God helps those who help themselves, and Pastor Jamal Bryant (below) might just be an especially fine example of that maxim.
Bryant, of the 10,000-seat New Birth Missionary Baptist Church near Lithonia, Georgia, saw an opportunity to turn a pandemic into a $150,000 boondoggle. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the pastor, a successor to the disgraced Bishop Eddie Long, made arrangements to test 1,000 followers for coronavirus — at $150 a pop.
According to News One,
The testing was supposed to be split evenly over Saturday and Sunday and recipients should have expected their results in about 24 hours. Pastor Bryant said although many churches have refrained from in-person worship services, “the vision has to keep going on.” [T]he idea started when he was approached by a Florida lab that wanted to partner with New Birth to provide test kits.
A pre-screening would cost participants $25; the actual test would set them back a further $125. It’s not clear how much would’ve gone into the megachurch’s coffers, but the money would certainly have been welcome; after years of mismanagement by Long and others, New Birth Missionary Church was in debt to the tune of some $30 million at the end of 2018.
Bryant said that some of the test purchasers might be covered by insurance — but that wouldn’t excuse them from making a $150 payment to (or through) the church.
The pastor slathered some social-justice sauce on the plan to make it more palatable:
[He] argued that there are many people of color living on the margins without adequate access to health services and this was the right thing to do. He said when it comes to testing, these people are “pretty low on the totem pole.”
If the reverend Bryant is so concerned, what’s he doing asking these folks to pay for a test? The optics aren’t especially kosher, not least because the test is supposed to be free by law.
[T]he March 18 Families First Coronavirus Response Act mandates coronavirus testing to be free. Medicaid, Medicare, other government plans, and most private plans cover COVID-19 testing and all testing-related services completely. There should be no co-pays, no deductibles, and no co-insurance charges.
Whether Bryant’s plan would’ve been illegal or merely morally questionable is up in the air.
[T]he law doesn’t explicitly prohibit charging you if you … visit an out-of-network provider.
New Birth is compliant with Governor Brian Kemp‘s physical-distancing order and has suspended in-person services. But the flock isn’t safe from pious predators just yet. The church said in a statement that it has merely “postponed” — not canceled — the cash-from-COVID venture.
(Screenshot via YouTube)