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United Methodists join call for health care reform

 


United Methodists join call for health care reform

 

July 22, 2004                                      

By Leslie Tune*

National Council of Churches

 

WASHINGTON (UMNS) -- With repeated calls for urgent and immediate action, a broad coalition of close to 100 groups, including the National Council of Churches, is asking the nation’s policymakers to dramatically overhaul the health care system.

The nonpartisan National Coalition on Health Care, representing the interests of 150 million Americans, released specifications for systemwide reforms to help frame a renewed national debate about the health care system. The coalition is calling for political leaders to act immediately and to persist regardless of who wins the presidential election or has control of Congress following the November election.

The group, which includes businesses, religious groups, unions, insurers, consumer organizations and providers, urged comprehensive reforms that would provide all Americans access to health care, control rapidly rising health costs and dramatically improve quality and patient safety measures.

 

“For people of faith this is an issue of righteousness and justice,” he explained. “In my own denomination, the United Methodist Church, we believe every child of God is entitled to health care. Access to health care is a right.

“We simply cannot exclude people who cannot afford or who receive substandard health care,” added Winkler, who is a member of the NCC’s Justice and Advocacy Commission. “To do so is immoral, unfair and just plain wrong.”

Recommendations of the National Coalition on Health Care are outlined in the report, “Building a Better Health Care System: Specifications for Reform.” They call for:

  • requiring health care coverage for all Americans within two to three years after the enactment of legislation;
  • bringing cost increases for health care in line with increases in other parts of the economy within five years;
  • launching a nationwide effort to dramatically improve the quality, safety and value of care;
  • making the financing of health care more equitable; and
  • simplifying and modernizing the administration of health care.

Henry Simmons, a physician and coalition president, pointed out that inadequate health care is an economic security issue. “Small incremental changes are not sufficient. We need reforms that are systematic and we need it now,” he said to a standing room only crowd in the Russell Senate Office Building. “The status quo in health care is not only unacceptable, it is unsustainable. …All of these organizations [in the coalition] are committed to educating their members and employees to achieve these reforms.”

Robert Ray, former Iowa governor and one of the coalition’s co-chairmen, stressed the importance of immediate action being taken to address the five areas outlined in the specifications. “Delay means that millions of people are in harm’s way. …Delay is not an option,” he said.

“Today’s report is politically significant because it shows that there is broad support across most sectors of the economy and society, and across party lines for tough, system-wide reform,” added co-chairman Paul G. Rogers, a former member of Congress and chair of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee.

Rogers also emphasized that the problem is now worse than ever and for the first time is becoming a middle-class issue. In addition, he noted the problem companies were having making enough profit to be able to pay for employee benefits. “People from both parties are saying the current system is unworkable,” he said.

Mounting concern was demonstrated in May when thousands of churches, activists, institutions and community groups participated in “Cover the Uninsured Week” to bring attention to the problems facing those who do not have health coverage.

“America can make health care accessible to everyone and now is the time for us to make it happen,” said Winkler. “We will be working in the coming months and years to ensure nobody who lives in the United States is left out of our health care system.”

In addition to the United Methodist Church and the NCC, the Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) also are members of the coalition. The Rev. Robert Edgar, a United Methodist pastor and the NCC’s chief executive, leads the coalition’s legislative working group.

 

*The Rev. Leslie Tune is the communication officer of the NCC’s Washington office.

 

News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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