4:30 P.M. EST Feb. 26, 2010
President Obama discusses health insurance reform legislation with Sen.
Mitch McConnell (right), R-Ky. White House photo by Chuck Kennedy.
At the end of the day, the health care summit held in the nation’s
capital Feb. 25 produced “more heat than light,” said Bishop Gregory
Palmer, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.
United Methodist lawmakers and church leaders reacting to the forum
applauded President Barack Obama’s effort to debate health care reform
in public, but are unsure whether any progress was made.
“I was heartened by the attempt to come across party lines, but I am not
persuaded that either side got out of their camps,” Palmer said. “At
the end of the day, my hope barometer didn’t move either way.”
Republicans remain opposed to Obama’s proposed health care overhaul,
while Democrats vow to push it through Congress.
“We saw today there are areas where Democrats and Republicans agree,”
said United Methodist Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican. “However,
there are fundamental disagreements that will prevent me and many of my
colleagues from both sides of the aisle from supporting this
trillion-dollar government takeover of health care, which will lead to
rationing and the demise of the doctor-patient relationship.”
United Methodist Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat, said the
plan must move forward.
“If we take no action, the cost of providing health care will continue
spiraling out of control, becoming even more unsustainable for families
and dragging down our economy,” Bingaman said. “If we do not enact
health insurance reform, insurance companies will be allowed to continue
to increase premiums, drop coverage to (those) with pre-existing
medical conditions and cap care for the chronically ill. In my view, we
have no choice but to move forward with health insurance reform.”
Dr. Jeff Thill, a volunteer at Shepherd's Hope Health Center in Orlando,
Fla., examines patient Geannie Figuereo.
A UMNS file photo by Tim
View in Photo Gallery
“The bipartisan health care summit was a historic moment for Americans,”
said the Rev. Cynthia Abrams, executive with the United Methodist Board
of Church and Society.
“There were moments of high political drama during the summit, but we
should not lose sight of the most important message sent by a televised
summit: that reform of the health care system is an important and
critical problem that must be addressed.”
Palmer and the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, along with
five United Methodist-related organizations, endorsed a letter to Obama
and members of Congress before the summit urging them “to take heart and
move meaningful health care reform forward.”
Signers of the letter and other faith-based organizations have been
advocating throughout the past year for health care reform that ensures
good health care is available to everyone. Activities included hundreds
of prayer vigils and services across the country, national call-in days,
hundreds of meetings with members of Congress, thousands of phone calls
and several letters from the faith community to Congress.
Two groups of United Methodists with concerns about the president’s
proposed plan watched the summit hoping the complex issue of health care
reform would be addressed without regard to either party’s political
“The American people have clearly become frustrated with the lack of
transparency in the process and the deals being brokered behind closed
doors,” said Liza Kittle, president of Renew, a network of evangelical,
orthodox women within The United Methodist Church. “While not all
members of Renew agree on every aspect of health care reform, we do
believe that this complex issue should be addressed from a bipartisan
perspective with the interests of the American people taking precedence
over party affiliation.”
Kittle said she and other members of Renew believe any plan should
include comprehensive tort reform.
“Hospitals are closing and good physicians are leaving medicine due to
the continual strain of frivolous lawsuits, government regulation and
declining reimbursements,” she said.
The Rev. Paul Stallsworth, director of the denomination’s pro-life
caucus and editor of the newsletter Lifewatch, supported the summit.
“More face-to-face deliberate and substantive debate about health care
reform such as this are needed,” he said.
“I believe arguments should not be suppressed but should be encouraged
to take place in public. I think this shows the democratic processes are
working and is just the way we Americans behave politically.”
The Rev. Dave Bean, president of the Oregon-Idaho Annual (regional)
Conference, said he remains disappointed in the process, but the summit
was at least an attempt by Obama to reach out to Republicans.
“What is needed is bold action in the form of a single-payer,
Medicare-for-all type of health care system. This is by far the best way
to extend coverage to all, lower costs significantly, improve the
quality of care and reflect the love of God in so doing.”
United Methodist position
The United Methodist Church declares “health care is a basic human
The United Methodist Book of Discipline also states: “Providing the care
needed to maintain health, prevent disease, and restore health after
injury or illness is a responsibility each person owes others and
government owes to all, a responsibility government ignores at its
peril. … Like police and fire protection, health care is best funded
through the government’s ability to tax each person equitably and
directly fund the provider entities … It is unjust to construct or
perpetuate barriers to physical or mental wholeness or full
participation in community. We believe it is a governmental
responsibility to provide all citizens with health care.”
“Since the United Methodist Church’s Social Principles calls health care
a ‘basic human right,’ passage of legislation that overcomes obstacles
to providing health care to every person at an affordable cost is a step
in the right direction,” Abrams said. “My hope is that the summit
provides the final push for bipartisan cooperation.”
*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470