As the sun set over the picturesque mountains in Frederick County, 50 people gathered for the weekly halaqa at the Islamic Society of Frederick. Instead of Imam Tareef who usually leads, this halaqa was run by Dr Wasimul Haque and Shifa Mohiuddin, MPH, an active member of ISF and an outreach volunteer with the American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP) and focused on the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (PPACA) to educate the congregation.
Mohiuddin says that a majority of Muslims in the area are self-employed and do not have access to afforable healthcare. “In order to make sure that Muslims are aware of the options available under Obama Care, AMHP [as a] part of a grassroots and national coalition has enrolled hundreds for healthcare coverage through the getcovered [sic] initiative,” she said.
To facilitate enrollment, AMHP used the Jummah congregation to host Obama Care khutbahs across American masajid, including at ISF, to 11,000 attendees. The khutbah urged worshipers to protect one another, as ‘Allah calls us to protect the vulnerable, both in our own families and beyond.’
“They ask you as to what they should spend. Say: Whatever wealth you spend, it is for the parents and the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, and whatever good you do, God surely knows it.” (Qur’an 2:215).
Using the preprepared khutbah, the khateebs mentioned that Allah calls us to seek health, well-being and good for all of creation, quoting the hadith: Your body has a right over you, your eye has a right over you, your wife has a right over you, and your visitor has a right over you” (Imam Nawawi 40 Hadith, Muslim).
The khutbah was relevant and timely stating that ‘the needs of our nation’s more than 50 million people without health care coverage require a new and deeper level of concern, care and commitment to assuring that all have the health care they need to live and grow. We need to consider such acts that preserve our bodies and protect others from illness as ibadah. They are true ways to put your faith into practice. The health of our community can greatly benefit from it.’
ISF also hosted a khutbah on the PPACA and a registration table for navigators from the local Asian American Center of Frederick (AACF), who were available to answer questions and enroll congregants. The navigator from the AACF noted that many congregants were recent immigrants, and did not watch mainstream news so were unaware of the deadlines.
These ‘enrollment on wheels’ were set up across the state by different agencies, but to little practical benefit in the last days as the website, www.marylandhealthconnections.gov, was chronically slow. Those trying to register at the last minute were left as frustrated as those who tried when the website was first launched. Maryam*, an applicant waiting to register with a navigator at the Laurel Regional Hospital wondered why pen and paper applications were not accepted.
“We tend to think healthcare for elderly, we tend to forget about the youth,“ said Dr Haque as he started his presentation by playing a video about the youth needing health insurance. According to Dr Haque, this legislation was needed, as insurance companies didn’t reform themselves for 40 years. He covered individual mandate, employers mandate and reduction of waste and fraud. One benefit pointed out was cost control. Insurance companies have to spend at least $80 out of $100 on a patient. If that money is not spent then the insured will receive a check at the end of the year.
Dr Haque said that the best thing he liked about Obama Care was that insurance companies could not discriminate based on previously existing conditions. He related how patients would come to his office with serious disease but couldn’t get insurance.
As everyone will be required to have health insurance, just like car insurance the pool of money will be so big that people who really need the treatment receive it, he also pointed out that 69 percent of that money goes to 5 percent of the population, especially for end of life treatments.
He informed the audience about the difference between Medicare, an insurance program (Medical bills are paid from trust funds, which those covered have paid into during their employment. It serves people over 65 primarily, regardless of income; and serves younger disabled people and dialysis patients), and Medicaid, a federal- state assistance program for low income families.
Dr Haque’s biggest concern was the way Accountability Healthcare Organizations (ACOs) were being set up, as ‘many things are uncertain about ACOs and the effect on patients.’ ACOs are newer payment reform models consisting of groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers, who come together voluntarily to provide services. Net savings are shared amongst members but there are concerns that they may put health providers at financial risk for spending above negotiated targets. According to Dr Haque, they are targeting primary care doctors in the Frederick area. 129 ACO companies already in exist in the nation.
He went into great detail about elderly patient care and the effects it has on doctor’s patient care records. “In Maryland if a patient is readmitted to a hospital within 30 days than the hospital doesn’t get a single penny,” said Dr Haque. Maryland has a unique system that is noted as a model for the rest of the nation, where instead of tying reimbursement to admissions, the new system gives hospitals a pool of dollars to treat a specific population that will grow in tandem with the state's economy.
Mohiuddin shared local resources and phone numbers with the community. Sabra*, a grandmother of 4 young children whose daughter was recently divorced and unemployed was worried about the children’s health, especially dental health. She was able to get information about the Maryland Children's Health Program (MCHP), which gives full health benefits for children up to age 19.
There are many Muslim physicians in Fredrick, MD. To connect with them reach out to Dr Syed Wasimul Haque MD, PA. 700 Montclaire Ave St, Frederick 21701
To contact the American Medical Health Professionals visit their website at www.ahcp.us
*Names changed to protect privacy