Hornell’s St. James Mercy Hospital and Elmira’s St. Joseph’s Hospital have joined forces to sponsor several community events in conjunction with Cover the Uninsured Week, being held April 23-29. This nationwide initiative is in its fifth year.
St. James Mercy and St. Joseph’s, the only two Catholic hospitals in the Rochester Diocese, seek to broaden community awareness about the millions of uninsured children and adults in our country, and the need for federal and state health-insurance programs to expand. Cover the Uninsured Week events will include:
* Monday, April 23 — A facilitated enroller from Steuben County Department of Social Services will be stationed in the St. James Mercy Hospital lobby, 411 Canisteo St., from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. That person will assist with eligibility-requirement information on SCHIP, Child Health Plus and Medicaid.
* Tuesday, April 24 — A facilitated enroller from Chemung County Department of Social Services will be in the St. Joseph’s Hospital front lobby, 555 E. Market St., from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. distributing information about available free or low-cost health-insurance programs.
* Wednesday, April 25 — The Steuben County enroller will be on the second floor of St. James Mercy’s Aquinas Building, 373 Canisteo St. The enroller has regularly scheduled appointments at this location every Monday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
* Thursday, April 26 — Father Daniel Callahan, vice president of mission services, will lead an interfaith prayer service at 12:30 p.m. in the St. James Mercy chapel.
* Friday, April 27 — An interfaith prayer service will be held in the St. Joseph’s chapel at 8:30 a.m.
“Cover the Uninsured Week is of particular importance to Catholic hospitals because our witness to care for the ‘least among us’ is the Gospel mandate of Jesus that calls us to deliver healing care to all persons, especially the poor and underserved. In Jesus’ words, ‘whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do unto me,'” said Father Callahan, a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement. “Those who have no health insurance are generally the poor and underserved, for whom we must be advocates and caregivers to the furthest extent possible. The more we can provide coverage of health-care costs for the poor, the better we serve the Gospel mandate.”
“Catholic health care has always been known for its compassion and action,” added Deacon George Welch, chaplain at St. Joseph’s. “Today 9 million children in this country are living without health coverage. In fact, health-care coverage for all Americans should be a right and not a privilege. As providers of health care in our communities and as people of faith, we must come together to address this issue with care and a commitment to justice.”
A major concern surrounding this year’s Cover the Uninsured Week is the future of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), known as Child Health Plus in New York state. For the past decade SCHIP has provided coverage to children whose parents are either not offered health insurance for their children through their job or who cannot afford insurance that is offered.
More than 6 million children are covered by SCHIP nationwide. Congress must reauthorize SCHIP in 2007 in order for the program to continue, and federal-funding levels would need to be increased in order to keep pace with the rising number of uninsured children.
“There has never been a more important time for us to come together and support federal efforts to provide health coverage to children. Congress must continue to fund SCHIP and make America’s uninsured their top priority,” stated Mary E. LaRowe, president/CEO of St. James Mercy Health System.
“The country’s most successful effort to provide insurance to vulnerable children is in danger unless Congress and the president act decisively to reauthorize and expand SCHIP and Child Health Plus,” added Sister Marie Castagnaro, SSJ, president/CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital. “If they do not provide sufficient funding for the program, millions of children — including kids here in our community — who desperately need health insurance will remain uninsured.”
Sister Castagnaro added that St. Joseph’s addresses such needs “by offering several free health screenings and clinics in the community each year as well as providing nearly $3.5 million in bad debt/charity care.”