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United Methodist Church

General Board of Church and Society - October 2001

The General Board of Church and Society adopted a resolution on "Universal Health Care in the United States of America" at its October meeting. The resolution supports the strategy embodied in   House Concurrent Resolution 99 for making progress toward Universal Health Care in the next three years.


From the earliest passages of the Bible (Genesis 15:26) Christians recognize that it is ultimately God who heals, and in the New Testament Jesus’ healing ministry is intended to demonstrate the presence of God. Claiming the promise of God, the United Methodist Social Principles (¶162, T) therefore recognize that "health care is a basic right" rather than a commodity available only to those with means, and recognizes "the role of governments in ensuring that each individual has access to those elements necessary to good health."

In support of this principle, the 2000 General Conference Resolution "Correcting Injustices in Health Care" (#95, p. 257) calls on The United Methodist Church to "exert its influence in any arena and wherever possible to bring about substantive change in the health care system" as well as "implementation of a totally nonprofit health care insurance system, a single-payer system administered by the federal government." In addition, the Resolution "Health and Wholeness" (#96, p. 263) sets forth principles of access to health services, including universal entitlement to basic maintenance and health care services, comprehensive coverage, and reallocation of funds from armaments to human services. "Universal Access to Health Care" (#103, p. 278) calls for legislation incorporating eight principles important to United Methodists, including service to all people, sensitivity to diversity, comprehensive benefits including preventive services, health promotion, primary and acute care, mental health care and extended care, an equitable and efficient financing system, equitable payments to providers, cost-containment, sensitivity to those employed in the health care system, innovative research, and assessment of the health impacts of other issues.

In 1999 — our most recent statistics — 42.6 million persons — 15.5 percent of the United States population- were without health care insurance, but lack of coverage affected disproportionately Hispanics (33.4 percent uninsured), Asian and Pacific Islanders (20.8 percent uninsured), African-Americans (21.2 percent uninsured), and poor people ineligible for Medicaid (32.4 percent uninsured). (US Census Bureau)

No universal health care legislation with substantial bipartisan support has been introduced in the 107th Congress, and Congress may not pass any substantial health care access expansion legislation until it hears vigorous cries from constituents in support of it.


Be it resolved, that the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church:

(1) endorses efforts to pass H. Con. Resolution 99, introduced April 4, 2001, directing Congress to enact legislation by October 2004 that provides access to comprehensive health care for all Americans, and, placing before the nation key principles which should be embodied in a system of universal health care and which can guide specific discussion, debate and legislative proposals in the coming years;

(2) endorses efforts by the Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN) to promote Concurrent Resolution 99 as an organizing vehicle to promote discussions about America’s health care with Members of Congress of all political persuasions;

(3) endorses efforts at the State level, such as those in Maine and Maryland, to move toward the provision of universal health care on a state-by-state basis; and

(4) calls upon GBCS staff to continue work with organizations such as Universal Health Care Action Network and other advocacy organizations which support these objectives.

Universal Access to Health Care - 2000

The health care system in the United States is in need of serious systemic change. We call for legislation that will provide universal access to quality health care with effective cost controls. John Wesley was always deeply concerned about health care, providing medical services at no coast to the poor in London and emphasizing preventive care. The first Methodist Social Creed (adopted in 1908) urged working conditions to safeguard the health of workers and community.

Through its many hospitals and health-care facilities around the world, as well as public-policy advocacy for health. The United Methodist Church continues to declare its commitment to quality and affordable health care as a right of all people.

The concern of The United Methodist Church for health is rooted in our biblical understanding that salvation embraces wholeness of mind, body and spirit. Jesus revealed the meaning of divine love in his acts of healing for all and the meaning of justice in his inclusion of all persons in the healing and saving power of God. The redemptive ministry of Christ, which focused on healing and wholeness – spiritual, mental, physical and emotional - is our model for health ministry. Persons in the United States have been conditioned to expect quality health care. The United States has one of the lowest overall mortality rates compared to other countries. Its medical technology expertise is evident in the many success stories of curing severe illness and prolonging life. The quality of medical training in the United States has also been very high, benefiting those who have access to the services of doctors and other health professionals.

Unfortunately, the excesses of the present system are beginning to erode many of these achievements. Millions of Americans are denied appropriate health care simply because of their economic status and/or disability. Within this group are some of the most vulnerable members of society, particularly 11 to 13 million children. Even those adults who are working are not spared: a substantial number of those without insurance belong to families with steadily employed workers. Many working people also belong to another large group in danger – those who are inadequately or under-insured.

Not surprisingly, the poor, the aging, women, children, people with disabilities, and persons of color are most at risk in this system. The infant mortality rate in the United States is the worst among the "developed" countries. Black women die from cervical cancer at three times the rate of white women. Black Americans have a significantly lower life span than white Americans and Hispanics have the least access to the health care system to any group. Native Americans, besides suffering greatly from alcoholism, have a substantially higher tuberculosis rate than average U.S. rates. Recent immigrants who experience health problems find the health care system poorly equipped to meet their needs.

Even persons with middle income have difficulty finding affordable, quality care. Families in which a member suffers from catastrophic illness find their health insurance premiums priced so high they can no longer afford them, or in some cases, insurance is cancelled. Businesses are overwhelmed with the cost of health insurance, a problem. The United Methodist Church is also facing. The dissatisfaction with the U.S. health system ranks highest among the middle class in many surveys. The health care system is extremely costly in the United States, consuming more of the gross national product than Canadian health-care costs.

Finally, the providers of health care and corporate America both are unhappy with the present system. Doctors object to excessive paperwork, malpractice suits, and inadequate government programs. Hospitals can no longer stay financially sound under existing policies. Corporate America has called for radical change because our economic position in the world is being eroded by rising health costs. Unions, as well, are unhappy, and a large number of strikes in recent years have stemmed from disputes over health care.

We therefore seek legislation that incorporates the following principles:

Principle 1: We seek a national health-care plan that serves and is sensitive to the diversity of all people in the United States and its territories.

Principle 2: We seek a national health-care plan that will provide comprehensive benefits to everyone, including preventive services, health promotion, primary and acute care, mental-health care, and extended care.

Principle 3: We seek a national health-care plan with an equitable and efficient financing system drawn from the broadest possible resource base.

Principle 4: We seek a national health-care plan that provides services based on equity, efficiency and quality with payments to providers that are equitable, cost-efficient and easy to administer and understand.

Principle 5: We seek a national health-care plan that reduces the current rapid inflation in costs through cost-containment measures.

Principle 6: We seek a national health-care plan that is sensitive to the needs of persons working in the various components of the health care system and gives special attention to providing not only for affirmative action the recruitment, training and employment of workers, but also for just for all workers at all levels and for retraining and placement of those displaced by changes in the health care system.

Principle 7: We seek a national health-care plan that promotes effective and safe innovation and research for women and men in medical techniques, the delivery of health services and health practices.

Principle 8: We seek a national health-care plan that assesses the health impacts of environmental and occupational safety, environmental pollution, sanitation, physical fitness, and standard-of-living issues such as housing and nutrition.

We, in the United Methodist Church, are called to a ministry of healing. Therefore, we challenge our church to:

  1. Support the Interreligious Healthcare Access Campaign and its public-policy advocacy to provide access to universal health care for all;
  2. Educate and motivate persons to pursue a healthy lifestyle, thus avoiding health problems by practicing preventive medicine;
  3. Affirm the role of Christ-like care in institutions that provide direct health services by units of The United Methodist Church;
  4. Develop a curriculum model on universal health care advocacy suitable for United Methodist Church seminaries; and
  5. Ensure that persons representative of the groups most directly affected by inaccessibility to quality health care participate in all levels of efforts by The United Methodist Church directed toward the implementation of a national health-care policy.

--- ADOPTED 1992, AMENDED AND READOPTED 2000 (See Social Principles, 66Q; "Health for All by the Year 2000"; "Health in Mind and Body"; "Health and Wholeness"; "Medical Rights for Children and Youth.")

Observance of Health Care Sabbaths - 1996

In 1994, the Interreligious Health Care Access Campaign inaugurated the observance of a Health Care Sabbath by persons of faith as a symbol of their faithfulness to the goal of health care for all. Rather than specifying a particular date for this observance, the Campaign encouraged communions and congregations to select a Sabbath date that reflected their individual commitment to issues of health and wholeness. In support of this interfaith effort and in faithful witness to the beliefs articulated in the United Methodist resolutions on "Health and Wholeness," "Universal Access to Health Care in the United States and Related Territories," and "Health for All by the Year 2000." The United Methodist Church calls congregations to designate one Sunday during the calendar year for the observance of a Health Care Sabbath. The Health Care Sabbath is a day of rejoicing and reflection. It is a time for thanksgiving for the health and well being enjoyed by many in our world community and thanksgiving for the diverse caregivers who minister to our needs. It is a time to reflect on those who are sick, who struggle with chronic illnesses, who lack access to the health-care services they need, and who are denied those basic elements essential to achieving health. It is a time to focus on our belief that health care is a right and a responsibility, public and private. It is a time to challenge our communities of faith to seek their role in making "Health Care for All" a reality.

To assist congregations in their observance of a Health Care Sabbath, resources will be made available by the General Board of Church and Society.

--- ADOPTED 1996 (See Social Principles, 66Q; "Health in Mind and Body"; "Health and Wholeness"; "Universal Access to Health Care in the U.S. and Related Territories.

Faithful Reform in Health Care ~ P.O. Box 6174 ~ Wilson, NC 27894-6174 ~ 1-888-863-8910