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Joycelyn Elders Leads Town Hall on Health Care Reform

By Yvette Moore

Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders urged United Methodist Women to use its influence to make health care available to all in the United States during an April 30 town hall-style workshop at the organization’s Assembly in St. Louis, Mo., April 30-May 2. Nearly 1,000 United Methodist Women members filled the hall in one of more than 150 workshops offered at the “Faith • Hope • Love in Action” Assembly.

“I’m thrilled to death that in 2010 at least we have a start and something to work from, but it’s going to take more than passing a law to reform health care,” Ms. Elders said.

“You need three things to make change: you’ve got to have a crisis – we have a health care crisis; you’ve got to have a leader – we seem to have a leader; and you’ve got to have consensus. We have to educate ourselves on health care reform so we can develop a consensus.”

After months of misinformation, even some people who want health care for all have been convinced it’s unaffordable, she said, but added, “We paid for the war in Iraq. We paid for the war in Afghanistan. Surely we can afford to pay to provide access to health care for our people.”

Ms. Elders encouraged the women to talk with their friends, family and neighbors to create a consensus that health care for all is not only necessary but also possible.

“United Methodist Women can play a very large role,” she said. “We care enough, and we know enough – but nobody cares how much we know until they know how much we care. You have the power, position and prestige to bring about change. We need it now.

“We’ve been talking about universal access to health care since 1912,” Ms. Elders said. “We’ve spent 100 years saying we could not afford health care for our people. When we say we cannot afford health care, it’s women and children who suffer the most.”

Ms. Elders said the current reform legislation, while not perfect, will mean 32 million more neighbors and family members will have health care insurance; insurance companies can’t cancel coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions; parents can carry adult children on their health insurance policies till they’re 26 years old; and there will be no lifetime caps on coverage or threats of cancellation.

“Our present reform is not perfect, but it’s a good place to start,” she said. “Health care should be a right, not a commodity, not a privilege. We all have a responsibility to our friends and neighbors. We can‘t be the richest country in world, and the only industrialized nation that does not offer health care to its people.”

Ms. Elders also advised women to adopt healthy lifestyles that included a high-fiber low-sodium diet, daily exercising, getting eight hours of sleep, no smoking and no excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages. She also fielded questions and comments on a range of topics including HIV/AIDS and older adults, mental health illness and loved ones, the importance of parish nurses, and talking with teens about sex.  

*Yvette Moore is staff writer for United Methodist Women and editor of United Methodist Women News.

Last Updated: 05/02/2010

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