing universal health care legislation for nearly three decades, is the lead sponsor of the Health Care Access Resolution.
Conyers said that he has a dozen legislative proposals as to how to patch the net of health care delivery ? "and so does every other member of Congress," he said. "The problem is, the whole system is crumbling. That's why we need a new system."
To discuss health care reform, click here.
To learn about UHCAN's Faith Project, contact: The Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, UHCAN, 2800 Euclid Ave. #520, Cleveland, OH 44115-2418; phone 216-241-8422; fax 216-241-8423; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn how people of faith can work for health care justice, including Health Care Access Sunday and the Health Care Access Resolution, visit www.uhcan.org.