UMC Opens Medical Benefits to All Members

"This is a natural extension of our commitment to health. It's our passion to help the poor and needy"
( [email protected] ) Mar 09, 2004 07:12 PM EST

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Representatives of the United Methodist Church voted to provide drug benefits to all 8.3 million of its U.S. members, during the national conference of United Methodist Association of Health and Welfare Ministries in Nashville, March 4-7.

The UMC will work through a partnership with the prescription drug and health supply discounter – DestinationRx, to provide a free card that gives discounts of up to 65 percent on most prescription drugs and other supplies, such as contact lenses, vitamins and drugs for pets. Usually, DestinationRx charges a fee of $90 to $120 for the cards.

Statistics show that many Methodists are among the 40 million Americans who have little or no prescription drug insurance. With an average age of 57, the UMC members are among the oldest of any denomination in the United States.

"We have many people falling through the cracks,” said the Rev. Mearle Griffith, president and chief executive officer of the Dayton, Ohio,-based association. “They're choosing between taking all of the drugs they need and groceries. That's the target audience."

All United Methodist Church members, regardless of their insurance coverage, income or health status, will be allowed to take advantage of the benefits. In addition, individual Methodist congregations may open the benefit to other churches, as long as the members of the other churches register through a United Methodist Church.

"If the people they help are Baptist or Catholic, that's OK," Griffith said.

The effort to provide medical assistance and benefits began two years ago, when the denomination’s board of Global Ministries took up the issue as a social justice cause. Two weeks ago, the UMC made the deal with DestinationRx, and began offering the cards immediately.

"This is a natural extension of our commitment to health," said Griffith. "It's our passion to help the poor and needy."

Senior Vice President of DestinationRx, Dan Jadosh, agreed.

"It's not a situation that's an end-all to fixing the problem,” said Jadosh. “But it will provide help at least.”

United Methodists can obtain the cards by calling 800-379-9040 and referring to the United Methodist Association.

DestinationRx, founded in 1998 and based in Los Angeles, has contracts with 25,000 pharmacies across the country, including Eckerd's, Kmart and Target, to offer discounted prescription drugs and health supplies to employers, unions, and other organizations and individuals. It was selected to offer health cost information and software to the federal government under the Medicare reform bill signed in December.