What would you do if it was your child?
Two or three years ago, Delphine and I saw the movie, "John Q," starring Denzel Washington. In the movie, Denzel's son is diagnosed with a fatal heart condition and needs a heart transplant. Then, Denzel's character learns that his health insurance is no longer in effect because he has become a parttime employee and, therefore, is not entitled to health benefits.
After failed attempts to appeal to his company, to find help through the government, and to raise money through his friends, Denzel learns that the hospital is preparing to discharge his son because of his inability to pay. In desperation, Denzel takes over the hospital emergency room, holding his son's physician and others hostage, while demanding treatment for his son.
It is an entertaining, engaging movie, but it is not an escape flick at all. It is a movie that makes you think about how we live in community with each other, and how we operate as though we are not our brothers and sisters' keepers.
The 925 churches of the Holston Annual Conference are located in four states: Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee. I applaud the effort in Tennessee to provide TennCare. But now that this coverage is in financial distress, I believe we should find a solution to help us provide coverage for the poor, homeless, working poor, children, and elderly.
It is more than a question of, "How will we provide health care for these people?" I believe this is a theological question that was first raised by Cain: "Am I my brother's keeper?"
The story of John Q brought the need for affordable health care and stop-gap measures for the unable-to-pay to the screen. An inquiry into whether the people in your church have proper health coverage might bring the dilemma closer to home.
I don't know what universal health care would cost in dollars and cents, and I realize the cost may be more than any one state can bear. I am aware of the complexity of the issue. However, I refuse to believe that we are helpless and trapped by this monster. I believe the church needs to partner with others in the community - those who don't want to wait until the cost becomes so great that it can't be contained.
The Holston Conference Outreach/ Advocacy Team is beginning to look for ways in which we can participate in the TennCare dialogue - to help us move toward a solution that reflects justice, fairness and equity. I ask that you be in prayer for this team and for your elected officials, who need wisdom and courage to tackle this challenge.
I ask that you all begin discussing in your congregations how we can become a catalyst for change. I ask that you seek a new direction in how we can provide for those who cannot provide for themselves.
I don't blame any one person or group for the TennCare dilemma. I am not concerned about blame, but I am concerned about finding solutions and answers that will assist us in being the community God seeks us to be.
I wondered what I would do if John Q's child were my own son, Joshua? I wonder: What would you do?
Bishop James Swanson
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