I signed up for COBRA yesterday. Frankly, I don’t even know what the acronym means. I just know that it allows you to continue your health insurance. I am grateful for that. Bill’s company allowed me to remain on his policy for one year, and that saved me a lot of money. The policy now is four times what it was. I’m truly grateful to have it, though, because the United Church of Christ’s insurance turned me down due to “pre-existing conditions.” (I’ve had high blood pressure since we started building the Cathedral of Hope.)
After applying for the UCC’s insurance, I did not hear from them for what seemed too long a time, so I called. When the very polite woman informed me that I had been declined and why, I said that I thought excluding someone for preexisting conditions is against the Affordable Care Act. She said it is, but that, somehow, the UCC Insurance Board was “grandparented” and hence exempt from that requirement. As kindly as I could, I expressed my concern that exemption did not excuse functioning unethically. She said that they simply are trying to keep costs as low as possible. I laughed and said that it was one of the most expensive policies offered (20 percent more than my current COBRA) and that controlling costs really doesn’t help pastors or churches if something like high blood pressure, well-controlled with medication, keeps you from getting insurance. She offered to explain how I could appeal. I declined.
Fortunately, I can keep my COBRA for another 18 months, so I’m one of the fortunate ones. What about pastors who cannot? If a progressive denomination like the United Church of Christ uses loopholes to deny their employees insurance, what chance does someone have with a small, for-profit employer?
Right now, my uncle, two church members, and a dear childhood friend all are in hospice. I can’t imagine what would happen to them in their final days if they did not have private health insurance, Medicare, or veteran’s benefits. None of us think that, like death, catastrophic illness will happen to us or the ones we love. That is hubris, and stupidity. It WILL. Most Americans have health insurance provided by their employer at reasonable cost, or they are covered by Medicaid. Because of this, many of us have been sitting out the health care fight taking place in Washington. That is hubris and stupid. It is also incredibly selfish.
Dr. King said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is one of the most shocking and inhumane.” Well, the UCC shocked me into realizing once again just how many Americans are treated inhumanely when it comes to health care.
Rev. Michael Piazza