Golden Cross Ministry Helps Lighten the Burden of Medical Expenses

Date Posted: 10/3/2011

When healthcare costs are escalating and insurance coverage is harder to obtain, a ministry like Golden Cross is even more relevant than ever. Since 1921, Golden Cross has helped many United Methodists who needed assistance paying medical bills. When Golden Cross first began, every person in the conference donated $1 to help offset medical needs of individuals across the conference. With these small donations, the ministry began a mission that is still vital today. Shirley Broome, Administrator of Golden Cross Ministry in The Texas Annual Conference recalls story after story of an emotional or financial crisis mitigated by this ministry.


“I remember when one applicant called for assistance in paying for her dying husband’s breathing medication,” says Broome. “Someone on a fixed income can only afford so much when insurance refuses to cover all that is needed.” They worked out a system where the wife would call the Conference office, the pharmacy would fax a bill, and Golden Cross would send a check. “When she called to tell me her husband had passed away, it broke my heart,” adds Broome, “but I was so glad that this program was able to help. Most of the requests to Golden Cross are not enormous, but it makes an enormous difference in people’s lives when we are able to pay.”


She also remembers a case where a woman needed surgery and could not be admitted to a hospital because she had no insurance. “Her husband was basically taking her from one hospital to another to try to get her admitted... She had been admitted to one, but they dismissed her because, even though she was in great pain, they said it wasn’t an emergency.”


The woman’s pastor contacted the Golden Cross ministry to learn what could be done. “More than anything the husband needed someone to listen to him… He was so frustrated,” she said. “The pastor was completely sympathetic and gave his time and energy to help in every way. After all was handled, the husband joined the church where his wife had been a longtime member because he was so impressed by how much people cared, and that a program like Golden Cross Ministry was available to United Methodist members.” 


How Golden Cross Works

Participants in Golden Cross must be a member in good standing for at least a year in a United Methodist church and have to have their pastor sign their application.


“If someone says they have problems with medical expenses, many pastors know to call Golden Cross,” Broome said. “[The pastor] contacts the conference office and we work together to help resolve some of the applicant’s immediate concerns… Though Golden Cross cannot always help with excessive hospital charges, the ministry does a lot with a little, while giving people a place to bring their burdens.”


Golden Cross first tries to lower an applicant’s medical bills. The program has succeeded in having some bills reduced by as much as 40 percent. Broome said facilities are willing to work with them because it allows the facility to have the debt paid in full. “Most people who are unemployed or in medical debt cannot make this offer. Many applicants have no insurance and, often, cannot be admitted to a hospital for the help they need,” she continued. “In this case, Golden Cross recommends they ask for a hospital social worker or someone in the [hospital’s] financial office to help them receive assistance. Doctor’s and anesthesiologist’s bills can be negotiated by Golden Cross or the applicant in advance of necessary surgery at a discounted rate. By being able to offer a check for the full amount, the program makes a difference.”


Broome adds that Golden Cross can also help when a person has insurance but no money to pay deductibles. “Oftentimes, the ministry can pay the deductible so someone can receive the diagnostic tests needed to recover their health. Insurance may pay a percentage of a person’s medical expenses, but the remainder is overwhelming for some.” Golden Cross can also help with the last invoices that come in after insurance has paid. She said patients often still owe hundreds of dollars. “They’ve paid and paid and paid, but then the well runs dry or they lose their job,” she continued. “Golden Cross has lightened many medical burdens caused with this scenario.”


Just a Little Can Make a Difference

“All of us know someone dealing with an illness, and it is not always someone who is uninsured or unemployed,” Broome noted. “You can help relieve the stress that many who are still very ill have to deal with when they don’t have the resources to pay for treatment that they need.”


Telling friends in your church about Golden Cross can go a long way toward helping others. Broome said many members and pastors are not aware of the program. “They don’t know that each member of their church could give a dollar and make a huge difference. They don’t know how someone can be helped when they have reached the end of their ability to pay medical expenses. We want people to know this is available. We also want to be sure people understand that their donations make all these great things possible each year.”


Last year Golden Cross received only half as many donations as the previous year. “I know people give a lot to different concerns - both in our conference and globally,” she said. “It is hard to make a choice when there are so many. With Golden Cross it doesn’t take a large donation to be able to make a significant difference in people’s lives.”


With 280,000 members in The Texas Annual Conference, she said just a little can make a significant impact. “If only half of our membership each gave just $1, we could increase greatly what we are able to do. It would enable us to give more to each person and not have to limit assistance when just a little more would help so much.”


“The Center for Missional Excellence and Golden Cross Ministry want to thank [everyone] who has given in the past.” Broome said. “You are the reason these stories can continue being told here. If your heart has been moved when you have heard a story of someone who is ill and cannot pay their medical bills, you can help with this ministry by helping someone who is in extreme need due to illness and is uninsured, underinsured, unemployed, or without reserves to meet their needs.  I would love to keep telling these very grateful people that you, the church, are making all of this possible.”     


The first Sunday in May is designated by the Texas Annual Conference as Golden Cross Sunday, but there are many opportunities throughout the year to make contributions. Many churches have chosen a different Communion Sunday for Golden Cross offerings or you can send in a private donation to the conference office with a check made out to Golden Cross Ministry. Call the conference office if you would like to have offering envelopes available to your United Methodist church members.