Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church — Pittsburgh
The CHIP insurance plan in today’s news had its start in 1984 at Fox Chapel. When unemployed steel workers appeared on Mother’s Day to protest their fate where corporate employers worshipped, they brought dead fish to greet parishioners before they entered the sanctuary. At other churches, they had been kept out, Fox Chapel’s pastor, John Galloway, welcomed them and asked them to tell us what they needed. Tearfully, they explained they were unable to provide medical care for their children. Galloway graciously invited them to stay and worship and to meet him afterwards to see what could be worked out.
A committee was formed, including Fred Rogers of TV fame as honorary chairman. Charlie LaVallee, who was named director of The Caring Program for Children, worked out a plan with Blue Cross/Blue Shield whereby church members initially contributed $13/month coverage for each of 100 children. With BC/BS matching funds, 200 children were insured in 1985.
It soon expanded with additional contributors: churches, Pittsburgh Presbytery, local sports teams, Rotary, Kiwanis and Colgate Toothpaste. Then the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, the United Jewish Foundation, Digital Equipment, Chanel 4 TV, Oscar Mayer Co. and Avis contributed while the state added a 2-cent tax to cigarettes, which brought in $10.5 million annually. Finally in 1997 Congress took it over establishing CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which now insures 9 million children each year. All because Fox Chapel was welcoming, listened and used its connections to take a positive early step in the national health care conversation.
– Wilberta Pickett, elder
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