How Faith Communities Are Helping with the Affordable Care Act

How Faith Communities Are Helping with the Affordable Care Act

In less than 10 days, the bell tolls on the Affordable Healthcare Act enrollment period.  Faith-based organizations have been essential to assisting the Obama administration in getting as many uninsured people covered as possible. Earlier this year, the US Health and Human Services stated that 6 out of 10 African Americans would be eligible for free or subsidized healthcare.  The challenge: to get them to sign up.

In fact, the pressure is on and the White House has been working overtime, primarily through grassroots efforts, to get the word out and get as many uninsured people as possible to sign up for healthcare coverage as mandated by the 2010 law. Ideally, 6 million people needed to enroll in the first year with that number gradually increasing to 24 million over time, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.

By March 31, all Americans are supposed to be insured per President Barack Obama’s landmark law, euphemistically called Obamacare. Late last year, some reports indicated that many were still unaware about several aspects of the law, that healthcare was mandatory and were perhaps swayed by rhetoric from those who oppose the law.

“You can’t deny the impact of the intensity of the vitriol in the debate around moving towards the ACA, all of the politics and strategies utilized…the inane debates in Congress, the 40 plus attempts to repeal… the confusing array of information that’s out there,” Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter said on a January call with reporters. “The general public has real lives and real problems and they don’t have time to sit around having esoteric debates about this.”

Back in January, an estimated 6.8 million African Americans lacked coverage.  That is when the mayors from most cities were meeting in Washington and the White House used the gathering to call on some the mayors of urban cities with high minority populations like Mesa, Arizona’s Mayor Scott, Mayor Kevin Johnson and Sacramento, California and Baltimore’s Stephanie Rawlings-Blake who were also on that January call with Mayor Nutter. Each took turns to share what they were doing to get the word out about the law and each said they relied heavily on the faith community and coordinated programs with churches and mosques. It’s been all grassroots work with the churches on a national level as well.

Beginning last fall, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and its HHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, as well as the Office of Public Engagement, have been working with mayors in urban cities and the faith community to pump up enrollment numbers.

In September, about 1800 faith leaders participated in an information call and later the Health and Human Services department released a tool kit to churches, mosques and temples.  Over 21,000 people participated in 120 webinars HHS held for faith and community leaders, the White House reports.

Meanwhile, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett reached out to faith leaders like the Bishop TD Jakes of The Potter’s House; Reverend Luis Cortés, President of Esperanza; Rev. Otis Moss Jr of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church; and Rev. Gabe Salguero, President of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.

And it’s not just churches either. This past February 18th. , the White House partnered with the National Council for Jewish Women  to put on the Jewish Community Day of Action for Health Care Coverage, where various groups nationwide held events and promoted “18 Ways to Make an Impact.”  The number 18 represents “life” in the Jewish tradition which was also why the Day of Action was held on the 18th.

In the Muslim community, groups like the American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP) have galvanized young Muslim health professionals nationwide to take lead to convince their community and mosque leaders and members to enroll before the deadline.

This week, the White House proudly stated that so far, 5 million people have signed up for insurance and that it is on track to meet internal deadlines. But if that number is truly accurate, and reflects actual sign-ups, then it would be a great payoff for the grueling grassroots efforts and the cooperation of the faith community for certain.