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Week draws attention to crisis of uninsured

May 3, 2006

A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*

Before this day is over, more than 50 people in the United States will die because they have no health insurance and cannot afford the medical treatment they need to stay alive.

Dr. Ted Hill, a United Methodist physician in Tennessee, is one of many in the faith community who have decided not to stand by and watch that happen anymore. With the help of medical and business leaders in Sumner County, north of Nashville, he has opened the Salvus Center, a medical clinic committed to "helping those people who fall through the cracks."

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Bishop Melvin G. Talbert

The center is inspired by the biblical mandate to care for the sick and needy, Hill says. (See related story.)

May 1-7, faith communities across the United States are supporting Cover the Uninsured Week to draw attention to the need for health coverage for all. According to the most recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 46 million — including 8 million children — in the United States have no health care coverage.

The numbers of people without health insurance are increasing, not decreasing, says United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert, who is on the national interfaith advisory board for Cover the Uninsured Week.

"When we started (Cover the Uninsured Week) three years ago, we had 41 million," he says. "That number has increased to 46 million.

"We need to stop and raise the question: 'What would happen to us — those of us who are privileged to be insured — if we had a catastrophic illness and didn't have health insurance?' Well, that is the situation for 46 million people."

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Image courtesy of Cover the Uninsured Week

This chart shows the percentage of uninsured non-elderly adults by age for 2004.

According to Cover the Uninsured Week's Web site:

  • Nearly all the uninsured are under age 65.
  • Members of racial and ethnic minority groups make up a disproportionate share of the uninsured population.
  • Nearly 20 percent of uninsured are children.
  • The likelihood of being insured increases as the level of education rises.
  • Only 9 percent of families with income over $50,000 per year are uninsured, compared to 40.8 percent of people with family incomes below $5,000.
  • Employment-based health insurance continues to be the predominant source of coverage for the non-elderly population.

The United Methodist Church, in its Book of Discipline, holds that health care is a basic human right, as well as a responsibility both public and private. In Paragraph 162T of the Social Principles section, the church states: "We encourage individuals to pursue a healthy lifestyle and ? also recognize the role of governments in ensuring that each individual has access to those elements necessary to good health."

The United Methodist Church's General Conference has also passed a number of health-related resolutions on the importance of health care for all.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Kathy Gilbert

The faith-based Salvus Center, founded by Dr. Ted Hill, serves working people who have no health insurance.

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society advocates for "a national health plan that will provide comprehensive health benefits to everyone with an equitable and efficient financing system that can reduce the current rapid inflation."

"About 18,000 people die in the United States each year because they are uninsured and cannot get the medical care they need," says Cynthia Abrams, an executive with the Board of Church and Society. "It's time to put politics aside and make progress toward solutions. Tell Congress to make health coverage for Americans their top priority."

Talbert agrees it is time for action.

"It is a moral issue for us as the church to be supportive of getting all of our brothers and sisters covered because we care for each other. I hope United Methodists across the connection will pause this week, particularly on Sunday, to emphasize the importance of getting something done.

"We need to say to both parties — Democratic and Republican — the time is here when we need to stop talking and do something about this crisis that we are facing as a nation."

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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