Good Morning. I am The Rev. Tracey Lind, Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, and Co-Chair of Greater Cleveland Congregations. GCC represents more than 20,000 people, from 40 congregations and 13 schools in Northeast Ohio. GCC co-founded NEOMEC – the Northeast Ohio Medicaid Expansion Coalition. Many NEOMEC members are here in the audience today. GCC thanks each and every one of them for organizing since last February to expand Medicaid in the State in Ohio. GCC thanks Governor Kasich and every legislator who has used and is using his or her power and influence to get Ohio to this moment – when the Controlling Board will vote to either to expand Medicaid or not.
Those who would be covered by the expansion are not abstract numbers, but are real people: our neighbors, co-workers, relatives, and yes, members of our congregations. Those who would be covered by Medicaid expansion include:
· A friend of one of our GCC members. She is a 55-year old woman, who lost her job, can’t find work and lost her health insurance. She has chronic depression, but can’t afford psychiatric visits or her medication. This resulted in a near lethal suicide attempt and a very expensive hospital stay.
· A health care worker who takes care of a GCC member. She earns slightly less than 100% of the Federal Poverty Level. Her untreated migraines are threatening her employment.
· A GCC family – a member of my congregation – two tax-paying, self-employed adults, with a child, who simply cannot afford health insurance. Their financial resources were taxed to the limit by a huge emergency room bill resulting from an allergic reaction to a bee sting.
God calls us to “love thy neighbor.” To love thy neighbor is to know thy neighbor. And we know our neighbors. GCC has talked to thousands of people. They either have family members, co-workers, friends or neighbors who suffer because they cannot afford health insurance.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.” On Monday, the Controlling Board of Ohio has the power to love thy neighbor
Let me close with a story about using your power to love thy neighbor. Laverne Barnes lived in Boston without health care for 15 years. She joined GCC’s sister IAF organization, Greater Boston Interfaith, to use her power to lead a statewide coalition that won the first universal health care bill in the United States. With her congregation, Roxbury Presbyterian Church, Laverne collected hundreds of signatures to pass the law. After the legislation passed, she started to feel severe pain. She said to herself: “Well, I now have health insurance; I should go see a doctor.” As soon as the doctor examined Laverne, he rushed her into surgery to correct a blockage in her intestine – a life threatening condition. When she awoke from anesthesia she saw her pastor standing at her bedside. She smiled and whispered the words, “Thank you.” He knew right away. Laverne was not smiling because he came for a pastoral visit. She was thanking him for using his power to be on the front lines to pass the health care law that saved her life.
To the members of the Controlling Board, this is your moment. Please, use your power to love your neighbor, to love us, and to love the great State of Ohio. May God smile on you!