UMC’s Medical Assistance Saves Congregants $300,0000

( [email protected] ) Aug 11, 2004 09:58 PM EDT

Reaching out to the needy has always been a priority of the Christian church. This year, several denominations adopted a program to assist with the cost of prescription drugs, medicines, contact lenses and other supplies for its congregants. On August 10, the United Methodist Association of Health and Welfare – one of the few Christian-based medical welfare groups – reported that its members have saved an estimated $350,000, through a recent program adopted by the Association this March.

“We’re an extension of the church and we have been concerned that there are people falling through the cracks, who do have prescription drug benefits or who do not have health insurance,” said Rev. Mearle Griffith, president and chief executive officer of the Dayton, Ohio-based association.

The United Methodist Association teamed up with a health discounter named DestinationRx some 5 months ago, to offer a free card with discounts of up to 50 percent of medicine and other supplies. Some 30,000 Methodists have already signed onto the plan.

According to Griffith, some 44 million Americans do not have adequate prescription drug coverage, and are forced to choose between medicine and food to survive. Of them, some 3 to 4 million are United Methodists.

“One of the great satisfactions to me is to know that persons who needed help are getting help. Some people are now buying food who once had to make a choice between paying for groceries or paying for their prescriptions,” he said.

In one of the letters Griffith received, a cardholder wrote, “even though my husband and I are middle class and employed, our health insurance premiums rose 300 percent last year. … We were forced to shop for new insurance, but because we are adopting a baby girl, no private insurer will insure us at all for six months. … We were forced to get Medicaid for our baby girl. … We never thought we’d be without good insurance or drug coverage, and this has been alarming for us. … This couldn’t have come at a better time for us, and I know you are helping other families as well.”

The United Methodist Church, the second largest denomination in the U.S., is the first to have adopted such a comprehensive plan. The Southern Baptist Convention and the Presbyterian Church USA have similar plans intended to assist those in need.

Griffith explained that the free drug card offer is not limited to church members; Griffith said many local churches use the card as a ‘mission project’ by identifying people in the community who needs the card. Church members help those community people fill out and complete applications so they would receive the card.

Over 30,000 pharmacies across the country, including Target and Eckerd, carry the items that can be discounted through the card. Such items include prescriptions, contact lenses or even medicine for pets.

There are a number of ways to enroll in the program. Those interested may go to the Web site,, or send their name, address, telephone number and birthdate (optional) to: DestinationRx Member Services, 2245 Enterprise Parkway, Twinsburg, Ohio 44087. The toll-free information number is (800) 379-9040. Enrollees must use the group code of UMA001 on the enrollment form.