Kentucky Presbyterian group urges scrutiny of big health insurers, with eye to possible divestment

By Johanna W.H.van Wijk-Bos

On Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted at its regular stated meeting, held in Glasgow, Ky., to send an overture to its 220th General Assembly. The overture requests of the General Assembly to instruct the committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) to report on the corporate practices of Cigna, Aetna, Humana, WellPoint, and UnitedHealthcare insurance companies to the General Assembly Mission Council.

In addition, the overture asks the General Assembly Mission Council to act on this information and, as it deems appropriate, implement divestment procedures, as well as encourage individual Presbyterians and congregations to divest of holdings in the said companies; and, in view of the urgency of the ongoing health care crisis, to take action within six months of the adoption of the recommendation; and to report to the 221st General Assembly (2014) on divestment action.

The overture was authored primarily by the Rev. A. David Bos, who died early in February of 2011. It was then unanimously endorsed by the session of Central Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky., and brought before the Presbytery by the Church Administration committee with its endorsement. The overture was supported also by the session of Buechel Presbyterian Church.

Following supportive comments by the Rev. Mark Baridon, one of the ministers of Central Presbyterian Church, and the Rev. Dr. Johanna W.H.van Wijk-Bos of Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, widow of David Bos, one opposing statement, and supportive remarks from the Rev. Nancy Troy, of Briargate Presbyterian Church, the moderator put the question to the vote. The great majority of the Presbytery voted in favor.

After the vote took place, the Rev. Adam Fischer of Harvey Browne Presbyterian Church placed the name of Johanna Bos in nomination to serve as Overture Advocate at the meeting of the General Assembly. This motion was seconded and passed unanimously.

The Overture Advocate is charged with taking the overture to the meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), to take place in early July 2012, in Pittsburgh, Pa., and presenting it to the appropriate committee, which will take it to the floor of the Assembly for a vote.

It is the hope of those who have advocated for this cause in our Presbytery that other Presbyteries of the Church will join Mid-Kentucky and pass the Overture, so the endorsement may come to the General Assembly from as large a number of Presbyteries as possible.

Johanna W.H.van Wijk-Bos is Teaching Elder member of the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery and Overture Advocate to the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) for the overture on practices of the health care industry in the U.S. and on divestment from holdings in said industry.