Community organizers are joining pastors across the country to educate and help parishioners sign up for Obamacare. The coordinated initiative, called "Health Care from the Pulpit," is being implemented by Enroll America, a non-profit with the goal of maximizing "the number of uninsured Americans who enroll in health coverage made available by the Affordable Care Act."
The program has already reached a number of churches across the nation. In Jacksonville, Fla, Pastor John Newman is among those who invited community organizers from the group to his church to talk about the cost of Obamacare and the enrollment process.
During the event, Enroll America invited congregants to fill out cards with basic information about themselves or people they knew who might be in need of health care, WJXT-TV reports.
"Our pastor, he keeps us real informed and grounded in what's going on in the community, and he's always bringing stuff to help us, so I love him for that," said one parishioner named Michelle Fletcher.
Enroll America knows that pastors are trusted members of the community, which is why churches are a focus for education and information on the health care law.
Through "Health Care from the Pulpit," the organization is working with faith leaders to ensure that people hear about availability -- and with a captive audience in the pews, the move makes logistical sense.
"Pastors are trusted messengers. They'll be able to get the story across, they'll be able to relate to that story and they'll be able to ask people to enroll in health insurance," Enroll America organizer Anthony Penna told WJXT.
From Oct. 25-27, the organization launched its pulpit program as part of the Get Covered America campaign. Enroll America pledged to help churches who wish to enroll congregants or provide people in the community with information and resources.
A press release from Oct. 22 on the Get Covered America website further explains the purpose of the in-church events.
"The 'Treat Yourself to Coverage Weekend' will also engage dozens of faith groups for the first nationwide push of 'Health Care in the Pulpit,' Get Covered America’s faith engagement program," it reads. "Working with a diverse group of faith and lay leaders, Get Covered America will host over 50 events across the country to further engage the faith community in education about enrollment in the marketplace."
Other initiatives are bringing churches into the Obamacare fold as well. Dr. Michael Minor, pastor of Oak Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Hernando, Miss., was recently given a federal grant to help enroll individuals in the health care program.
Through the $317,742 fund, Minor will work with Cover Mississippi, a cohort of advocacy groups organized by the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program. He has already put together a group of 75 to 100 "navigators" (trainers) around the state to provide information and access to Obamacare. While his efforts are unaffiliated with Enroll America, they serve as another example of a church getting involved in the health care roll-out.
"Minor's organization will be hitting its stride around the second week of November, when he expects to be signing up thousands of people for coverage that begins on January 1," Reuters reports. "The plan is to organize enrollment events ahead of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in the hopes that people will share their good news during family gatherings."
These certainly aren't the only examples, but they provide a lens into the partnerships unfolding between churches and the federal government's health care program.
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