Not everyone is in agreement about the United States adopting a universal or single-payer health care plan to help bring health care costs more in line with our wallets. Some don't even want the option of choosing between public and private insurance plans. But one thing is for sure, we need some type of reform and far more discussion about it.
The evidence of a need for reform can be found at several free and nearly free medical clinics right here. Hundreds of uninsured patients visit the clinics each week.
The Fayette County Refuge Medical Clinic, one of two non-profit organizations initially funded by Southland Christian Church, opened six months ago to provide free medical, dental and chiropractic care. There are at least six other similar clinics, without which hundreds of uninsured people couldn't be pro-active in their health care.
That is scary.
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The other Refuge clinic is in Nicholasville and has been open a year.
The idea began after Southland's senior minister, the Rev. Jon Weece, charged the congregation to make the church more than a building. Members then began several outreach programs, the clinic being one of them.
Rachel Coburn Smith, the director of the Lexington clinic, said that when it opened in March, most of the patients were recently unemployed adults. To get care, their income must fall within the federal poverty guidelines, and they must be residents of the 1st Urban County Council District in downtown Lexington and have no insurance.
Anyone with insurance, Medicare or Medicaid will be referred to the nearby Polk-Dalton Clinic.
The Refuge provides not only some of the best medical care available but also tries to meet the needs of the whole person, spiritual as well as physical, Smith said.
And for that, Dianne Bibbs, 54, is grateful.
Bibbs, a recovering addict who was one of the clinic's first patients, voluntarily cleans the bright, well-equipped clinic.
"It's a way for me to give back," she said. "They are a godsend to me. There is such an outpouring of love in this place."
Volunteers and staff members have devotions every morning and pray for patients who have asked for prayer on cards left in the lobby.
But are free clinics an alternative to reform?
As far as Smith knows, even if a health care reform plan is passed, her clinic will continue to operate. But who knows what services it will offer and how? A clinic board member has read the current proposal and discussions about the clinic's future are under way with board members.
"We've definitely thought about it," she said. "We will adjust when that happens. Maybe we would shift into more dental care. But to be completely honest, the type of care we provide rivals any care that is out there."
Bret Melrose, owner of Fayette Heating & Air, donated the warehouse at 525 Corral Street that is home to the Lexington Refuge clinic. He said his father told him shortly before dying four years ago not to sell the building because it would be used for a good cause. Two weeks after his father died, Melrose heard of the need for a building to house the medical outreach in downtown, and he donated the building. Also, he pays for the health insurance of his 130 employees.
Melrose believes there would be little need for government intervention or universal health care if more people lived their faith.
"I want people to read this and be challenged by it," he said. "I want them to get up and do something for this community.
"If we get focused on doing it God's way, all these other issues are non-issues."
I wholeheartedly agree. There would be no need for any government programs if the faith community stepped up to the plate.
Several faith-based medical clinics are doing just that, including Mission Lexington, the Nathaniel Mission, St. Joseph Free Clinic, and St. Joseph Baby Health Clinic, along with secular free clinics such as the Bluegrass Community Health Center and the Men's Hope Center.
Many of them, however, have felt the pinch of fewer donations and fewer volunteers. We in the community aren't always mindful of the needs.
We say we don't want big government, but have we proven that the marginalized can depend on us?
Smith said that from her vantage point, she sees both a giving society and a society that needs help.
"I do experience something daily that some people don't know exists," she said speaking of the pain, want and neglect she sees. "We want to be a place that loves and accepts people."
The Bible charges Christians to feed the poor, care for the sick, visit those in prison, Smith said.
"Jesus said 'What you do to the least of these, you do to me.' It's in the Bible. Whatever the next step is, our hearts will still continue to be for the people, the people who are marginalized and in need and who need the church."
Melrose said caring for our neighbors begins with each of us, those who have buildings to donate and those who have time to volunteer.
"It starts with you and me," he said. "One person at a time, we can build the kingdom of God. Until you and I make that statement in public, we cannot say we have given it our best effort. That's the path I'm going to take."
If we dislike the health care reform that the Obama administration has proposed, perhaps we should donate our time and resources to provide for our neighbors ourselves.
This is not a time to just say no.