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Faith-Based Health Care?

With the portion of non-elderly uninsured in this country at nearly 18%, one in five Americans must be wondering how they’ll get health care if they need it. ER rooms and walk-in clinics are a typical resource for folks who can’t rely on health insurance to cover their health care tabs. Churches, an age-old institution and social service provider, may now be ministering to the public in a new way: health care. According to a recent survey conducted by the National Council of Churches, about 70% of U.S. churches provide direct health care services via medical professionals to either their members or the community, with half offering such services to both. Services include counseling, medical tests, health education and vaccinations. These churches also help fund local clinics and provide financial aid for those with large medical bills.

One charity-run medical clinic in the Dallas-Fort Worth area treats more than 4,000 people a year. There are 40 more such clinics like it. Nearly a quarter of Texans are uninsured – the highest percentage of any state in the country. Their ranks include those whose jobs do not provide health benefits but who earn too much to qualify for government coverage.

While it has long fallen to non-profit and religious organizations to provide all kinds of services to the needy, one wonders whether faith-based health care is the best thing for this country. Do we really want a system where only those with money, or those comfortable with a specific religious institution, can get comprehensive care? Can the working poor rely solely on religious charity to meet their health care needs? When these folks get really sick, they contract cancer, or get hit by a car, who foots the hospital bill?

Maybe these religious groups can start hospitals for the poor too. Oh no wait – been there, done that (link to 1900-1909 history).

by Clay Barbour
The Charlotte Observer
March 12, 2008

by Kim Horner
The Dallas Morning News
January 17, 2008

COVERAGE & ACCESS | 70% of Churches Provide Health Care Services, Survey Finds
Kaiser Daily Health Report
September 20, 2007

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