We are asking you to support the FFA’s effort to provide health insurance to clergy in our church who cannot otherwise obtain it. We often come to our clergy, asking for their prayers and spiritual support when we are ill. Whether before surgery or during a prolonged hospital stay, our clergy pray with us and for us. But is it right that we seek spiritual care for medical illness from a person whose own family may not be able to afford the medical care we are about to get?
According to CNN, more than 16% of Americans lack health insurance; that is almost 50 million people. The decline in insured rates in recent years is attributed to the loss of employer-provided coverage, which fell amid sustained unemployment and as employers continued to cut benefits. Our clergy are often newly unemployed. In some parishes, the priest has a second secular job, or the matushka works, and there is employer provided insurance. But there are parishes that simply cannot purchase a single employee policy for the priest who no longer has secular employment.
Other Orthodox Churches in the US have formed a group – the Orthodox Health Plan - to purchase comprehensive insurance for clergy, including dental as well as medical. The Fund for Assistance would like to enroll needy clergy in this plan. It is not cheap. A few clergy of our church are already in the plan. Their premiums are paid for by their respective parishes. The FFA identified needy clergy in the three American dioceses. In the first year, for 2012, we were able to enroll only a few families. The FFA provided a 50% subsidy, sharing the cost with the parish and the clergyman. Unfortunately even with a 50% subsidy the cost was prohibitive for many parishes.
We ask for your support to continue providing health insurance to clergy, and expand the program to provide coverage to as many uninsured as possible, parish clergy and monastics. We cannot in good conscience ask clergy to serve in our parishes without medical care for themselves and their families. If your parish priest does not have coverage please make efforts to include him and his family.
Whether or not health care reform is undertaken, nothing will be in place before 2014. We therefore ask that you strongly support this effort so that the families to whom we provided coverage in 2012 will still have it in 2013. Our fundraising target is $150,000. Without your support, we will not be able to pay their premiums.
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