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Special to the JTA Kosher Meals in Hospj Tals

Observant Jews with New York area Blue Cross coverage do not have to pay for kosher meals when they are hospitalized but this exemption does not apply to patients with hospital coverage provided by other insurers, Julius Berman, president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations (UOJC) said.

Bermon said that most hospitals in the New York are do not charge for kosher meals, treating them as a special diet benefit under Blue Cross contracts. He said the problem stemmed from the fact that while only a minority of New York City area hospitals charge for kosher meals, that minority includes some of the area’s largest hospitals.

He said that observant Jews awaiting discharge from hospitals charging for kosher meals should refuse to pay fees for such meals, which such hospitals list, along with telephone and television, as extras not covered by the Blue Cross contract. Berman said such Jews should get in touch with their Blue Cross representative to settle any difficulties that might arise from their refusal to pay for such meals.

David Merzel, the UOJC’s community relations director, learned about the problem when observant Jews who had been cared for in three hospitals-New York University Hospital, New York Hospital and Columbia Hospital – had in formed the UOJC that they believed their kosher meals should be considered among the special diets Blue Cross contracts cover, but that they had been billed for such meals during their hospital stays.

Merzel said UOJC officials contacted Blue Cross officials and learned that it was a common understanding that Blue Cross contracts did cover kosher meals. He said Blue Cross officials agreed to issue a memorandum to hospital administrators, through the New York Hospital Association, when the association, which Merzel said had agreed in principle to inclusion of kosher meals as a Blue Cross hospital benefit, formally approved such a memorandum.

FORMAL APPROVAL EXPECTED

Merzel said the hospital association board is scheduled to meet Dec. 17 and that a Blue Cross representative would be present as a member of the association board. He said no difficulties were expected in obtaining formal approval from the hospital association.

Merzel said he had been told by Blue Cross officials that a memorandum instructing all Blue Cross member hospitals on the matter was being delayed pending approval by the hospital association board because it was expected that such approval would help assure implementation of the policy in those hospitals which charge for kosher meals.

But Merzel stressed that observant Jews need not pay for kosher meals in any New York City area Blue Cross hospital and that Blue Cross officials had assured the UOJC that the memorandum to Blue Cross hospitals would be issued after the Dec. 17 hospital association board meeting, whether or not that board made formal its approval in principle of kosher meals as a diet option for observant Jews.

Merzel said that once the machinery is in place as a formal Blue Cross policy in the New York City. area, the UOJC planned to seek similar commitments from Blue Cross units throughout the United States, as well as with private insurers, such as insurance firms writing hospital coverage policies.

Merzel added that many of the hospitals do not have kosher kitchens and provide patients, on request, with frozen pre-packaged kosher meals break fast, lunch and dinner-with a variety of entrees, each package sealed and containing plastic cutlery to assure that both the food and serving implements are kosher. He said a half-dozen firms produce such packaged meals which are routinely provided, on request, to observant Jewish passengers on such common carriers as trains, ships and airplanes.

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