Last week I wrote a Liberating Word designed to motivate us all to advocate for universal health care in the United States. Because we have the most expensive health care in the world, which no one ranks as the best, you would think it would be provided for everyone, just as it is in EVERY other major industrialized nation.
In my writing, I mentioned that I had been turned down by the United Church of Christ’s insurance company (which is administered by the Pension Boards of the UCC, not the UCC Insurance Board as I mistakenly reported last week) because I have mild hypertension that is controlled by cheap, generic medication. What I am ashamed to admit is that MANY people responded saying that they, too, had been denied for one reason or another. I’m ashamed because I had no idea that this injustice to UCC employees had been going on despite the Affordable Care Act, which tried to address this wrong.
Our insurance company found a loophole and uses it against us, leaving us to the mercy of what we can manage to find ourselves. Lyle Schaller, who for decades was THE mainline church guru, used to say that modern denominations serve only three purposes: credentialing clergy, publishing hymnals, and providing health insurance and pensions for employees. Apparently the UCC’s Pension Boards has decided it is morally responsible for providing health insurance only to those who they cannot find an excuse to exclude.
Someone tried to explain to me that the only reason they could exclude me was that I didn’t apply within 90 days of employment, like that makes it right. Someone else explained that it is so expensive because our pool is quite old, though the UCC insurance REQUIRES us to go on Medicare when we become eligible. Frankly, I don’t care what the explanation is. It is a moral issue when a denomination that prides itself on fighting for justice won’t do what is right by its own servants.
Again, I want to emphasize that this is NOT about me. I have COBRA from Bill’s corporate employer who did not exclude me, and I am about to receive insurance from a different denomination, the one to which my new church belongs. This fight isn’t making me popular with some of the leaders of my own denomination, but, then, that is what makes it about justice: 1.) It isn’t about me, and 2.) those in power resist moving toward inclusion.
In what areas of life are you called to fight? Can lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people fight for the voting rights of people of color? Can African-Americans fight for immigrant rights? Can white men fight for corporations to choose people over profits?
Just make sure it is NOT about you, and that it will take courage, and maybe have a cost, when you push those in power toward inclusion.
Rev. Michael Piazza